Food, Faith & Identity

On February 22, 2018, One Earth Writing instructors Maureen Dunphy and Joy Gaines-Friedler led 18 women and teen girls participating in One Faithful World’s second session in writing about the role of food in shaping identity. The conversation focused on finding similarities between foods of our own cultures/religions and foods of other cultures/religions. Sponsored by First United Methodist Church of Royal Oak, the Muslim Unity Center, and Temple Israel, One Faithful World uses writing to explore the role of females in faith.

Eating is a necessity. We eat to survive. We eat to nourish our bodies. We eat to sustain our lives. And yet, there is also an element of enjoyment in eating. We choose our foods. We crave certain things. We remember people and special occasions by the foods we ate together.

Is there a food that someone special to you makes frequently? What is it?

What foods are special for your holy days?

If there were one food that helps you know who you are, and where you come from, what would it be? Do you like that food? What does it make you think of?

In this workshop, we built an understanding of who we are as women and teen girls through the foods we prefer or know well.  During the activity where the women and teens were separated into two separate groups, individuals were asked to interview each other about the food that help them know who they are, where they come from, and what they believe.  Each individual with pen in hand made a list of foods that remind them of special times and then chose one food from that list to write their story.

Our program concluded with guest speaker, Sue Selasky, an author, food writer, and Test Kitchen Director at the Detroit Free Press. She covers everything from daily dinners to kitchen tips & techniques to the ways people come together over food. Sue shared her stories on how food connects communities and breaks down barriers.

Prior to the second session, we asked each participant to bring with them their favorite recipe that represents their faith or belief or family, to share with the group. Below are a few tasty recipes shared:

Kreplach (Soup dumpling)
Shared by Isabel & Lauren Johnson

Jewish dumplings – kreplach cooked in broth

2 1/2 cups flour
1 egg
1 cup water
1 lb ground beef
3 Tbsp parsley
3 Tbsp rehydrated chopped onions

1. For the dough, mix beaten egg into flour, incorporate water a bit at a time until dough forms.
2. In a separate bowl, fork smash beef then mix in parsley and onions. Make this tiny meatballs and put on plate for assembly.
3. To make the Kreplah: knead dough slightly, then roll out to large square on floured board to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut into 1 3/4 inch squares. Put tiny meatballs on each square, fold into a triangle, and press sides closed. (You will need about 3 recipes of dough for 1 lbs of meat – only make one at a time, so the dough does not dry out.)
4. In a large pot of boiling water, place 24 triangles to cook for about 3-4 minutes or until floating at the top. remove from water with slotted spoon. Cool completely before storing (they freeze well!).
5. Serve with chicken soup or fry to enjoy with a dipping sauce.

Finnish Christmas Eve Rice Pudding
Shared by Beth Niemela & Keira Doner

1 cup uncooked rice
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups milk
1 whole almond (shelled)

1. Cook the rice according to package directions.
2. Combine cooked rice, melted butter, sugar, eggs, salt, and cinnamon in large bowl. Stir in milk.
3. Pour mixture into 2-quart casserole.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Halfway through baking time, press almond into the pudding using a wooden spoon handle. Finish baking.
5. Serve warm.
6. Scoop into bowls. Whoever finds the almond in their pudding gets to make a wish!