Food is an important aspect in many faiths and many religions have specific requirements. Religions from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism all have religious requirements. Depending on the how strictly you follow your own faith influences the extent to which you will follow these regulations. Christianity includes the faiths of Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant and each of these faiths have varying food influences and requirements. Catholic and Orthodox Christians observe several fast and feast days during the year and Protestants celebrate Christmas and Easter. Even the ritual communion celebrated by Christians involves food and drink which represents Jesus through bread and wine.
But imagine coming to live in a country where you are alien to the culture and language and then having to maintain your religious food requirements. In Islam, Judaism and Hinduism, all of these faiths have foods which are forbidden. In Islam the concept of Halal and Haram is applied. Halal means ‘lawful’ or ‘permitted’ and this concept is applied not just in food, but all aspects of a Muslim’s life. Halal foods are allowed and those prohibited are Haram meaning ‘not permitted’ which includes pork and alcohol.
Judaism follows a similar requirement with regards to food and Kashrut refers to laws permitting food in the Jewish religion. Kosher means food ‘fit’ or ‘permitted’ and foods which are not permitted include pork and shellfish. Kosher and Halal foods have specific religious requirements at the time of slaughter and it is this which differentiates Halal and Kosher meat from other meat.
To access Halal food in the 1960’s in Yorkshire was a challenge and many people resorted to undertaking the preparation and animal slaughter at home just to be able to eat meat once a month and maintain their religious beliefs. Now walking about in Huddersfield, Bradford, Dewsbury, Leeds and many other Yorkshire towns, you will be hard pressed not to be able to find any Halal meat shops or grocery stores catering to the needs of the South Asian community, but there are still some gaps in the food market that are not being met and are still not catering for all religions or faiths.
Hinduism believes in the interdependence of life and people who practice the Hindu religion don’t eat meat from any animal or any food that is involved in the taking of life. Many Hindus are vegetarian, which is not compulsory and most Hindus do not eat beef or beef products, as the cow is sacred. This belief in life means that many Hindus do not eat eggs. So if you were celebrating an event, where would you go to get an eggless cake? London, Birmingham, but what about locally? Why do you have to undergo challenges to maintain your faith? Understanding the role of food in cultural and religious practice is an important way of showing respect and responding to the needs of the people from religious communities, from which we will be able to avoid assumptions about a person’s religious beliefs and culture.