I like my girlfriend. In fact, I love her very much and I have no doubt she's thrilled about me too. For the new readers, she isn't Jewish.
I've known her for several years, but only asked her out once I found religion was not the correct path to travel in life. She lives about an hour away from where I am and I recently went to keep her company whilst she was living alone in her house - the other occupants of the house had gone away for a short time. So there I was.
I had an amazing time of course, and my girlfriend - we'll call her "G" for "girlfriend" - is lovely about me not really wanting to eat some non-kosher foods just yet (pork, shrimp, etc.) and allowed me to make the choices when we went food shopping together. "I know you're still picky about the things you eat" she said "so just choose whatever you like..." and so I chose cheese, pizza, pasta, bread and other non-pork-based ingredients.
G has always wondered about my non-pork eating policy, and I tell her it's because I was so conditioned to not eating pork, that it has stayed with me. This is true. But whenever I'm at her house, I obviously come into contact with non-kosher food and generally take the opportunity of the visit to capitalise on the eating experience. What follows is a short list of interesting stuff...
Assorted biscuits/cookies and sweets/candies.
There's nothing quite like munching on a milk-based biscuit when you're hungry, something in short supply in the Jewish community. Because 6 hours is a long time to wait after having meat, it's just not practical to invent - or at least to stock - lots of milky snacks in the house. You'd just never eat them. But they're so tasty!
At this point I should mention there are two types of things in G's house, organic (which I shall name Nasty Things) and normal (after which shall follow hearty accolades testifying to their Loveliness). As I was sampling the delights of milky biscuits, I found a particularly good tasting treat. I was therefore taken by complete surprise when I put large teeth marks into an inconspicuous looking biscuit and tasted...well, sawdust. What had once greeted my optical system as a lovely treat was wreaking havoc on my taste buds. Dry, devoid of sugar and no milk to be tasted. Eurgh.
The sweets were mostly boiled with a curious sticky outside. They tasted far more like what they were supposed to taste like than the kosher candies for some reason.
I must say, it feels good to be able to just buy/eat something you like, without having to use the adage "if in doubt, do without."
Breads, Cheeses, butters and such.
Certain mass-made breads are absolutely disgusting. Knowing I felt like this, my girlfriend allowed me to purchase a bread item of my choice. I chose a mass-made supermarket bread instead, which was made that very day. Isn't that lovely? Indeed it is. It tasted lovely too.
Butters are pretty much the same, though I confess that the organic Cheddar cheese we bought was a bit too mature for G's liking and I concurred. I also sampled Brie, which is much creamier than its kosher counterpart and tasted only slightly stronger.
Curry and rice. I made the rice myself and it was great. The curry came from a packet in G's fridge. This is unlike any curry I've ever tasted, probably because it had cow's milk inside it and wasn't kosher. Despite coming out of the packet, I thought it was a very rich dish and G concurred. We both managed to finish our plates, though I had made too much rice (that little packet said it could feed two and I didn't believe it, so made more rice to compensate. It could feed two, I was wrong - and the rice suffered, uneaten, to be forever rejected in the garbage heap in G's house. Until trash collection day).
Various Chinese dishes: from the local take-away. First of all, the disparity in prices between kosher and non-kosher food never fails to blow me away. We ordered a fairly standard and small selection of some sort of spicy beef, rice and stir-fry noodles and chicken with assorted vegetables. The food was decent, better than my last non-kosher Chinese experience, but not as good as the kosher stuff. The price? $20. The price of a kosher equivalent? at least $40.
What did I feel when I was eating all the above? Nothing at all, besides my hunger abating. The only time I feel something is when I do something new, like eating my first non-kosher dish...that was a few months back and even then, I hesitated for only a second. How is this? Have I been less indoctrinated than the others out here? Perhaps, but probably not by much. I think my shameless, guiltless eating comes from believing in what I'm doing. I honestly don't believe there is a God out there, so why on earth would I have to worry about what I eat? Therefore eating becomes eating and not the tedious chore it once was, with intricate ingredients checking, hechsher checking, going to the beis-din website and all the shenanigans surrounding milk and meat and the six hour wait...Therefore, it was pretty much the same when I tried the next dish. I was not stopped by a psychological block any longer, it was reduced to merely another food...a new food, with only a momentary doubt...
Yes, that's right. I tried some smoked ham. I hear people wait years until they're able to eat pork, but it's just like any other food. I did it when I was heating something up and G was in another room, so she didn't see and I didn't feel the need to tell her. It tasted like smoked turkey, but chewier and it smelt different. To smell it, I made the ham hover right under my nose...it's hard to describe the smell. I thought it would be unlike anything I had smelt before, but it wasn't. They say you don't forget smells, that it leaves the longest lasting memories for your senses...and I knew I had smelt that smell before.
I don't know when, I don't know where, I just know that that smell wasn't a new one...it was rather like finding a lovely old candy you forgot about and is still eatable, or something of the sort.
Have I had ham before? There is a slight chance, considering I was 6 when my parents decided to become frum, but I seriously doubt it as they were brought up to only ever eat kosher ingredients, as was I (I still have childhood memories of rejecting a meal at McDonald's). Perhaps I've taken in it's scent as I was passing by a high street restaurant? Could be. Who knows? It doesn't really matter, does it?