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Question 293

During fasting what are the oil rules? What is the rule re olive oil and olives?


Answer to Question 293


On weekdays of Lent we keep to a Strict fast which signifies that we may eat only boiled vegetables, pulses, rice and also such things as fruit, nuts, bread and honey. On these days olive oil and wine are not permitted. When the rules for fasting were established only olive oil was available for cooking. Many people are baffled why olives may be eaten but not the oil pressed from the olives. It is not an animal product like all the other foods prohibited so why is it forbidden during the weekdays of Lent? The answer is simply because fasting should consist of very basic and simple meals with the aim of weakening the body which in turn will weaken the passions that rule the body. Olive oil is rich in sustenance and strengthens the body and at the same time can be used in cooking to make better and tastier meals. Most people will prefer fried chips to a boiled potato.


The rule says olive oil but now we have a variety of vegetable oils and margarines which some people insist should also not be used on the strict days. Granted you can have fried chips with vegetable oil but it is not as rich as olive oil and neither does it have the same health qualities. Those against the use of vegetable oil are usually monks or people influenced from the monastic way of life, but in general, ordinary people in the world will consume vegetable oil and margarine on the strict days. I class them as substitute foods similar to the fake cheese and tofu turkey.


Same member

Where do vegan substitutes sit in the rules then?



The purpose of fasting is to help us gain control over those things that we often allow to control us, thus we must beware lest our fasting does the opposite and begins to control us. If we spend countless hours reading the ingredient label of every item that we buy to make sure no egg or milk extracts were used, then we can become just as controlled by our fasting and, in the process, miss the whole point of fasting in the first place. Another danger is the "substitution syndrome" where people try to substitute milk with non dairy milk, cheese with a rubbery look alike which definitely doesn't taste like real cheese and meat with tofu burgers and many other things it can be made into. I haven't seen it in Cyprus but in health shops in America they sell tofu turkey which is shaped to look like a real turkey and is even supposed to taste like the real thing.


While the “substitution syndrome” can make fasting a little more exciting, we must be careful not to let it take control because then our fasting simply focuses on following the “letter of the law” while ignoring the “spirit on which the law is based. Lenten cookbooks have thousands of delicious looking recipes to tempt our palette and while a gourmet meal does no harm for a special occasion we must not forget that the basic rule in fasting is simplicity of eating.