8. Milk, Meat, Fish, and Feelings: Gender, the Taste of Animal Ethics, and the Development of Religious Food Laws in the 21st Century

Tasting Religion - Graham Harvey

Aldea Mulhern [+-]
California State University, Fresno
Aldea Mulhern is assistant professor of method and theory in religious studies at California State University, Fresno, USA. She researches food and religion among minoritized communities, particularly Jews and Muslims in North America, who engage with the local, organic, and ecological food movements internationally. Before arriving at Fresno State, Aldea lectured on the study of religion and the anthropology of religion at the University of Toronto, and taught at Grand Valley State University in Michigan as visiting assistant professor of cultural diversity and intercultural communication. She serves on the steering committee of the Food and Religion Unit of the American Academy of Religion, and is a member of the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion, and participant in NASSR and the IAHR. Her article on “Eating Jewishly” appears in SCRIPTA, the journal of the Donner Institute for Comparative Religion, and she is currently working on her first book, a comparative ethnography of food work in female-led Jewish and Muslim communities in Ontario, Canada.


While there has been significant scholarly interest in religious food law as containing dietary restrictions, rules, and regulations (whether rational or irrational), there have been fewer attempts to re-think religious food law as a matter of bodily, lived experience. In this chapter, I consider statements of gastronomic pleasure, disgust, joy, satiety, pain, and conflict as sites for thinking about how religious actors narrativize bodily experience through the lens of religious identification, and organize and integrate that experience as practice. In particular, I focus on stories of dissonance and integration of food experiences in the narratives of Jewish and Muslim interlocutors who participate in religioning via food, farming, and ecology. When vegans eat fish, when eaters of religiously-slaughtered meat eat conventionally-slaughtered animal flesh, or when meat-eaters swear off meat or sing praises of vegetable food, there is an opportunity to understand embodied ideologies (broadly understood) of what is appropriate, desirable, endurable, and also tasty. Manifestly obvious and individualistic though “food preferences” may seem, the phenomenon glossed by “preference” or “non-preference” for particular foods is, rather, a richly interpersonal and experience-laden matrix of meaning-making. Pleasure, far from being a straightforward, received experience, is actively reconstructed in tandem with an architecture of value that contextualizes the mouth-feel and body-feel (and perhaps even a mind-feel, or soul-feel) of food.

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Mulhern, Aldea. 8. Milk, Meat, Fish, and Feelings: Gender, the Taste of Animal Ethics, and the Development of Religious Food Laws in the 21st Century. Tasting Religion. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Feb 2024. ISBN 9781000000000. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=44091. Date accessed: 07 Dec 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44091. Feb 2024

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