Monday, September 03, 2007

On Pork

I remember a conversation I had once while jogging with one of my best friends. She was asking me about why I decided to stop eating pork. I had tasted it for the first time when I was 19, to break through what I felt were mental and social taboos which had been constructed as part of my identity, it was part of my rebellion. Also, I simply wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
I have never since felt a reservation about what is in effect just another type of meat on the supermarket shelf. One thing I did notice throughout those years when I did have it, I never actually brought things home to my fridge like pork chops, pork livers or even sausages. It seemed I didn't have a problem with consuming it in a restaurant as part of some meal I liked, but the idea of having it home in my fridge was quite simply alien to me. When I thought of cooking something at home, it never occurred to me to cook something with it, nor did I ever feel that it was something which I craved. Quite simply, it was not part of my culture or tastes. Years later, around the time of my jog, I contemplated why that was. My friend believed I was quite simply being irrational about it. I wasn't religious, and arguments about the uncleanliness of the animal (which I still believe) didn't always hold to be true. So why?

Though religion is a factor, it is actually not the biggest. The main reason like I said before is that it is simply not part of my culture, the vast majority of Arabs and in fact most people in the Middle East and North Africa, do not have pork as part of their cuisine, the animal is considered to be filthy and unedible. Is this irrational? Why? Certainly there are societies where grasshoppers, lizards and dogs are eaten without the slightest concern. Why, I would ask, do these same people who disagree with me not consider eating dog liver sandwiches or lizard? They too are edible and this revulsion is largely irrational, or is it? Pork doesn't taste too bad, but I choose not to eat it now as a conscious decision based on my cultural and religous identity and moral values I have, not just because I was raised this way anymore.


Yazan said...

I very much enjoy these post that you reflect on yourself in them.

I can relate to your first experiments with pork, not that it was banned in our house, as both my parents are not religious on any level, but it was just that "Not part of the cuisine"... Although it was always present on dinner tables of christian/armenian family friends, which where I had my first experiments, maybe around 12-13...

I also never really bought pork to keep it in my fridge, but that's probably the case for all other types of meat, as I hate to cook meat, or keep meat in my fridge.

I fully agree about the notion of cultural differences playing the bigger role, and I see where you're going, because, I myself was not really able to eat dog meat when a vietnamese cooked it "especially" for me.
And I will probably have a hard time pushing myself to snack on fried locusts for example in thailand, or rats in china...

I don't see where the "dirty" argument stands though?

Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

during my own youthful days of rebellion and experimentation, before i reverted back to my faith, i dare say i partook in the intake of many a food and other types of "forbidden" intake, including crocodile, but i never did touch pork to my tongue. i don't know how "clean" that makes my mouth and gizzards, however you may wish to define the word "clean," whether in a cultural, religious, or psychological context.

Wassim said...

Hi Yazan,
My extremely biased opinion is that it's a creature which revels in living in it's own filth, in fact, it eats it's own filth in a natural state.

I guess everyone has their own definition of clean. It and other experiences have never stained me though perhaps I do realise the majority of these experiments were ,with hindsight, pretty pointless and unnecessary. It's just something which I am averse to and no longer eat. I like to keep these things in perspective ie. irrelevant to who I am now

abufares said...

I never consciously ordered pork. That's as far I can go with my statement. Thus, when I am abroad and something with unknown meat is presented to me (say on a flight) I would not ask what is it made of. The best phrase you used is that pork is not part of our cuisine.
However, unlike Yazan (I don't know how far I would go as I have not been extremely tested yet) when I'm traveling I like to sample the local culinary variety no matter how strange it might be. Rats & Monkeys!!! Nah, I have serious doubts. On the other hand, lizards, snakes, ...etc. they must taste like some kind of fish.
In the end I'm the kind of person who would not spoil a party. If say I were in some remote village in China and everybody was eating what seems to be the only entree on the menu, I would join them. I might not ask them what it is we're eating but I'll join them nevertheless.