Radical Food : Nation of Islam and Latter-Day Saint Culinary Ideals (1930-1980)
This dissertation addresses how from 1930 to 1980 two minority religious groups, the Nation of Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), used food to express their separate and superior status as God's chosen people while at the same time engaging the values of broader American culture.
Outsiders in American religion are, in many ways, consummate insiders seeking to craft an ideal society. Historian R. Laurence Moore has argued that, by inventing themselves through a sense of opposition, religious outsiders contributed substantially to what we think of as American culture. This study of Mormons and Nation Muslims focuses more on the way values from American culture also shaped belief and behavior in two outsider groups. I build on Moore's insight to conclude that, at the same time outsider groups rebelled against what they defined as white Protestants' transgressions or faults, they negotiated their own worth in relation to white Protestant values that they had quite thoroughly internalized. The processes of cultural assimilation and separation for these outsider religious groups happened simultaneously.
As each group worked out what its separateness and superiority meant in everyday patterns of eating, each developed a cuisine that represented its deeply held religious and cultural priorities. In Mormonism, the greatest value was self-sufficiency, while for the Nation it was health; both groups also used foodways to stress refinement and a sense of chosenness. This study analyzes food habits in their entirety, discussing not only prohibitions, as other scholars do, but also recipes, fasting, food production, and table manners. Major sources include magazine and newspaper articles, speech transcripts, oral history interviews, devotional literature, and cookbooks. Food habits tell how Nation Muslims and Mormons invoked traditional American values but applied those values in their own way in order to be "in but not of" the world.