Soul food

Why fasting makes sense

My first encounter with Christian fasting was in a Russian kitchen in the provincial city of Krasnodar in 1991. It was November and my host, a university professor, was preparing the evening meal at the beginning of the Orthodox fast called Little Lent, which is a bit like what Catholics and Protestants call Advent. While we boiled and chopped beets, carrots and potatoes, she explained that we were making a fasting salad. She added pickles and parsley and tossed the salad in sunflower oil, salt and pepper before serving it with brown bread. Olga Nikolaevna observed a partial fast—no meat and no dairy products—for the four weeks of Little Lent, and she continued to fast in various ways throughout the year. Fasting, for her, was a small piece of her religious devotion.


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