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On the Show — Christina Ward

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Gene Steinberg

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CWard.pngChristina Ward is an author, editor, and seeker. She is also the Vice President and Editor of Feral House, a publisher noted for their books on outré topics. Christina can trace her Milwaukee and Wisconsin roots to the early 1800s. Her love of history comes from her father, who instilled the idea that we are all manifestations of our ancestors. Her interest in cooking began out of childhood necessity to feed herself and her siblings while her father worked in a factory. She prides herself on having a hungry mind interested in learning about people, the foods they eat, and the stories that arise from that convergence.

Her latest book is "Holy Food: Recipes and Foodways from Cults, Communes, and New Religious Movements." About Holy Food: Religious beliefs have been the source of food "rules" since Pythagoras told his followers not to eat beans (they contain souls), Kosher and Halal rules forbade the shrimp cocktail (shellfish are scavengers, or maybe God just said "no"). A long-ago Pope forbade Catholics from eating meat on Fridays (fasting to atone for committed sins). Rules about eating are present in nearly every American belief, from high-control groups that ban everything except air to the infamous strawberry shortcake that sated visitors to the Oneida Community in the late 1800s. Only in the United States—where the freedom to worship the God of your choice and sometimes of your own making—could people embrace new ideas about religion. It is in this over-stirred pot of liberation, revolution, and mysticism that we discover that God cares a lot about what you put in your mouth.

"Holy Food" investigates the explosion of religious movements since the Great Awakenings that birthed a cottage industry of food fads and cookbooks. Ward uncovers the interconnectivity between obscure sects and communities of the 20th Century who dabbled in vague spirituality and used food to both entice and control followers. Holy Food cites everything from academic studies, interviews, cookbooks, and religious texts to make sharp insights into American history in this highly readable journey through the American kitchen.

The book features over 75 recipes from religious and communal groups tested and updated for modern cooks. (Dough Gods! Funeral Potatoes! Yogi Tea! Mother F*cker Beans! The Source Family’s infamous Aware Inn Salad!) Also includes over 100 historic black and white images.

Her website: christinaward.net

Cohost this week: Tim Swartz.

Recording Date (including After The Paracast):
Thursday, January 4 at at 3:00 PM Mountain (5:00 PM Eastern)

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Broadcast and Streaming Date:
January 7, 2024
So after being criticized for too much UFO coverage, here's something completely different. Well, mostly. You'll see when you hear the episode.
It was quite a change. Listeners will learn things about food traditions that go far beyond just one's family. I was especially fascinated on how such cults as Heaven's Gate established surprisingly healthy diets.
I caught the entire show yesterday as well as After The Paracast the other day. Excellent and most informative. A good departure from the usual. I hope it made an impression on the audience, if only to think about the subject. I only wish the take and focus had been a little more international and less American-oriented. This is something that affects everyone, and the show is technically heard worldwide. But the message did get out anyway.

Christina Ward is obviously very knowledgeable and articulate, although I was surprised that she mispronounced a couple of Sanskrit terms and a proper name that she should have known, since the pronunciations are pretty well standardized worldwide. I would point out that the food laws of the 7th Day Adventists and Mormons she mentioned are practically the same as Vedic (Hindu) guidelines contained in the holistic medical system, Ayurveda (which I practice). Diet, yoga and meditation are key to it.

One thing that I also didn't hear was the fact that there is strong evidence that the early Christians (including Jesus, himself) were vegetarian. This was part of Christian teaching and practice until it was abolished by the Romans. There's plenty on the internet about this. One example:

I think Europe is far ahead of the US when it comes to plant-based eating. There is a tremendous wave of interest and popularity in alternative foods here, and the ordinary supermarkets are full of plant-based products, and more keep coming. In general, I would say that (Continental) Europeans eat healthier than Americans anyway. There is a growing campaign here (official and private) to get people away from animal-based food. A few minutes from here (near Bern, Switzerland) the Swiss food giant Nestlé has a huge R&D center devoted to nothing but non-animal-based food. It's the future. The World Health Organization has officially said long ago that heavy meat-eating causes cancer, as well as all the sugar and processed food that is common to the American diet. Milk is also known to be carcinogenic in adult humans. We simply are not meant to consume it. Milk is intended to promote the growth of calves. In adult humans it promotes the growth of cancer cells. Milk is a staple of the American diet, promoted by false health claims by the dairy industry. The WHO has long promoted the so-called "Mediterranean Diet", which is predominantly plant-based. I reported all of this personally for Swiss Radio International from the WHO in Geneva. I also recently did an interview for my own website about an enterprise started by two young people which produces vegan cheese products, just down the road from me here in the Emmental region of Switzerland. These products have become very popular and are available at major Swiss supermarkets, and are even exported.

As for insects, no thanks. I'm a vegan, and just the thought is disgusting. Having said that, in Switzerland, food stores and restaurants are allowed to sell insect-based foods. Yuck!

If you'd like to try some of the best in Bengali cooking, visit your nearest Hare Krishna temple on Sundays. Every temple around the world offers a free Sunday feast for all. Bengali cuisine from northern India is what the Krishnas cook, and it's considered the king of Indian cuisine. It is an experience to taste food made with love and spiritual devotion (Prasadam). "The Hare Krishna Cookbook" is full of fantastic recipes, and the New York Times once said it was the best Indian cookbook they had ever reviewed. In major cities they also operate restaurants called "Govinda". (I'm not a member of the Hare Krishna Movement, but have friends who are. I've learned a lot from them).

Prasadam: The Power of Sacred Food | Krishna.com
List of Hindu temples in the United States - Wikipedia

Namaste, and good health
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Just FYI: I'm not much of a milk drinker these days. When I microwave my morning serving of oatmeal, it is mixed with water. Well, with a little non-diary butter and a banana.

Thanks for sharing.