Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Religion Books—nonfiction - SUSAN WAG­GONER

A His­tory

Febe Ar­man­ios, Bo­gaç Er­gene , Ox­ford Univer­sity Press (MAY) Hard­cover $29.99 (400pp) , 978-0-19-026905-0 With more and more ha­lal food join­ing the Amer­i­can menu, ques­tions about it abound. Ha­lal Food: A His­tory by Febe Ar­man­ios and Bo­gaç Er­gene of­fers timely, com­pre­hen­sive, and thor­oughly re­searched in­for­ma­tion on all things ha­lal.

The book be­gins in the pre-qu­ran era (be­fore 600 CE), de­scrib­ing the typ­i­cal peas­ant diet of the Arab re­gion. Di­etary pre­scrip­tions came with the Qu­ran. Like many reli­gions, Is­lam sees eat­ing and ab­sten­tion as part of faith prac­tice. Hence, some foods and bev­er­ages are ha­lal, or per­mis­si­ble, and some foods and bev­er­ages are haram, or for­bid­den. Di­etary rules also ap­ply to how food is pro­duced. Food an­i­mals, for ex­am­ple, must be raised, fed, and slaugh­tered ac­cord­ing to cer­tain rules. The book is schol­arly in its depth and sources but easy to un­der­stand in its straight­for­ward writ­ing style. Though billed as a his­tory, it is also an in­valu­able guide for any­one who wants to fol­low—or know more about—in­creas­ingly com­plex ha­lal tra­di­tions, which changed as Is­lam spread and en­coun­tered new cuisines.

To­day’s com­mer­cial­iza­tion of food, with so many links in the pro­duc­tion chain and so lit­tle in­for­ma­tion pro­vided, presents even greater chal­lenges. To make mat­ters even more com­plex, di­vi­sions within the faith often dis­agree on what is and what isn’t ha­lal.

The book in­cludes nu­mer­ous charts and lists, help­fully show­ing what qual­i­fies as ha­lal ac­cord­ing to each sect. Chap­ters are well or­ga­nized, cov­er­ing such top­ics as meat, in­tox­i­cants, manufactured prod­ucts, and eat­ing out in de­tail. There’s a glos­sary at the front, along with a list of ab­bre­vi­a­tions used in the book. The back mat­ter is es­pe­cially com­pre­hen­sive, with an ex­ten­sive list of sources and a gold­mine of a bib­li­og­ra­phy.

Ar­man­ios and Er­gene’s Ha­lal Food: A His­tory is a ma­jor ad­di­tion to food stud­ies, his­toric as well as con­tem­po­rary.

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