My boyfriend is a porketarian. Which can make dining out a bit of a challenge.
At home we’ve got the routine down, it’s second nature: we use lard in place of butter or oil; we always have bacon bits, as well as regular sliced bacon, ham (deli and whole), spare ribs, pork loin, pork rinds, and pickled pig’s feet on hand. If we’re making soup, we throw a hambone in there; for vegetables, we cook them with a bit of salt pork; and salads get tossed with bacon bits. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not so difficult to “porketarianize” your kitchen. Most grocery stores carry porketarian products, and we have the added good fortune to live in a Polish neighborhood, where kielbasa and inexpensive pork chops are always available. Sometimes we cook for our non-porketarian friends, and they’re shocked at how good a porketarian meal can be. “You’d never guess this has pork in it!” they say.
When we venture out of our neighborhood though, then we have to get creative, and read menus carefully. The porketarian (and those who eat with him) will quickly discover Chinese food to be their mainstay and best friend: most things on the Dim Sum menu, for instance, have pork in them, and of course, there’s always pork fried rice, Chinese spare ribs – at the Chinese restaurant you may have to ask what doesn’t have pork in it.
Most restaurants have at least one porketarian dish, or – unless it’s a very snooty restaurant – will gladly, for a small extra charge, add a few pieces of bacon or a slice of ham to the meal. In fact, my advice to porketarians would be: don’t be shy about asking for that extra bacon or ham – it is no skin off the restaurant’s nose, which, you have to remember, doesn’t want to lose the porketarian dollar.
Only a few cuisines must be avoided altogether: Indian, Middle Eastern, Jewish Deli, and Vegetarian come to mind.
I don’t want to suggest that learning to live with a porketarian is not a tough adjustment; it is. But the real difficulties, I’ve discovered, are social more than they are culinary. I can hardly count the times my mother (meaning well, of course) has tried to sneak pork-free dishes onto my boyfriend’s plate when we go to my parents’ house for dinner. Or consider my little brother’s favorite joke: “Do you like B.L.T.s?” he’ll ask. To which my boyfriend gamely replies (though he knows what comes next), “Sure.”
“What about a B.L.T., hold the bacon?”
“That’s not a B.L.T. anymore. That’s just a lettuce and tomato sandwich.”
“Yeah it is. If they just ran out of bacon, and you still call it a B.L.T., it’s a B.L.T. without bacon. Would you eat that?”
“No, because if it doesn’t have bacon in it it’s not a B.L.T.”
“But a virgin margarita – without the alcohol – is still a margarita, right? Why wouldn’t you eat a virgin B.L.T.?”
Even I, when I first started seeing my boyfriend, made some awful blunders. I remember one evening I suggested we go to a new sushi place I’d heard about. He smiled at me, a smile full of patience, suffering, and disappointment – he’d been porketarian for years already and was used to this sort of thing. “Can I eat there?” he asked. “Well, sure -” I said, “Ohhhh.” “Do they have anything with pork?” he asked. “Darn! Darn, darn, darn!” I said, embarrassed by my insensitivity. I hadn’t yet learned to think like a porketarian.
Nowadays I know better: nowadays I wouldn’t take him to a Japanese restaurant that only served sushi; I’d take him somewhere where I could have sushi and he could have a pork cutlet on rice or noodles. (And I’d make sure to have a bite of the cutlet before I kissed him.)