Once, there was a lot of treyf in my life. Cheeseburgers, the kind with bacon, that I ate with my mom at the food court in the mall. Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. Lobsters, crabs, and fried clams in the summer in Maine, butter dripping down our plastic bibs. Chicken parmigana at the Italian restaurant we went to on special occasions. Pepperoni pizza. You get the idea.
Slowly, I quit it all. I separated my dishes, I searched for heckshers, I waited between meat and milk, first six hours, then three. No one in my family kept kosher, as far as I knew, so this behavior lacked precedent. I was making moves I didn’t understand, I was working backwards.
The other day I was at the Trader Joe’s that has finally arrived in my neighborhood, and in the frozen section, there were some figs wrapped in bacon. Once, at fancy New Year’s party in college, I ate a scallop wrapped in bacon, and it was delicious. I thought, am I really never going to eat that again? Are there things that I’m prepared to never do again? Why did I even start doing this in the first place?
Some possible reasons: To be more religious than my family, thereby asserting my independence via a very strange, delayed adolescent rebellion. Because it seems/seemed wrong that I would be able to eat anything, whenever. The ability to instantly gratify myself feels gluttonous, like there should be some separation between my desire to eat and the ability. I also thought hopefully, that if I paid more attention to the timing of and the labels on what I ate, I would magically be skinny.
Together, these things made sense in the context of trying to become more observant when I was trying to become more observant. There was a community of people who ate this way, I could be part of them. It made me something.
This particular change would rattle a lot of foundations for me. It would mean I’d have to start thinking about being Jewish in a whole new way. Maybe I’d be less purposeful, less intentional. Maybe I’d grow in other ways, reach for different things,reconsider deeds and spirituality. Still, I haven’t done it. For some reason, I can’t stop separating, counting, looking.