My old Forward colleague Lisa Keys writes about Jewish gourmands’ bacon fetish: Is it sacrilege? An inevitable symbol of our post-ethnic, multi-identity era? A cynical marketing ploy on the part of hipsters?
And to many Jews, the allure of pork is simply irresistible. “It’s the ultimate taboo,” says Dan Levine, who as “Porky LeSwine” is the co-founder of BbqJew.com, dedicated to news about North Carolina pork barbecue, a topic which enjoys religious-like devotion. “Where we live, pork is in so many dishes,” says the Chapel Hill resident. “It’s a flavoring ingredient in everything from vegetables to cornbread.”
The “ultimate taboo” also makes a great marketing tool. “It gives us a bit of identity and sets us apart in the barbecue world,” says David Rosen, a co-founder of Jubon’s, a competitive barbecue-making enterprise with a name that plays on the words “Jew” and “Ubon’s,” the Yazoo City, Mississippi, barbecue restaurant that mentored the team. The team mascot is a yarmulke-wearing pig, and its slogan is, “At least the salt is kosher.” “It’s a little controversial, but so what?” Rosen says. “We’re not out to offend.”
Of course not. Who would possibly be offended by a yarmulke-wearing pig?
At first, the article reminds me of the comedian Nick Kroll’s joke: “You know who likes fried chicken? Black people. You know who else likes fried chicken? EVERYbody.” (Full disclosure: I grew up in a nonkosher home. Bacon is freakin’ delicious.)
It’s not the bacon-eating that bugs me — rather, it’s their need to wrap (sometimes literally) their bacon-eating around Jewish symbols and references (L.A.’s Gorbals restaurant serves “bacon-wrapped matzo balls, pork belly braised in Manischewitz, and Israeli couscous pudding with bacon brittle”).
I react to this trend the way I did after reading an essay at Jewcy that celebrated the hipster Jews’ embrace of the pork taboo. Here’s what I wrote in response:
Why does this Jewcy bacon fetish sound so — trite? It’s like the secular kibbutzim that would hold a Yom Kippur feast. It sounds like rebellion, but seems more like a plea for attention — and attention from the very people they were presumably rebelling against, the way a grade school boy will yank the hair of a girl he likes. The kibbutz could have just ignored Yom Kippur altogether. Now THAT would have been rebellion.
Instead, the Yom Kippur feast, like Jewcy’s bacon obsession, is based on a need to broadcast “the type of Jews we aren’t,” as opposed to the “type of Jews we are.” So while you consider bacon “a completely gratuitous and delicious rebellion FROM a defining tenet of Judaism,” what are you FOR, exactly, beside proudly and loudly flouting those tenets? When the Reform movement issued its Pittsburgh Platform in 1885, which nullified the laws of kashrut, the goal wasn’t just to rebel or celebrate forbidden, um, fruit. It was a principled stand, intrinsic to their understanding of “modern spiritual elevation” — to which they felt the ancient laws were actually a hindrance.
What I’d love to read is your essay, not on why it’s so “hilarious” and taboo to eat bacon, but how your relationship to food and tradition — the kosher and the trayf. the sacred and the profane — shapes who you ARE as a Jew, not who you AREN’T.