Eater, Eating, Eaten

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.

6 thoughts on “Eater, Eating, Eaten

  1. One of the problems of kashrus is, a hechsher is only as good as the people enforcing it. We’ve seen in many instances (like the whole deal with Rubashkin) that there’s no guarantees. A magshiach is often forced to be as lenient as possible, even to the point of looking the other way, in order to get the business. Going by “ingredients-read” is practically just as reliable, and in the case of some hechsherim you will be doing the EXACT SAME THING AS THE MAGSHIACH DOES. Honestly, there’s no way to keep stringent kashrus when producing food products on an industrial scale. A industrial kosher slaughterhouse is not the same as a neighborhood shochet, and if the Rabbis weren’t afraid of the public reaction they would admit this.

  2. I don’t miss pork or shellfish, which I have been told makes those mitzvos not count for as much for me. I used to enjoy those foods. I honestly don’t even know what the hell artisanal bacon is. And I can’t say I ever had a mussel. Maybe I don’t miss pork and shellfish cause I never had any really good pork or shellfish. Of course I hardly eat meat at all now. If tilapia suddenly became traif I think I’d be sad. But a couple years ago I got to a certain point where a couple years ago where I could watch a person eat shrimp and not in any way be tempted. It used to be hard, and I guess it meant more when it was hard. Now I’m like a gay dude who keeps shomer negiah, you can’t give me too much credit for avoiding something I’m not interested in.

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