Reviewed by Alden Bass.
Why is fish not considered a meat during the Lenten fast? This is just one of the questions about food practices which is answered in the new collection of essays entitled Food and Faith in Christian Culture. Unlike Norman Wirzba’s recent volume by the same name, these essays survey Christian attitudes toward food in the early modern and modern eras. As Ken Albala, one of volume’s editors, observes: in the early modern period, “[f]ood…was at the core of the average person’s concept of religiosity” (44). Although the essays are quite diverse, the collection is unified by four major themes, which Trudy Eden names in her Introduction: “commensality, fasting, the sacrament, and bodily health” (5). The essays are ordered chronologically, beginning with the eating habits of fourteenth century Florentine monks and concluding with the fasting practices of contemporary English Benedictines. Despite the monastic bookends, the essays investigate practices in a wide range of Christian communities, from Greek Orthodox to Brethren in Christ, from Lutheran and Reformed groups to the bizarre sect of the Unity Society of Practical Christianity.