06/02/2011 04:58 pm ET Updated Aug 02, 2011

The Connection Between Healthy Eating And Fringe Religious Groups

In a great piece for Slate, Daniel Fromson explores the connection between health food restaurants and fringe religious groups. He visits various restaurants and samples the food of different religious sects, discovering that the food is often pretty tasty and the people are pretty welcoming.

What he ate, and where:
  • Vegetarian curries and a fresh, crunchy salad from one of about 20 soy-and-veggies joints from the followers of Sri Chinmoy (Queens)
  • Vegan mac-and-cheese and a vegetable croquette on a thick whole-wheat bun (the Moses burger), from African-American polygamists who consider themselves the real Jews (DC)
  • A whole-grain waffle drowned in blueberry sauce and whipped cream from the "Jesus People" known as the Twelve Tribes (upstate New York)
  • Vegan dumplings and nutty seaweed salad from the followers of Supreme Master Ching Hai (New York City)

Fromson explains that two of the big reasons that smaller religious groups open these businesses is because they need the money, and the venues offer an opportunity to attract new members.

He summarizes his experience:

Where else can your dinner companion be a peace-preaching weightlifter fueled by "inner strength" or a saffron-robed descendent of the Krishna Santas? It's like dining at the embassy of an unfamiliar country, or in California, 1971. It's eating as anthropology.

Check out the whole piece here.