Thursday, January 15, 2009

Grilled pork

There is nothing quite like the experience of perfectly grilled pork.

In the name of ground pepper, soy sauce, and vinegar, you have the holy trinity of marinades. Then behold the primal simplicity of raw meat embraced by a naked flame. Animal flesh wrinkles and glistens and drips and burns. Little black carcinogenic flecks appear. And thus the essence of the dish becomes complete – it has transformed into a morbid and fatal addiction.

I am proud of this particular prejudice. When it comes to aesthetics, I think grilled pork is flawless. The unpretentious brown of the soil, the pure sheen of a morning dew, the glitter of gold, the dark fluid viscosity of crude oil, and the solid ebony of a moonless night – these are all embodied in this quintessential dish. Sublime would be too harsh an understatement of its beauty.

But then you’d probably be wondering right now where the prejudice is because I am, in effect, describing every grilled mammal meat. So let me explain my particular predilection to the burnt flesh of a swine. The pig is a universal symbol of greed and laziness. George Orwell, in his satirical masterpiece entitled Animal Farm chose the pig as the character to represent the greedy, manipulative and corrupt communist bureaucrat.

The Quran specifically forbids people from eating pork; the Talmud regards pigs as extremely unclean. "A pig is like a moving latrine" and "A pig's mouth is like moving excrement" (Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds, Berachos 15a and 25a). "Ten measures of plague came into the world, and pigs took nine of them" (Kiddushin 49b).

Being a Catholic, eating the meat of such a despicable creature fascinates me. When the blasphemous meat has been purged by flame and then I painstakingly grind the rubbery flesh with my teeth, I feel an exhilarating sense of righteousness. The guilty pleasure is palpable in every bite; the figurative vileness is keenly savored by the tongue. A whopping nine out of ten plagues is vanquished in every swallow.

It’s a fact; every bite of grilled pork brings you closer to Heaven – but grilling is fortunately Hell’s specialty.

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