Food in Christian history: Recommended resources


There are many books on the history and theology of Christians eating. Check out Bridget Ann Henisch, Fast and Feast (1976); Paul Brand, The Forever Feast (1994); Daniel Sack, Whitebread Protestants (2001); Sander Gilman, Obesity: The Biography (2010); Michael Schut, ed., Food and Faith (2010); David Grumett and Rachel Muers, Theology on the Menu (2010); Ken Albala and Trudy Eden, eds., Food and Faith in Christian Culture (2011); Norman Wirzba, Food and Faith (2011); Jennifer Ayres, Good Food (2013); Preston Yancey, Out of the House of Bread (2016); and an encyclopedia by Paul Fieldhouse, Food, Feasts, and Faith (2017).

And while there are also many books about the Eucharist, here are a few that look at it in conjunction with ancient food practices: Andrew McGowan, Ascetic Eucharists (1999) and Ancient Christian Worship (2016); Dennis Edwin Smith and Hal Taussig, Many Tables (1990); Angel Méndez-Montoya, The Theology of Food (2009); and Hal Taussig, In the Beginning Was the Meal (2009).

Food in the Bible is treated in Robert Karris, Eating Your Way through Luke’s Gospel (2006); Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, Food at the Time of the Bible (2006); Ellen Davis, Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture (2008); Nathan MacDonald, What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat? (2008); and Douglas Neel and Joel Pugh, The Food and Feasts of Jesus (2013).

Look into the history of Christians, gardens, and farms in Vigen Guroian, Inheriting Paradise (1999); Gary Fick, Food, Farming, and Faith (2008); Sarah McFarland Taylor, Green Sisters (2009); Craig Goodwin, Year of Plenty (2011); Fred Bahnson, Soil and Sacrament (2013) and (with Norman Wirzba) Making Peace with the Land (2012); Kevin Lowe, Baptized with the Soil (2015); and Lisa Graham McMinn, To the Table (2015). While many of Wendell Berry’s books are relevant to this topic, start with his The Unsettling of America (1977), The Gift of Good Land (1981), and Bringing It to the Table (2009).

Learn more about ancient and modern hospitality in Christine Pohl, Making Room (1999); Peter Reinhart, Bread upon the Waters (2000); Sara Miles, Take this Bread (2008); Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily (2009); Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus (2011); Carmen Acevedo Butcher, Man of Blessing (2012); and Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine (2013).

Read about fasting and vegetarianism in Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast (1987); Veronika Grimm, From Feasting to Fasting, the Evolution of a Sin (1996); Teresa Shaw, The Burden of the Flesh (1998); Frederica Mathewes-Green, The Illumined Heart (2001); Rachel Muers and David Grumett, eds., Eating and Believing (2008); and Andrew Jotischky, A Hermit’s Cookbook (2011). The book that birthed the Christian diet industry is Charlie Shedd’s Pray Your Weight Away (1957), and recent evangelical concern about food practices is traceable to Ron Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (1977).

Nineteenth-century crusaders for health and temperance appear in Norman Clark, Deliver Us from Evil (1976); William Chazanof, Welch’s Grape Juice (1977); James Whorton, Crusaders for Fitness (1982); Jack Blocker, American Temperance Movements (1989); Carol Mattingly, Well-Tempered Women (1998); Ruth Clifford Engs, Clean Living Movements (2000); Juliann Sivulka, Stronger than Dirt (2001); Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health (2008) and (edited with Terrie Dopp Aamodt and Gary Land) Ellen Harmon White (2014); Andrew Smith, Eating History (2009); Jennifer Woodruff Tait, The Poisoned Chalice (2011); and Howard Markel, The Kelloggs (2017).

Fellowship meals old and new feature in Laura Shapiro, Perfection Salad (1986); Reta Halteman Finger, Of Widows and Meals (2007); Paul Fike Stutzman, Recovering the Love Feast (2011); Alice Julier, Eating Together (2013); and Jamir Lanuwabang, Exclusion and Judgment in Fellowship Meals (2017). If you’re wondering what to bring to the potluck, we suggest Rae Katherine Eighmey and Debbie Miller’s Potluck Paradise: Favorite Fare from Church and Community Cookbooks (2008) or Jennifer Niemur’s Global Potluck (2009).

And finally while you’ll find recipes in many of the above, some of the most famous Christian cookbooks include the genre-founding book by Mary Mann, Christianity in the Kitchen (1861) and three books you’ve met in this issue: Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb (1969); Doris Janzen Longacre, More-with-Less (1976, 40th anniversary edition 2016); and Evelyn Birge Vitz, A Continual Feast (1985).

Past Christian History issues

Read these related issues of Christian History online. Some are still available for purchase:

• 24: Bernard of Clairvaux

• 37: Worship in the Early Church

• 49: Everyday Faith in the Middle Ages

• 54: Eastern Orthodoxy

• 64: St. Antony

• 93: A Devoted Life

• 119: The Wonder of Creation

• and our special guide, The History of Worship between Constantine and the Reformation

Videos from Vision Video

Videos on the theme of this issue include History of Christian Worship: The Feast; Last Supper; Seeds, Dirt, Fruit; Sparrows; The Daniel Plan; Wisdom from India: Vegetarianism; and for kids, Bedbug Bible Gang: Miracle Meals.


There’s no shortage of food history on the Internet; we can only give you a taste here (no pun intended). The Food Timeline has information, recipes, and an extensive bibliography about all aspects of food from prehistoric times to the present. The Smithsonian has a food history section, and PBS maintains a food blog called The History Kitchen. The Old Foodie is another interesting food history blog. And, the Lilly Library at Indiana University has put some of its cookbook collection online. In fact many older cookbooks can be found through Google Books.

Kendall Vanderslice at Vanderslice of the Sweet Life has a nice bibliography on faith and food, and the Christian Food Movement has a blog and an extensive resource guide of farms, cookbooks, other books about food, community gardens, conferences, and organizations. Finally, our issue advisor LaVonne Neff blogs frequently about food at Lively Dust. CH

By the editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #125 in 2018]

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