Fat and the Reformation

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In an earlier post, I mused on the coincidence of the divisionsĀ of the European Reformation and the breakdown of Indo-European language families. While listening to an episode of Andreas Viestad and Pia Skevik’s brilliant podcast Radiomat, I became aware of another coincidence. Viestad points out that the Reformation lines also mirror the division between butter and olive oil as primary cooking fat. Northern European countries, where olive trees cannot grow, relied on butter as their primary cooking fat. As Viestad tells it, Roman fast days outlawed butter, but not olive oil, causing resentment on the Northern European side.

To add a note of caution, hisĀ division only accounts for majority of the Protestant/Roman split. It doesn’t explain the Calvinist/Lutheran split, or why Poland (a land bereft of olive trees) remained staunchly Roman Catholic. That said, it adds another layer to the varied forces of religion, culture, and environment that laid the groundwork for Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.