Foreigners and Their Food

Foreigners and Their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law

by David M. Freidenreich / University of California Press. 352 Pages. $60.00

In this tantalizing study, Freidenreich pays less attention to which foods are permitted and which excluded than to with whom the members of a particular faith group are permitted to eat. While both issues have been used historically to define cultural boundaries, and both are inextricably related, the issue of commensality reveals more about how groups define themselves. Freidenreich takes up, in turn, the legal strictures regarding commensality in the three “scriptural” monotheistic faith groups, eventually clarifying similarities and differences about how these groups view themselves and assess outsiders.

The order of treating the communities is, of course, chronological. It’s only later in the study, when the groups exist contemporaneously, that the communities can be compared and contrasted in full. However, a general pattern is discernable in terms of the rigor of distinctions. Scriptural legalisms (in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’an) are more rigorous regarding commensality and other issues than later authoritative writings. This is largely the consequence of the scriptural communities becoming rivals, if not enemies, over time. . . .

The full review can be seen on the Jewish Book World site: Foreigners and Their Food

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