Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Former Orthodox Jew Tries Bacon For The First Time

I'd seen this video before, but never gotten around to posting it. Thanks to an email correspondent known as Baruch Spinoza for bringing it back to my attention.

What a great story. And so typical of Jewish guilt that a grown man with a wife and family still feels compelled to ask Jilette not to use his name so as not to upset his parents. Orthodox parents are either the most fragile people in the world or they've evolved an incredibly manipulative defense mechanism against their kids' leaving Orthodoxy. My money's on the latter.

I wish I had a great story about my first time eating non-kosher. But this is how it was for me:

Sometime in high school, I started eating vegetarian food that wasn't made under the supervision of a rabbi (and was indeed likely "contaminated" by non-kosher utensils and the proximity to non-kosher food.)

I started with salads and graduated to french fries and desserts. Nothing too exciting except for some delicious ice cream brownie sundaes and the ability to frequent and eat at some cool places.

The first time I ever ate non-kosher cheese, I got sick. I was in college, and I went to the Hard Rock Cafe on a second or third date with a conservadox girl. We shared a white pizza, which was delicious. Later that evening, I threw up, a clear sign of either psychosomatic illness, coincidence, or divine retribution.

Either way, non-kosher cheese became a part of my diet with no further issues. Non-kosher pizza became my go-to food when kosher food wasn't convenient and I also was able to partake in a couple of those pretentious yet delicious wine-and-cheese parties.

To this point, I'd branched out mainly out of convenience and so that I could socialize more freely with the sorts of people the rabbis wouldn't have wanted me to socialize with. I'd become somewhat lax in my observance, obviously, but I hadn't yet made a real break with (de facto) Modern Orthodoxy.

It wasn't for a few years that I had my first non-kosher meat. By this point, I had stopped believing in Orthodox Judaism and it was just force of habit that was holding me back. I'd long since stopped keeping shabbos and Subway tuna sandwiches (with cheese) were a fixture in my life.

One Friday night when I had nothing to do (this was after I left the community in spirit but before I'd made many non-Orthodox friends) I went over to the mall to wander around and probably read Richard Dawkins books in the Barnes and Noble. When I got hungry, I went down to the food court and for some reason, I decided this was the night.

I did not believe in God anymore, but the thought of eating non-kosher meat just felt so strange and wrong. I did a complete circuit of the crappy restaurants in the food court trying to make up my mind and then I decided to just get it over with.

There was one of those Chinese places with the aggressive salespeople standing in front with tiny pieces of meat and chicken on toothpicks, trying to suck you in with a free sample. I went straight to the closest one, took what she was offering, verified with her that it was chicken, and took a bite. It tasted like chicken.

Then I was able to sit down to my first really non-kosher meal. Still no pork, no shellfish, and no mixing of milk and meat, but I polished off some General Tso's chicken and some beef with broccoli.

I don't think I've ever had another tuna sub from Subway.

It was probably a year or two after that before I tried shellfish. My non-Orthodox but Jewish girlfriend and I were at the beach and I decided it was time. She hadn never eaten shellfish either, having grown up somewhat traditional and in a land-locked state, so we had to ask the waitress for directions on peeling and eating the steamed shrimp we ordered. It was great, but peeling is a pain in the ass, so I tend to stick to pre-peeled shrimp these days.

Once that milestone was passed, I got to investigate the whole world of shellfish. I love sushi, so I quickly discovered octopus (meh), squid (ok), crab (turns out that's usually fake), and various forms of eggs which could actually be kosher for all I know (love 'em for their texture and saltiness.) I even discovered that eel (not a shellfish, but not kosher) is my favorite kind of sushi. Fried shrimp and calamari became standard appetizers.

Sadly, I can't remember the first time I ate bacon, perhaps the tastiest of non-kosher foods. I do remember sitting down to a big old ham steak (on, I believe, Christmas Eve at some resort) which was weird even after bacon and pork sausages had been added to my diet. To this day, I'm a little skeeved out by ham.

Anyway, that's my non-kosher food story. Not as cool as sitting down with Penn and Teller and having them feed me every non-kosher food at once, but I definitely enjoyed (most of) the process.

Previously: Jewish Atheist's Top Ten Non-Kosher Foods.


Geonite said...

My first non kosher meal was a pork chop in a pita washed down by a beer on Pesach. I didn't like the pork chop but I didn't get sick.

I didn't like shrimp either. Now I'm a vegetarian so I'm keeping kosher again by default (sort of).

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm..... Bacon

Geonite said...

Eating on Yom Kippur was a lot harder than eating non kosher food.

Anonymous said...

My first non halal(non kosher equivalent) was pork chop as well, I didn't like it very much, I still have pork but I am not too fond of it. My boyfriend comes from a Lutheran background, he too doesn't believe in religion & I have non halal food when I go out with him or with friends. Amongst Muslims I know, there's a double standard regarding even non halal food-boys from Muslim families often have pork, while their sisters aren't allowed the same liberties even in food!I don't think this happens amongst Jews.

This is extremely common amongst the Pakistanis I know.

My parents don't have pork & don't like me having pork in the house either, but they know I have pork outside.

So much of Islam, including ban on pork & halal is plagiarized from Judaism.

Another thing which bothers me about halal\kosher is animal cruelty, although Jews & Muslims claim animals don't feel any more pain due to this, I am sure they do, the sight is appalling.I discussed this with my mom, she says pigs are slaughtered cruelly even if its not for halal, she has a point there.

I guess then I should turn vegan, I try to be vegan but can't seem to continue for long.


Anonymous said...

My first non-kosher meal was chicken and beef fajitas at Chevey's, and my absolute favorite non-kosher food is bacon, especially with a cheese burger!!!!

Anonymous said...

I can't say I'm big on any of the pork products (mostly do to the thorough brainwashing I received as a child), but I have to say I love spareribs, especially the Chinese version of them.

Skeptanon said...

My first dietary infraction was Chometz on Pesach.

I always wondered why the goyim need so many Drive-Thru's. After all,
can't they find five minutes to stop into a fast food joint and drive

I finally figured it out. It's not for the Goyim! Hashem creates
everything for us Yiddin, of course, and that includes fast-food
drive thrus.

It was raining and dark
I felt so shtark.

Drive away from the heart of town
Driver side visor all the way down

So many from which to choose
There was just no way to loose.

Thru the wipers I saw the Golden Arch
The perfect place for Treif with Starch.

Yarmulka off and collar up.
Small burger, extra Ketchup.

95 cents? are you sure?
The Kosher ones cost much much more

Must be certain to pay with cash.
On the way out get rid of trash.

Look around, Drive away.
Come back another day.


Anonymous said...

I grew up in a Conservative family (truly Conservative, not Reform Jews who prefer a Conservative temple), and, while I had rejected Judaism on an intellectual level in high school, I avoided non-kosher meat until my junior year in college. I was basically a vegetarian at the time, as a way to "keep kosher" at school and also because of my neo-hippie leanings. But I went to a professor's house for an end of the semester get-together, and she made lasagna with meat sauce. To be polite, I ate some, and it didn't feel so weird. At that point, I realized that my vestigial emotional ties to Judaism were weak, and I ended up rejecting kashrut.
I still usually avoid eating pork (although my attitude regarding hidden pig is "don't ask don't tell." I love Mexican food, so I'm sure I've eaten lard), I guess that's because I don't want to make a total break, and for animal welfare/environmental reasons (pig CAFOs are the worst in that department, and that's saying alot). I do like non-kosher seafoods, though, especially in sushi. I agree with you about unagi.

Anonymous said...

I am currently at Yeshiva University and typing this on Shabbat.

While I have eaten non-kosher vegetarian for many years (starting the year before I went to yeshiva in Israel), this year was the first I had eaten bacon and non-kosher meat. Absolutely DELICIOUS! YUM! I was at a music festival on Shabbat and I just had to grab an organic burger with organic bacon! I have had shrimp and crab, but no other shellfish yet. Unfortunately chilling with other YU students often makes it difficult to go out for good grub, but the Heights has a few decent places. I can't wait to try new things!

KollelNihilist said...

The Atlantic just ran an article on their website a few weeks ago on a restaurant in Williamsburg, NYC, called Traif. The owner's mother was quoted as saying, "But did they have to call it Traif?"
So next time you're feeling like really feeling trangressive, hop on over to Williamsburg, jump in the mikva, then run right to Traif.

Anonymous said...

My first time was on Passover, at college (where I was the only Jew). I bravely chose to eat normal pasta with my friends instead of eating a peanut-butter matzah sandwich. God didn't strike me down, so I did it again the next day. And so forth.

Ali Mohsin said...

It's my 7th month in the U.S. when i came here frm pakistan i was muslim, now i have become agnostic and today i had bacon for the first time. Feels wonderful to break the rules which i had been following since childhood.
- ali -

ucanonlybagnostic said...

I grew up non religious until up bacon and shell fish was no biggy, even cheeseburgers, but cheese steaks were the shit man...years later I was in a bar watching the finals and ordered a grilled cheese bc I was starving and perhaps drunk hehe, but I came to regret it after DAYS of the runs and horrible stomach aches...either divinely ordained or a true example of how powerful our psyche can be

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