On December 13th we got well festive with jars of JINGLE JAM filled with mulled plums and port. We provided some AUTHENTIC STREETWEAR PRESERVE in the form of a date and earl grey jam, an uproariously sweet JAMMASAURUS by way of pear, ginger, vanilla, cardamom and star anise, as well as the return of an apple and lemongrass concoction under the new name of FRUIT OF ANGUISH. These hyper festivities were topped off with some deep filled mince pies.
I found myself face to face with a bacon sandwich this sunny morn which got me thinking about our place on the food chain, evolutionarily secured by our brainy ability to stand back and hurl rocks at things. God forbid some smart porker sits back one day and learns how to sharpen a stick, or construct a rudimentary firearm. They eat anything, pigs, even us, given half a chance.
According to Reay Tannahil’s Food in History, the Jewish ‘clean meats’, as laid out in the kashrut – Jewish dietary laws – were those that ate grass, ‘chewed the cud’ (in other words, regurgitating food for an extra refining chew) and had cloven hooves (hooves with two toes). All three requirements have to be ticked off before the stamp of approval can be given.
Pigs fall short of these standards, and are rendered unclean. So it turns out that their not unclean just because a pig in shit is as happy as, well, a pig in shit. And here I was thinking that giving my local pig farmer a decent shampoo, shower gel and candle bathroom hamper from Boots might be enough to warrant admission into the ‘clean’ category. But it cannot be so. Indeed, a lot is required to make a dedicated Jew eat pork, or any of the other unclean foods like camel, hawk, tortoise, vulture, ferret, chameleon…. As Bertrand Russel recounts in his History of Philosophy, the ancient King Antiochus IV tried to lure some imprisoned Jews into impiety by offering them a nice plate of pork. When they refused, they were heartily tortured.
A dollop of ketchup goes on the bacon sandwich, and I’m happy to live in a time and place where eating pork or deciding not to passes without judgement. Yes, we enlightened contemporary western diners are free to consume pretty much anything without prejudice. Just so long as it’s not that Quorn stuff, bloody veggies.
It’s not easy gleaming much in the way of fun from vast religious texts. As Hunter S. Thompson said, ‘there’s not a scintilla of mercy or humour in the Holy Bible. None.’ While reading up on grace and sacrifice in the Acts – looking for life-giving holy victuals – I came across Ananias and Sapphira. Mercy – no; but humour? Well, it made me chuckle. The story is:
St. Peter was demanding that the new followers of the Church offer their possessions into the common ownership of all. One chap named Ananias, after selling his property, skimmed a little of the profits for himself. Peter was not impressed, for divine knowledge told him of Ananias’ deeds. He was told off, and then he fell down and died. Maybe it was a coincidence? When his wife Sapphira arrived a few hours later, she was said to be guilty by association – in a rather North Korean turn of events – and she also mysteriously died. The onlookers were stunned into morbid fear, forever committed never to err from the Church’s wishes.
Like I say, it’s not an easy task, but once you look hard enough you find out that the Good Book is full of laffs!