Aaron D // New York, NY
Growing up modern Orthodox and attending Yeshiva until college, the pig epitomized “us vs them.” The entire world seemed to enjoy all sorts of pork products, but to me the mere mention of it was cause for disgust.
As the years went by, that disgust dissipated, and now I still find myself breaking down the imaginary kosher boundaries from my youth. I can remember each time I “broke” the boundary: Non-kosher cheese in college; Crawfish, oysters and shrimp at a bachelor’s party in New Orleans; Crab on a date; and Lobster on St. Maarten. The list goes on, and over time I had to confront the issue of pork, which has more of a stigma than any other food barriers.
When I dated a non-Jewish girl, part of our chemistry was built around breaking down the individual boundaries with which we had grown up—Judaism’s restrictions for me and religious Christianity’s for her. Both of us seemed to enjoy being each other’s crutch in these endeavors, so the topic that always arose was my eating bacon. We sought to find the perfect moment at the perfect place to create the best possible experience. It was built up to the point that I felt like it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype.
We planned the moment many times over the course of four years but it never happened. It represented the major difference between me and her that we were never able to resolve. Her nickname for me will always be “McKosher or Kosher” while mine for her included references to pork and bacon (“Bacon Princess” and “Bacon Face” to name a couple).
I took a cooking class about a year ago, after we were no longer together, that included bacon in one of the recipes. Instead of the build-up and hoopla, I figured why not just get it over with now on a dish that I prepared myself. The bacon wasn’t all that satisfying, and the instructor even said that the bacon in this dish didn’t do justice to the overall deliciousness of the product.
I’ve since put together a club of sorts that brings people together to eat the many foods prohibited during our kosher days, with a focus on BBQ. We chose a befitting name: FKBC (Formerly Kosher Barbecue Club). We meet monthly to enjoy the delicious products that New York has to offer, be it non-kosher chicken, sausage, ribs, beef, pork or smoked fatty bacon. The club and participants’ names are clandestinely kept for reasons only religion could make seem sensible, but sharing with each other also seems to keep the food experience unique.
Bacon is still novel for me, meaning I don’t order my egg and cheese with bacon and I still hold it up on a pedestal. And now, almost a year removed from my relationship with The Bacon Princess, I realize that as much as I would have loved to share that transgressive moment with her, it really was never about bacon at all. If she were to find me eating it some day, I’m sure she would smile yet be disappointed that I had lost my “innocence” by breaking down the borders between us.