I met on short notice to share lunch with a friend of mine the other day, and since I already had a sandwich and an apple ready, she picked up Chinese take-out and we sat down to eat and converse. We ate and talked and she gradually started extracting from one corner of the styrofoam clamshell box (that central PA is enamored of) pieces of pork and laid them to the side.
"I don't like this, the halouf. But they gave it to me as an extra."
She's Algerian by birth and spent several years in Paris before coming stateside.
SoE: "That's good. They don't want to leave a corner empty in a take-out box. I like that."
Friend: "Yeah, but I don't like it. Yes, I like the charcuterie and les saucissons but not just the meat."
I didn't ask about bacon. After a moment she asked:
"What is your sandwich?"
SoE: "Halouf", waving it in front of her. A few days before I had baked a pork tenderloin covered in thyme, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper, and made the sandwich with (ostensibly) Vermont cheddar and baby something or other greens with mayo and Grey Poupon. My apple was an Empire from New York State, a variety advocated by my friend Carter up in Brockport. I was fairly delighted by my sandwich, and I shared my apple with my friend, despite her lack of enthusiasm for the halouf.
Pig (as opposed to pork as a material, as it were) carries a lot of negative connotations in many cultures. With my pal here it was not just about halal or other formal ideological prohibitions, though that plays a part.
The exchange we had reminds me of a time when I was on a dig in Spain and we sat down for our 3pm dinner after excavations. After the waiter rattled off the possible dishes in Spanish, all I knew after my on-the-fly translation of what he said was: I wanted the pork dish. So when he turned to me, I simply said, losing the subtler bits of my Spanish culinary vocab:
Which got me a sneer from him and laughs from everybody else. Apparently I had just called our waiter a pig. As far as I can tell, no one spit or shit in my food, but if they did I don't want to know. Ignorance is bliss.
Poor pigs! Even I don't respect them as animals as well as I should, but they taste so good!