Food is one of the most important aspects of every culture. Many do not realize, but food has significant meanings and can reveal plenty of facts about a specific culture. For instance, oriental food is colorful and full of savory spices, portraying a beautiful culture that is centered around achieving balance.
Halal food is one of the most controversial forms of food in the world because not many people are aware of its cultural significance. Halal is an Arabic word for “permissible or lawful,” and is contrasted by the word, “Haram” in the Qu’ran. This form of food adheres strictly to Islamic law, which dictates what foods can be consumed. This often means that poultry must be slaughtered in a specific way and that there are specific foods that cannot be consumed. If you have ever eaten Halal food, here is what you should know:
- Halal does not mean only dishes such as “lamb over rice.”
Plenty of people make the mistake of thinking that Halal only pertains to the more popular dishes, such as the famous “lamb over rice” or gyros. As mentioned before, Halal food follows Islamic law, which dictates what foods can be consumed. There are no restrictions on fruits, vegetables, or most fishes, however, there are plenty of guidelines for procuring meat.
- Halal meat is procured in a very specific manner.
In Islamic culture, there are strict laws against the consumption of blood, pancreas, teeth, or other organs of any animal. The consumption of the flesh of dead animals is also prohibited, meaning that special techniques must be used in procuring meat. The most popular technique involves slaughtering the animal with a single stroke such that the blood is completely drained. The jugular vein, carotid artery, and windpipe are often targetted during the procuration. In addition to special techniques, the animal must also be completely healthy at the time of its demise. These animals are given high-quality care and nutrition during their growth following Islamic Law.
- Halal food has plenty of health benefits.
While there have not been prominent studies proving that Halal meat is healthier than conventionally-produced meat, it is generally believed that Halal meat does have plenty of health benefits. When the blood of an animal is drained, this also removes toxic waste products and harmful bacteria. Without a trace of blood within the meat, it will stay fresh longer and be easier to digest. Halal livestock is also grown without hormonal supplements or growth injections, meaning that their nutrition is profusely better than those of conventionally-produced meat.
- Halal food is not prepared with specific instructions.
Although Halal itself follows a specific set of guidelines, there are no rules on preparing certain dishes. For this reason, Halal meals can be prepared by nearly anyone with the appropriate Halal meat. Preparing a Halal meal is as simple as following a recipe and obtaining the correct ingredients.
- There are specific rules for procuring ingredients.
In Islamic culture, pork and alcohol cannot be consumed under any circumstances. This law extends as far as prohibiting the consumption of canines. While there are no laws regarding the use of artificial colors or sweeteners, they are typically not used in most restaurants that serve Halal food. Cooks are free to use whatever spices, grains, or pulses they desire when preparing Halal meals.
Here is a full list of what foods are prohibited by Islamic law:
- Pork, and pork byproducts
- Birds of prey
- Alcohol, and foods containing alcohol
- Carnivorous animals
- Animals without external ears
- Animals not slaughtered correctly according to Islamic law
Halal food has long been enjoyed by plenty of people across the world and has even been culturally appropriated from time to time. Knowing the cultural foundation of food can lead to increased awareness and appreciation for the world around you. There are plenty of other aspects of our daily lives with hidden cultural meanings, and by finding them, you will find yourself more enlightened.