Middle Eastern Pork Geopolitics

Cathy Codoyannis // Brooklyn, NY

Being half-Filipino, pork has always been a staple in my diet. Some girls fantasize about fancy weddings, but I’d like two lechons, or whole suckling pigs—a Filipino delicacy. I never thought twice about my pork consumption, but in college, it led to a sort of geopolitical and religious conflict in my own home.

I was living in the student ghetto of Boston University in an apartment that was dirty and decrepit. Bob, one of my roommates and one of my best friends at the time, used to eat my leftovers and borrow other people’s socks, among other roommate faux pas. When confronted with his list of offenses, he would cry, claiming to be very “sensitive.” He also bragged that he was exceptionally empathetic and “more feminist than many women” and more “Jewish than a Jew.” This latter sentiment was exacerbated by his dating an Israeli girl who he really wanted to impress with his embrace of Zionist ideology.

My other roommate, Amal, a gorgeous Tunisian artist, did not get along with Bob, nor his girlfriend. She felt judged by Bob’s girlfriend as a Muslim and “terrorist,” so Amal avoided her. When I spoke to Bob’s girlfriend about Israel, I found her sensible about the issues, but quite firm that the Palestinians “needed to stop bombing us.” We were living in a delicate detente.

One night, I replicated a recipe that my boyfriend had eaten at a fancy restaurant: pork tenderloin with green apples and goat cheese. The aroma drew Bob from his room, girlfriend in tow. The smells also attracted Amal’s interest; she peeked out of her room. Knowing that Bob didn’t eat pork because he didn’t like the taste, I told him, “It’s pork, so you wouldn’t like it.”

“Actually, I don’t eat pork because I sympathize with those groups who don’t eat it,” Bob said to me, clearly trying to impress his pork-abstaining girlfriend by pretending to be noble. “I think the reason that Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork is because they think pigs are yucky.”

The enraged expression on my non-pork consuming Muslim roommate’s face through the crack of her door in response to Bob’s culturally ignorant remark was priceless.

Throughout the year, roommate relations declined to the point that I managed to avoid Bob for an entire month while we were still living together.

A few months later, Amal subletted her room to an Iranian who also abstained from pork, and whose socks Bob would borrow without consent. The two did not get along. Most mornings the Iranian was awakened by fumes of bacon. The culprit? Well, Bob had gotten over his aversion to pork when his Israeli girlfriend expressed an interest in tasting it.

Later that year, the couple moved in together, but broke up dramatically, ending up in court where he sued her for breaking the lease and she counter-sued for reasons unknown. Could their relationship have come undone because he led her down the wicked, winding road of pork? Alas, we’ll never know.

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