What was kosher in Byzantium?
Eat, Drink and be Merry (Luke 12: 19): Food and Wine in Byzantium, Ashgate, (2007)
The question of clean and unclean foods is rarely raised in a Byzantine context. This coherently reflects the enduring and consistent Christian position on the subject; namely that, because all creation is good, there cannot be any impediment to eating any of it (except, of course, human flesh) in any circumstance. Christianity is thus set apart from other religions in the choice of not proscribing certain foods as part of its self-definition.
This circumstantial silence was broken by a recent book, Tia Kolbaba’s The Byzantine Lists, which devotes one chapter to the issue of ‘unclean food’. The polemical lists of ‘errors of the Latins’ analysed by kolbaba raise this issue in the context of the para-theological debates between Greek and Latin Christians. Kolbaba explores the issue of ‘unclean foods’ from a number of perspectives, from the anthropological to the sociological to the theological, but in the end admits that her central question remains unanswered: why, despite the clear directives of the church about food, does the accusation of eating unclean foods appear in the medieval diatribes between Greek and Latins?