What’s the Beef? On Faith and Food

Just what is the relationship between faith and food? Nearly every major religion (and quite a few minor ones) have dietary restrictions of one sort or another – though they’re never the same!

Jews don’t eat pork or seafood. Muslims don’t eat pork either (and don’t drink alcohol), while Hindus don’t eat beef. Christians, it seems, will eat anything (including the body of the Christ) but otherwise frown on cannibalism, while traditional Melanesian practices don’t. And everyone knows Scientologists won’t eat thetans.

Here’s a handy list, courtesy of CNN.

Does the path to true enlightenment lie in the right meal? Could a new religion be founded on a secret teaching of sacred recipes? Is God living in my stomach?

I ask myself these sort of questions all the time. Why is bacon the Jewish Kryptonite? Why did David Blaine hang from a crane inside a glass box without food and water for forty days at London Bridge, and why did people have barbecues directly below?

Someone I know in Vanuatu once met a cannibal at a party.

“What does human flesh taste like?” she asked.

“Chicken,” he said. (I’m not, in fact, making this story up).

Why does everything taste like chicken?

It’s not like I have the answers. Are some foods holier than others? Are some foods evil? Is Nigella Lawson conclusive proof that there is a God?

And what do atheists eat? What do aliens taste like?

I suspect that, one day, we’ll go to the stars. We’ll find alien planets, and land on them and, most likely, we’ll eat what we find.

Remember when Arthur C. Clarke predicted the satellite? Well, pay attention now. I am going to make a science fictional prediction.

Lavie’s Law (formulated September 7th, in the very science fictional year 2010, at around 11am): Aliens taste like chicken.

Lavie Tidhar is the author of The Bookman (Angry Robot Books) and follow-ups Camera Obscura and Night Music, both forthcoming from the same publisher. His latest book, novella Cloud Permutations, is just out from PS Publishing in the UK. His story In Pacmandu is this month’s featured fiction on Futurismic.

6 thoughts on “What’s the Beef? On Faith and Food”

  1. Personally, I’ve always anticipated that aliens will taste similar to squid…

    And I’ve always thought that saying things taste like chicken is a bit of a cop out. Chicken doesn’t really have much flavour of its own, tending to be dominated by whatever it’s seasoned or served with, and instead bringing its texture rather than taste to the table.

  2. If chickens descended from dinosaurs, then maybe dinosaurs tasted of chicken? If that’s the case, I’m going to need a time machine, a bazooka, and several gallons of BBQ sauce.

  3. I had a science teacher who once spent some time with cannibalistic tribes in the South Pacific. I can’t speak to the flavor, but in terms of overall tastiness (he said), the best part of a human is the tricep, on the underside of the upper arm. Perfect blend of muscle and flesh.

    Also, Hufu, anyone?

  4. Human flesh is supposed to taste like pork. So I’ve heard.

    I think that cannibal was a poser.

  5. I think most of the dietary restrictions are in place not to guide you to a particular holiness, but prevent you from socializing with the “wrong” people. This is important in situations where religion could get you killed. It also helps strengthen the local communities of believers.

    And I remember a story in Analog a few years ago that dealt with humans on a planet, watching some primate-like life form for signs of sentience and eating some of the local animals, until those animals ask the humans to stop eating them. Can’t remember what the story said they tasted like. Probably chicken.

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