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Lent - spring cleaning for the soul

Fasting is ancient and modern at the same time. They have always considered gluttony a sin - once a disregard for religious commandments, today above all a risk factor for health. But there are worlds between absolute asceticism, which only knows meagre food like water and bread, and overflowing tables and buffets. That this also applies to the traditional Lent periods is borne out by various reports and recipes throughout the centuries.

Fish instead of meat

The highest food requirement of all fasting rituals was the renunciation of meat, above all the meat of the quadrupeds. Sometimes there was a fierce fight for poultry or other animal products such as eggs and milk to be allowed or to remain. Fish is still regarded today as the fasting dish par excellence. Hildegard von Bingen, the great German mystic of the Middle Ages, even wrote a fish cookbook with 37 chapters - with tench, trout and carp from the monastery’s own fish ponds, they could conjure many delicious dishes up.

Wrapped and filled

Even delicious pastries, cakes, pastries and confectionery come as original fasting dishes from the monastery kitchens. Monks and nuns, for example, gormandised white bread slices dipped in egg and roasted with “French toast”, they rolled which in cinnamon sugar before being eaten. From England come various Pie dishes and cheesecakes. Creative monks even came up to wrap hearty fillings containing chopped meat mixed with vegetables - i.e. made unrecognizable - in dough instead of sweeter fillings. That was the birth of the pies. Even Swabian Maultaschen have their origin in the fasting rituals.

Hops and malt - God save it!

Was it pure coincidence that the Paulans in Munich proclaimed the strong beer season when the rules of fasting prohibited solid food? Not, because in other monasteries the inhabitants received during the fasting times a sleeping drink from a third almond milk and two thirds heavy spiced wine.

Against gluttony - for more joie de vivre

Conclusion: it closely relates In the traditional fasting periods, renunciation and enjoyment. Also during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting: during the day there is strict fasting and after sunset there is good food in the family circle.

Lent is therefore a turning point in the daily monotony. Getting to know new things or rediscovering old things or perceiving them more and deciding what and how we eat can be a good goal for this. In the spirit of Theresa of Avila (Spanish mystic, 1515-1582), who commented on these times: “I do good to my body so that my soul feels like living in it”.

View of empty plates

Those who fast practice the art of not having to although one could have it. Traditional fasting in both Jewish and Christianity or in Islam and Buddhism also includes supporting the poor during the times. They rarely have at their disposal what they themselves do without. The way to the inside connected with fasting and this orientation of fasting towards the needy, it also anchors which in the religions, shows that fasting is more than hunger and diet.

Author: Brigitte Neumann

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