We were walking down the street on our way to the pharmacy to pick up condoms when the whiff of spicy Los Angeles street meat hit us. A Hispanic woman was cooking bacon-wrapped hot dogs on a sidewalk grill right in front of the swap meet. There were many other women just like her nearby, poking and prodding at cuts of meat—some of which were hard to identify—over the coals.
C. briefly paused in front of one of the grills. “Do you want to get street meat for dinner?” We had been planning on ordering Indian once we were done with our errand. I shrugged to show a reluctant openness to the suggestion even though I was not in the habit of eating from unnamed grills or carts. “How about one of those bacon-wrapped hot dogs?” he asked playfully.
“No thanks,” I replied, smiling wanly back up at him.
Since I had met C. over two years ago, he has tried to get me to try bacon. (Or pork. Or shrimp. Or any food on the explicitly forbidden biblical food list.) He knew that I had grown up Orthodox and though I had shed much of my observance—from modesty rules, to the Sabbath—I still maintained some semblance of my kosher eating lifestyle, so that meant no pig products.
C., like some other men I’ve dated or slept with, was fascinated by my Orthodox Jewish upbringing, about what I could or couldn’t do or at least used to not do. And since he couldn’t take my physical virginity, he seemed good naturedly intent on trying to pop my bacon cherry. C. would occasionally order bacon when we ate together and offer me a bite. I always turned him down.
This wasn’t actually hard for me. Bacon (and related pork products) has never tempted me. When I first began to stray from my religious upbringing in my early 20s, I made choices that would allow me to participate more fully in the wider world. I started traveling on the Sabbath so I could socialize with friends, the majority of whom didn’t concern themselves with Orthodox restrictions. I started eating vegetarian fare in all sorts of non-kosher establishments in order to be able to go out at night. Though I’ve loosened up a bit more since then—I now sometimes eat red meat, especially a good burger—this adaptive kosher lifestyle has largely worked out for me. The only times I’ve ever felt hemmed in by my vegetarian eating restrictions was when I traveled to places like Central Europe where pork is a big part of the diet. But even then, I was never tempted. I merely felt inconvenienced. And hungry. (Is everything in Austria made of pork?)
I’ve often wondered why I had never dreamt of pork the way I had about getting a tattoo, something also forbidden by Judaism that I eventually did. Why had I never craved bacon the way I desperately used to desire going out dancing on Friday nights—the Sabbath—with my friends, a temptation I also eventually caved into?
Perhaps its because that while I greatly enjoy food, I don’t Instagram my meals or snacks. My fridge is frequently empty, save for condiments and soy sauce packets I’ve accumulated from sushi deliveries. I tend to only think about food when I’m hungry and stop when I’m satiated. I’m not one for forbidden food cravings.
On our way back from the pharmacy, I asked C. if he wanted to stop for some food. “Nah,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I said, motioning to the same bacon-wrapped hot dogs he had tried to persuade me to eat just twenty minutes earlier.
“Yeah,” he said as we made our way back to my place. I chuckled to myself. Maybe those dogs only seemed like a good idea when they came with the possibility of tempting me into something forbidden as an act of culinary foreplay. Without that, I suppose they didn’t look nearly as good.
That night, we ended up ordering in vegetarian Indian food—spicy, salty, and kosher. Our food arrived just after we finished having sex when we were both simultaneously satisfied and ravenous. In that state, any food—porcine or otherwise—would’ve hit the spot.
Dvora Meyers has written about religion, arts, and culture for the New York Times, Tablet, Salon, and several other publications. She edits The Anti-Girlfriend and is the author of the gymnastics-themed essay collection, Heresy on the High Beam: Confessions of an Unbalanced Jewess. This article is reprinted courtesy of Pork Memoirs.
The graphic for this story by Magda Koralewska.