About a month ago, some fellow religion colleagues and I were having dinner and started bantering. During the banter, I suggested a course on religion and food. At the time, I was half-joking, but I have been occasionally thinking about it over the past month and increasingly think it would be an interesting course. Anthropologists have long discussed food and culture, and so there is already a lot of theoretical material out there. And different religious traditions have food laws, customs, etc. There are the discussions of food and sacrifice, often looking at sacrifice as a meal or the ritualization of a meal at least. There is, in Christianity, of course, the ritualized meal of the Eucharist.
So I have been trying to think of different types of course that could approach religion through food. There could be a comparative course that discusses different religious traditions through food, meals, cuisine. There could be a course in my own specialization of ancient Christianity and Judaism in its ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern contexts that focuses on food and religion in those contexts. Perhaps a course on Food and Christianity through the ages form antiquity, medieval, to modern periods. It seems, indeed, like a very flexible topic that could be quite fruitful as an upper level undergraduate course or perhaps a more advanced master's level course.
So, right now I am thinking about pitching such a course, but also wanting to compile a bibliography, either for background information for me (as the instructor) or for assignments. Some initial thoughts that came to mind are as follows:
Theoretical (Mostly Anthropological and Sociological) Treatments:
Claude Levi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked
Claude Levi-Strauus, The Origin of Table Manners
Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger (which covers some food laws of the Hebrew Bible)
Carole Counihan, Food and Culture: A Reader--this has a great deal of interesting essays including theoretical treatments, discussions of particular groups (such as Jean Soler's famous treatment on Jewish food laws; Douglas's famous analysis of the meal; etc.)
Courtney Bender, Heaven's Kitchen
Sacrifice and Food:
Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant, eds., Cuisine of Sacrifice
Christianity (in different periods):
Hal Taussig, In the Beginning was the Meal
Caroline Walker-Bynum, Holy Feast, Holy Fast
Food and Identity (including Jewish, Christian, and Muslim material):
David Freidenreich, Foreigners and their Food
David Kraemer, Jewish Eating and Identity Through the Ages
These are things that I thought of, but there has to be so much more out there on Christianity and Food, Judaism and Food, and especially religious traditions with which I am far less familiar. If anyone has any suggestions on Food and Religion from a particular theoretical vantage point, a particular tradition, or a particular period of time, or a particular region, I would be very interested in hearing them. Moreover, if anyone has actually taught such a course, I would be interested in hearing what you did, how it went, and what you might do differently.