Monday, February 15, 2010

Rules of Fasting: How to Read Labels

OK. So, one of the issues that modern culinary technology presents us with is "reading labels" for Lent.  Back in the day, there were no canned foods, chemically cloned flavors, hermetically sealed wrappers, governmentally required labelling, the FDA, Food Police and trace ingredients that bind, harden, smooth and flavor our food.  If you got a fish or a loaf of bread or something made of corn, it pretty much was a fish, bread or made of corn. Technology has made fasting a science and the playground of Phariseeism and obsessive compulsive attention to details. Take my beloved Pop Tarts, f'rinstance.  Over FIFTY ingredients in a crust and some jammy stuff between them. Check it out: 

ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACINAMIDE, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), SUGAR, DEXTROSE, VEGETABLE OIL (SOYBEAN, PALM, COTTONSEED AND/OR HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL† WITH TBHQ AND CITRIC ACID FOR FRESHNESS), CORN SYRUP, WHEY, CRACKER MEAL, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, COCOA, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF CORNSTARCH, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, SALT, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA, SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), MODIFIED CORN STARCH, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, GELATIN, DRIED EGG WHITES, DATEM, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL†, MODIFIED WHEAT STARCH, XANTHAN GUM, NATURAL VANILLA FLAVOR, CARAMEL COLOR, SOY LECITHIN, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, COLOR ADDED, NIACINAMIDE, REDUCED IRON, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), FOLIC ACID.

If I'm keeping the fast "strictly"... OOPS!!! look at ingredient numbers 31 through 33... Lactylate, gelatin and dried egg whites!!! DANG... not fast worthy. So WWSJTFD?  (What would St. John the Faster Do?)  Well dear blog readers, I am here to help you with a primer on the historical/dogmatic/liturgical method of fasting.  (Please consult with your spiritual Father before applying any of these rules to your Lenten discipline.)

So, here is a survey of the fasting rules that have applied at various times in Orthodox history.

You can eat something if a NON-fasting ingredient shows up on the list after this:

1.  The Shema Rule:  ("Our God is One" from Deuteronomy, for the biblically illiterate):  You can eat anything that has non fasting ingredients after the first ingredient listed.  Since Orthodoxy is a fulfillment of Judaism, and God is "one nature", this is a REALLY handy rule.  (Pop Tarts would be fastworthy by this rule, so you get the idea. Hmmm... it just occurred to me, so would a bacon double cheeseburger without the hamburger patties, which is much better than a BLT without the bacon.)

2.  The Nicene Constantinapolitan Rule:  (Also known as The Incarnational (God with meat) Two Natures Rule): You can eat it if the non-fastworthy ingredient shows up after TWO ingredients.

3. The Trinitarian Rule:  After 3 ingredients.

4.  The Angelic Ranks Rule 9 (because we aspire to the angelic life):  After 9 ingredients.

5.  The "Lord Have Mercy Rule" of Matins/Hours:  After 12 ingredients. (Pop Tarts are still "IN").

6. The "Lord Have Mercy Rule" of Russian or Monastic Vigil:  After 40 ingredients. (Pop Tarts are OUT).

7. The "Lord Have Mercy Rule" of Russian/Monastic Litia/Vigil:  After 300 ingredients.  (You may eat only organically grown potatoes for Lent, but only if the fertilizer is certified to be free of non-fasting trace ingredients... which is why the Russians allow Vodka during Lent... YEAH!!!).

I hope this helps.  Blessed Lent to all.
 


19 comments:

Anonymous said...

A girl at coffee hour Sunday was talking about an Indian friend of hers from the Hindu priestly caste. Their dietary rules are very strict, but they can eat animal products as long as one can not actually see them in the dish. Supposedly this woman flipped out when she saw the little flecks of egg in her lunchtime order of fried rice.

So, that is the rule I am adopting. Therefore, since a New York strip looks nothing like a cow, it's in.

s-p said...

Anon, I LIKE this! I'm sure if I put enough breading and gravy on it I can hide a chicken fried steak. You know, now that I think about it, maybe that is what the Fathers were talking about when they said we can eat "see food"... :)

nothinghypothetical said...

Most of my fasting rule is, "Can I make it?" I don't mean can I prepare the food, but rather can I survive through the next meal (or lack thereof). There is a fine line between discomfort and misery, and right now I just can't do misery... I've had enough misery in my life.

One afternoon I polished off three liters of water and was working on my 4th just to try to get to the end of the work day, couldn't think straight, cancelled my appointments, went home early and ate a hamburger in the car on the way home, then collapsed in bed.

I don't know how folks do it and fear that this is one spiritual medicine I'll never really know. I understand that when you fall you get back up, but I assume most folks make it through a full day before falling.

Some days I feel like I immigrated to the Kingdom only to pitch my tent just outside the gate.

orrologion said...

I just don't eat stuff I'm pretty sure has non-fasting food in it, e.g., pastries. I only rarely look if I either don't know how it's made or think it looks a little too fancy to not have something non-fasting in it, e.g., pasta sauces with olive oil and wine rather than just cheap canola oil.

Truth be told, I'm not 100% sure bread and pasta are always fasting foods. I'm sure at least some, if not all, have eggs incorporated into at least one component.

Of course, my wife is not Orthodox, so if she's cooking and puts in some mayo or butter without telling me, but I can still smell it... well, that's hospitality and I can't expect the chief of sinners not to be a lax faster, so it helps keep me from putting on airs.

Silouan said...

We have an easier rule here: If it's a food that common sense says will be made with eggs or milk, don't eat it. If common sense says it shouldn't have eggs or milk in it, then quit scrupling and eat.

If the cook or factory really did sneak some whey into my rice & beans or my VeganSmoothie(tm) then they're accountable for stupiding up their recipe, not me.

Besides, if we'd just cook more often, we'd all be eating tastier, better-for-ya food and we'd know the ingredients. Plus we'd spend an extra half an hour every evening slowing down in the kitchen, chopping veggies while talking with family - what an ascetic struggle!

Anonymous said...

s-p:

"I'm sure if I put enough breading and gravy on it I can hide a chicken fried steak"

Remember: It's not "Chicken-
Fried Steak"; it's "Battered Protein Surprise".

orrologion said...

Calamari are "fried circles" in our family.

babushkajoanna said...

I was told once by someone, "Fast as you can, not as you can't."

babushkajoanna said...

BTW, I feel your Poptart pain. I have the same one. :)

Kirk said...

"Fast as you can!"

--That describes how I ate my rice and purple hull peas tonight. (scarf, scarf, scarf) I must have really been hungry. lol.

Michael said...

Battered protein surprise

I love it!

s-p said...

My problem is I like to cook but I'm also the subdeacon at our Mission so if I attend every service during Lent and do the Reader's services when our "working priest" is travelling on business I don't have much time to cook a lot of vegan stuff that looks really yummy but takes a lot of prep time and shouldn't be scarfed down (fast as you can before Compline...)

I like the "common sense" approach to reading labels (or rather not reading them scrupulously). The human tendencies toward either legalism or rationalization gets cut off. If we can eat or not eat "strictly" with innocence of heart, as St. Paul says, food will neither condemn nor justify us because the Lord will make us stand. If we have any degree of introspection and self assessment we know when we've been "bad or good", we don't need the 27th ingredient on a label to tell us that. "Battered Protein Surprise". LOL! Yeah... it COULD be tofu under there.

matthewmoore said...

It'd be the tastiest tofu I've ever eaten! Thanks, Steve. You keep this convert in check!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Brilliant!

When I got home from work yesterday, my DH had already cooked lunch for him and for the kids,and had thoughtfully also cooked a plateful of food for me.

Pork chop and chips.

Needless to say, I accepted his kind act and ate it gratefully, rather than hurt his feelings :-)

s-p said...

Elizabeth, Can you husband come fix lunch for me some day? LOL!

margaret said...

Wonderful. I feel as if I should have a little badge with a number on it (and so should everyone else so that I know who's drinking vodka).

Virgil Petrisor said...

Speaking of cooking and lack of time, I went on allrecipes.com and looked up a few vegetarian recipes involving beans, lentils, potatoes, and mushrooms - together or separately. I had to sort out the vegan ones, but for the most part it worked well.

It took about fifteen to twenty minutes to pick out eight recipes for which the preparation time was under half an hour (not counting cooking time) and am hoping to make one or two a week in large enough quantities to last a few days each.

Peter Gardner said...

I don't know what sort of weird pop tarts you have out in Arizona, but here in Virginia, pop tarts are vegan already, at least if you get the fruit kinds.

Joe said...

I don't read labels. Ignorance is bliss.