A Muslim Guest at a Protestant Wedding

Leslie Sinclair // Toronto, Ontario

I couldn’t find the “check here for chicken” option on the RSVP card for my cousin’s wedding. In fact, there were no options to check at all. I thought I was being neurotic when, out of an abundance of caution, I emailed the bride to see if there was any pork on the menu. Of course, the dinner would be chicken or roast beef, I thought. Standard wedding fare. Wrong. the main course was pork tenderloin — but don’t worry, there would be lots of salads.

I called my mother.

“They’re having pork!” I wailed. I was dating a Muslim. Thinking about pork was now a pastime. Pork is no stranger to wedding tradition. In southern Chinese culture, roasted pork is a symbol of virginity, and the groom presents a whole roasted suckling pig to the bride’s family. The Italians roll out a porchetta at midnight along with the sweet table. My family, however, is as snowy
white today as the day our pioneering ancestors set foot in upper Canada. Bacon may be as synonymous with Canada as the maple leaf, but serving pork as the main course at a wedding is still contentious.

True to the bride’s word, there were plenty of salads — all starring bacon. Fortunately, my mother (less offended by the pork than by the insinuation that my boyfriend would have to make do with a salad for his supper) had intervened, and roast beef was prepared for us. If she hadn’t, our plates would have been cobbled together from pickled beets and deviled eggs.

My boyfriend was deeply dismayed when he learned of our campaign. Obviously accustomed to these situations, he intended to bring some chicken with him to the reception.

Perhaps my family should have been more thoughtful. Or maybe, when the time was right, I should have quietly revealed a home-cooked halal dinner from inside my purse. Either way, it made visible the hidden strands of etiquette that dictate behavior. People follow most of these rules without thinking, so it’s easy to forget they are there. But introduce slightly different expectations, and suddenly you’re caught in the web.

Leslie Sinclair is a freelance writer in Toronto. Her essays have appeared in The Globe and Mail, The United Church Observer and Geez. You can find “A Muslim Guest at a Protestant Wedding” and four other memoirs on “Pork and Identity” in the ‘Meat Up’ section of issue 17 of Meatpaper.

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