The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to explore the possible synergetic effects between food-restricted behaviour (fasting in Orthodox Christianity) and physical and mental health; and second, to ponder on the nature of fasting and to reveal the potentials monastery cuisine has, reaching outside the world of religion and entering the world of consumption.
A qualitative research approach has been applied in order to investigate the synergetic effects between fasting, well-being and anti-consumption. The analysis is based on in-depth interviews carried out in Orthodox monasteries, in particular, in three monasteries in the territory of Mount Athos and in three monasteries in Northern Greece. Additionally, ten Bulgarians who visited monasteries situated at Mount Athos have been interviewed. In a cultural materialistic perspective, this paper seeks to discuss and reveal food and eating habits patterns. It combines the social anthropology of food with the anthropology of Eastern Orthodox religion.
The discussed interrelations between fasting, well-being and anti-consumption confirm the synergetic effects, occurring at different points between them. Fasting practices definitely contribute to consumers’ health and well-being. The food-restricted behaviour and the monastery diet are presented as a means of purification not only of the soul but also of the body. Fasting is an intriguing issue that offers many perspectives for people not only within but also without the monastery walls. Food-restricted behaviour as practiced in Orthodox Christianity shall be considered as beneficial for people’s health and as such it can reveal a lot of additional spiritual values for non-believers.
Future applications of fasting practices as a non-consumptive behaviour and in view of social movements for healthy nutrition. A possibility for fasting menus as an alternative to fast food menus can be exploited.
The study provides some useful insights into the contemporary practice of Eastern Orthodox fasting and confirms that fasting is a successful means of achieving mental and physical well-being. New perspectives for monastery cuisine as a resource and brand strategy for restaurant business and tourism can be mentioned as well.
Kiryakova-Dineva, T., Krasteva, R. and Chankova, Y. (2019), "Synergetic effects between fasting, well-being and anti-consumption within the walls of Orthodox monasteries and outside them", British Food Journal, Vol. 121 No. 7, pp. 1467-1479. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-04-2018-0243
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