Hospital Ham Sandwich

Arnold Yoskowitz // Sarasota, FL

When I was 8 or 9 years old my parents brought me to the old Saint Barnabus Hospital on High St. in Newark, N.J. for elective surgery.

After my surgery, while recovering, the nurse came in with the dinner meal. In those days nurses wore uniforms resembling nuns’ outfits. Naturally, my parents and Hebrew School taught me never to eat food that was cooked in lard or came from pig. I asked about the food on my tray and was told it was ham. I refused to eat it.

The nurse would have none of it. She tried very hard to stuff that ham in my mouth, but I fought back with all the might that a little boy has and wouldn’t eat it. I remember spitting it out of my mouth and sobbing uncontrollably.

At that moment I thought nurses were nuns, and that forcing me to eat the ham was what nuns did to little Jewish boys. That experience traumatized me and I never ate a ham sandwich again.

Years later as a teenager the ham sandwich resurfaced in my life when I heard the story of Cass Elliot (of the Mamas and the Papas) eating a ham sandwich in London and choking to death. To me, it seemed as if God were slaying her down for having the chutzpah and temerity to challenge the laws of kashruth, which is a shame because very few performers of any religion could match her energy and voice!

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