Have you ever invited a friend over for dinner only to find out that they can’t eat any of the food you’ve cooked – not because you’re a bad cook or because they are allergic, but because their religion doesn’t permit them to?

I have had several awkward religious eating moments. I figured if I can eat it, so can my guests. Clearly not.

After a few of those blunders, I knew it was time to educate myself on what not to cook at a dinner party.

If your friend is of the Christianity faith, try and avoid certain days such as Fridays, during Lent or Good Friday because chances are they may be fasting or avoiding meat. Some do eat fish on these days, though.

No need to worry about the Protestants, they don’t follow ritualistic fasting.

And forget bringing out that special bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion, because some Christians, such as members of the Salvation Army and Protestant churches, don’t drink alcohol.

Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages may also be a problem if your guest is a Mormon or a Seventh Day Adventist. The majority of the Seventh Day Adventists don’t eat meat or dairy products, so a roast is out of the question. For the few who do eat meat, they refrain from eating pork.

If your friend is of the Judaism faith, make sure everything is kosher. (Kosher: to prepare [food] according to the requirements of Jewish law).

In the Jewish religion, for animals to be kosher, they have to be slaughtered in a certain way and have all the blood drained before being sold or eaten. Animals such as pigs and fish are banned.

Chicken pie is out of the question because mixing and consumption of dairy products with meats is forbidden.

Also avoid having a dinner party on the day of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement, because you guest will not only not show up but they will be fasting and doing intensive praying for 25 hours.

If you have an Islamic friend, be sure you know the difference between Halal and Haram; Halal is good, Haram is bad.

Foods such as pork, alcohol and products that contain emulsifiers made from animal fats such as margarine, are found in the Haram list and are considered harmful; therefore they are banned.

Breads fermented by yeast are considered Haram as well because they may contain traces of alcohol. You can’t even make jelly for dessert because some gelatines are considered harmful, and so is coffee.

Do avoid holding your dinner party on days of fasting such as Ramadan or the ninth day of Zul Hijjah.

Hindus, on the other hand, avoid eating meat from animals or any food that involved the taking of life or caused pain to animals during manufacture. This is partly due to their belief of Karma. Therefore, if they were to eat animal flesh, they could accumulate the Karma of the act. (Karma: the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences).

For the few who eat meat, they are forbidden from eating pork and try to avoid serving beef, because the cow is sacred in Hinduism. Alcohol, onions and garlic are also restricted.

Milk, butter and yoghurt are permitted though.

Most Buddhists choose to become vegetarians to avoid killing animals. Like the Hindus, Buddhists believe if you inflict pain on others, it will come back to you.

Having covered only a few religions, I have learned that food is very important to religion. I will definitely be more observant, and cooking pork doesn’t seem like a good idea anymore.

It could get tricky hosting a dinner with friends from different religions, and I’m at a loss about what I could cook.

All Eaten Up readers respond:

“I struck this big time when living in Ethiopia with a mix of people from around the world plus the local Muslim and Coptic Christian communities. There are a couple of days in the week when Coptic Christians fast, which makes for interesting lunch dates! The answer for me was the trusty platter – serving foods separately and on platters meant that everyone could choose what was ok for them that day. Fortunately we did not have to deal with kosher requirements because the requirement for two sets of equipment to prep meat and dairy separately would have been pretty much impossible.. But platters seemed to work and after 13 years back in Oz, I still do it that way when I am not sure about guest’s requirements – though that seems to be more about allergies than religious beliefs. Help yourself is my motto – it looks fabulous and it means no-one has to explain themselves or their beliefs if they don’t want to.
Lee Welch
“OK, so you have done your home work on religions. If you do hold a party for any one you can’t go wrong if you prepare an vegeterian meal. We all eat vegetables and if you like having a dinner party learn to cook without meat. I do.”
 “It’s not just cultures and religions that dictate what a person can eat. As a bodybuilder I have a discipline to eat mean, lean, clean whole foods in a certain proportion. I frequently dine with friends, and they always ask what’s on my diet plan. The platter options as suggested by Lee, works nicely as it allows people to choose what works for them without explanation. It’s always nice to ask, then to assume and cause upset.”

Acknowledgments: This is a well-written food news piece from Elizabeth Mutambara from Alleatenup.com who often finds herself stuck on what to cook for people with certain religious beliefs. But this can also occur for special dietary needs or people who are just plain fussy 😉

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