Food, Feasts, and Faith: An Encyclopedia of Food Culture in World Religions. By Paul Fieldhouse. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2017. 2 vols. Acid-free $189 (ISBN 978-1-61069-411-7). E-book Available (1-61069-412-4), call for pricing.

The alliterative Food, Feasts, and Faith: An Encyclopedia of Food Culture in World Religions brings together information about the uses of food and drink within the faith practices of well-known religions with global adherents such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism as well as lesser-known faith communities and sects such as Candomblé, Rastafari, Santeria, and the indigenous peoples of Africa, Australia, and America. Articles, which follow a standard A to Z arrangement, cover customs (fish on Friday), food stuffs (rice), drink (wine), people (Guru Nanak), festivals (Qingming), practices (fasting), rituals (marriage ceremonies), religious groups (Seventh-Day Adventists), and sacred texts (Laws of Manu) to name but a few of the 226 entries and 220 or so related topics. Each article includes see also references and lists sources for further reading. Twenty-seven primary source documents such as “The Taittiriya Upanishad on Food” (2:577) supplement the main work. Each is briefly introduced for context, given see also references to related articles, and provided with a citation to the source from which the excerpted text is taken.

Religious calendars, black and white photographs, and sidebars illustrate many of the entries. The former are based on or converted to the 2017 Gregorian calendar necessitating updating in subsequent years.

Food, Feasts, and Faith concludes with a listing of mostly recent books and websites (without the date accessed), the credentials of the encyclopedia’s sole author, and an impressively comprehensive index. Largely of interest to a North American audience, Food, Feasts, and Faith is suitable as an introduction to the diversity of religious practices associated with food for high school students, lower division undergraduates, and public library general readers.

Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (Scribner/Thompson Gale, 2003), a three-volume set edited by Solomon H. Katz, is a major scholarly work providing a comprehensive discussion of food from prehistory to 2003 from an anthropological, archaeological, economical, and historical perspective. Some 300 contributors write about the consumption, nutritional value, production, preparation, folklore, and science of food within regions and cultures throughout the world. Religious aspects of food are addressed from a cultural and historical perspective in various signed articles (see for example Baha’i; Buddhism; Christianity; Christmas; Easter; Fasting and Abstinence; Feasts, Festivals and Fasts; Hinduism; Islam; Judaism; Kwanza; Last Supper; Ramadan; Passover; Sin and Food; Religion) but, unlike Food, Feasts, and Faith, religion is not the work’s major focus.

The four-volume Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia (Greenwood, 2011), edited by food historian and author Ken Albala, is divided geographically by regions—Africa and the Middle East, Americas, Asia and Oceania, and Europe—with each region subdivided alphabetically by the countries within that region. Articles addressing the food customs and staples of the peoples living within some 150 countries and cultures have been pulled from Greenwood’s Food Cultures around the World twenty-volume series supplemented by new articles specifically written to expand the present work’s global coverage. Articles are signed by their contributors and include suggestions for further reading. For each country, and several cultures separately addressed (Basques, for instance), food culture means exploring food’s social and symbolic context in relation to issues of diet, food stuffs, methods of cooking, typical meals at home, eating out if relevant, and special occasion meals. Articles generally include one or two recipes for a traditional dish using American measurements. Religious considerations or restrictions are integrated into the food customs and cuisine of each country or cultural group rather than being separately addressed as in Food, Feasts, and Faith and Encyclopedia of Food and Culture.

While these three encyclopedias cover some of the same material, each does so from a different perspective and with a different emphasis. Users seeking basic information about the intersection of food and religion will find the singular focus of Food, Feasts, and Faith a useful and easy to use starting point.—Sally Moffitt, Bibliographer and Reference Librarian, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio


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