Food and faith go hand-in-hand.
Whether it’s a potluck after Sunday service, a kosher Passover meal, a fast-breaking snack during Ramadan or a cool beverage to signify equality, food has long played a major role in the lives of the faithful. That’s doubly true in Charleston – aka the Holy City – where the peninsula is as dotted with historic worship houses as it is talked-about restaurants.
It’s those meals — and the fellowship created by them — that inspired the College of Charleston’s Department of Religious Studies and The Post and Courier to create the first-ever “Spirited Brunch,” a self-guided culinary tour on Sunday afternoon where diners can visit a dozen of the city’s houses of worship and sample some of the dishes that have played important roles in their congregations.
“Religion isn’t just about belief, it’s about living your life and culture,” says Elijah Siegler, the chairman of the Religious Studies Department. “People associate religion with the foods you eat – there’s a very strong connection there.”
Siegler says the College began working on the event after a “Food and Faith” dinner on campus in January, which the department co-hosted along with the Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program, the Jewish Student Union/Hillel, the Arabic Club and the Christian-Jewish Council of Greater Charleston. The event featured a menu of both traditional Islamic and kosher dishes and a conversation about the culinary and cultural connections between the two faiths. The meal was so successful that Siegler reached out to The Post and Courier’s food critic, Hanna Raskin, for ideas for a follow-up event.
Raskin suggested reaching out to the houses of worship throughout downtown Charleston and seeing if they’d be interested in sharing the dishes that connect to their respective faiths and communities. A dozen congregations took the pair up on the offer.
“I don’t think there’s ever been another event quite like this in Charleston,” says Raskin. “This is not about showing off sophisticated cooking techniques, or pairing food with wine. It’s an opportunity to get to know our neighbors.”
Some of the dishes in the brunch include fried chicken and red rice at Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church, Eastern European Jewish baked goods at Brith Sholom Beth Israel, ice cream at First Church of Christ, Scientist; and dates and other fast-breaking snacks eaten during Ramadan at Central Mosque of Charleston. The Louis G. Gregory Baha’i Museum, just steps off campus, will be serving cold drinks.
“Any food items would have cultural connotations that diverge from their belief in unity and equality,” says Raskin. “My guess is people will better remember the meaning of Baha’i after sipping a beverage from a Spirited Brunch plastic cup than they might if they took a class on world religions.”
Both Raskin and Siegler said that the Spirited Brunch will be a fantastic opportunity for diners to learn more about the city’s diverse religious communities. They both also hope it will become a yearly tradition in Charleston.
“The event is a chance for everybody — tourists and locals to learn more about religious pluralism in Charleston,” Siegler says. “They can also piece together a delicious meal.”
The Spirited Away brunch is free and open to the public. The houses of worship (listed below) will have their doors open and will be serving food and offering tours from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
See a map of the participating houses of worship below.
Feature photo of Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity by Reese Moore.