Monday, December 20, 2010

In pursuit of The Chosen Protein

There's something irresistible about good pork. Braised butt, hickory smoked bacon, pimenton seasoned chorizo, salt cured, dry aged ham. These are obvious truths to many, though to me these culinary delights have only made themselves known to me in my adult years. I'm a Jew, raised in a conservative Jewish (in political terms, think 'moderate') home steeped in ritual as well as cultural traditions. As a conservative Jew, pork was taboo, though bacon, as we came to understand it, didn't count. Not porky enough, and besides, too delicious. It was not yet the age of curing your own meat, paying several hundred dollars for butchering classes, and purchasing responsibly raised kurobota pork. In fact, it may still not be that age where I was raised, in Baltimore. So perhaps I was not missing much.

As a Jew though, a Jew currently with a stronger cultural bond than a spiritual one, I am occasionally conflicted about writing up any delicious experience with pork. How many fellow members of the tribe (MOTT) am I offending on Facebook? What about my family, what are they to think? (my parents, by the way, have ramped up the in-home kashrut: no meat and dairy, two sets of silverware/knives/serving utensils/plates...shit is crazy.)

As a Jew, I also have a theory:

Over the past decade or so, I have noticed that some of those most devoted to all things pork are Jewish (and for that matter, Muslim as well). Peter Pastan, chef and owner of Obelisk and Two Amy's in Washington, DC, offers a wide range of cured pork products which he himself produces. Cookbook author and NYT food writer Mark Bittman (a Jew, I think) has many different recipes for pork in his cookbooks. Then there is me, of course. Yesterday I was joking with a co-worker who was having a terrible day at work. He was convinced God was angry at him and I told him that maybe if he were to be Jewish for the day, his luck would improve. Over a smoked pork chop lunch at Gourmet Haus Stadt, I reminded him that given his Jewish for a day status he would need to consume the pork even more voraciously than usual.

So, going forward I have resolved to report candidly on any home cookery or meals out involving ham, sausage, bacon, pork, and the like. I apologize to anyone who is offended; feel free to quickly scan future post's titles and not read any further if you do not like what you see.

Tomorrow, I will discuss a first-time effort producing house made, semi-cured chorizo.


David McDuff said...

Bacon seems to be the biggest temptation (and the easiest misstep to excuse) for lapsing Jews and vegetarians alike. Not sure there's any cultural connection there; just an inescapable coincidence driven by one of the most compelling aromas in the food kingdom, that of bacon sizzling in the fry pan.

Looking forward to the chorizo report.

(Word verification: afood.)

David C said...

A shonde! As one of the crazy ones who've eschewed pork (and shellfish, except on a little-publicized kosher holiday in Maine every summer), I can say with all sincerity: i miss bacon. And lard.

Joe Manekin said...

David McD - very true.

David C - I admire anyone with the self restraint and will power to say goodbye to bacon and salt cured ham.