9 Foods with Religious Symbolism

It's easy to go your whole life, munching away, and never realize that many of the foods you eat were actually originally inspired by religion and religious iconography. We decided to pull the veil off of these faith-based foods to give you an inside look at the secret history of some of your favorite chomps.

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Baklava

Did you ever wonder why sweet, delicious baklava has so many layers? The phyllo dough is technically supposed to consist of 33 layers, one for each year in the life of Jesus Christ. However, when and where the treat was invented is up for debate, and it may actually predate Christ by some millennia.

Watch the Video: Baklava in 1 Minute

Dumplings

These little pockets of goodness may just be the world's most perfect food, but did you know that they are shaped to resemble money? Dumplings look just like ancient forms of Chinese currency, like the tael and jau gok. That's why those who follow the Taoist religious philosophy believe that eating one brings good fortune. Eating 20 brings a stomachache.

See More Photos: Dumplings (and Stuffed Foods) Around the World

Pretzels

The starchy, perfectly dippable pretzel is supposed to remind one of a child kneeling in prayer. The popular snacks were actually invented by French monks around 610 A.D. Auntie Anne, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found.

Watch the Video: Pretzels 101

Rendang

Every single ingredient of this popular curry dish carries with it religious and cultural significance. The meat symbolizes the leaders of the community. The creamy coconut milk stands for the teachers who make up Indonesian society. The particular spice mixture that accompanies the dish stands for society as a whole, and the heat, usually in the form of chile paste, represents the Muslim faith's sharia law.

Noodles

There is a reason why noodles are kept long and not chopped up, particularly in China, and it's not to honor that one awesome scene in Lady and the Tramp. The extreme length of your average noodle represents longevity. The longer the noodle, the longer the life, it is said. This is of particular import for those of the Taoist faith.

Watch the Video: Long Life Noodles and Lamb

Pancakes

There is no denying that pancakes are awesome. This breakfast staple only exists, however, because ancient kitchens had to quickly get rid of their ingredients the day before Lent, a time of fasting. This led to experimentation and, voila, the humble pancake was born.

Watch the Video: The History of the Pancake

King Cake

That other Mardi Gras tradition, besides the beads, has a history that is deeply rooted in Christianity. The toy baby that hides in each cake actually represents the baby Jesus, even though nowadays it usually just means you have to buy next year's cake.

See More Photos: Cajun Recipes for Mardi Gras

Matzo

Sure, you may have some vague understanding that the cracker-like unleavened bread has something to do with Judaism, but the origins of this snack run even deeper than that. Matzo is unleavened on purpose, to remind eaters of Egyptian Jewry fleeing in haste, without time to even apply yeast to their bread. Also, in case you were wondering, matzo goes absolutely splendidly with bananas and peanut butter.

Fanesca

This soup, typically served in Ecuador the week before Easter, contains a multitude of symbolic ingredients. Each of the soup's 12 beans stands for one of the 12 apostles, and the signature fish, salt cod, stands for Jesus himself.

Image via: quitoturismo on Flickr

Holy & Hungry

Sherri Shepherd will travel every road, in little towns and big cities, to find amazing places with people whose love for cooking is combined with a profound passion for their faith.

Holy & Hungry

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