Saturday, June 20, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: Letting Go of Pork

My Farewell to a Staple Food

I recently described myself as a bacon-eating Buddhist.  I know.  The contradiction is not lost on me.

I grew up in the Midwest, the granddaughter of Illinois farmers on both sides of the family.  As kids, we would often visit the Drinkwater family farm located outside Virginia, Illinois.  The pig sty was not too far from Grandma Drinkwater's back stoop. Perhaps that made it easier to "slop" the pigs.

Their sharp hooves dug up the mud, creating a squishy mud wallow.  (You will like the definition of wallow.) They would  . . . well, wallow in it, much to our delight.

Sometimes, the pigs would lie up next to the wire fence.  We could reach our little fingers through the wire to rub their mud-caked hide that was covered in bristles. We watched their snouts probe the air and then the mud. We laughed at their squeals and snuffles.  Pigs!

Later, out under the huge trees over in the side yard, sitting in dense, newly mowed grass, we would eat fried chicken, green beans --cooked long with a big ham hock, macaroni salad, and watermelon. After that feast, we'd lay back on a quilt to watch the puffy clouds carried by that persistent Illinois wind.

Flies would buzz.  Cicadas would sing. Birds would chirp.  A dog would bark.

Later still, we'd have a slow-cooked pork roast with mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and any beans left over from lunch.

The following morning, we'd wake to the smell of frying bacon. Sometimes, Grandma might serve up "scrapple" -- a pork-filled corn mush pressed into a block, then sliced, then fried, then served with maple syrup.

In other words, I have warm fuzzy feelings surrounding pork.  It's comfort food to me.

Recently, I posted on Facebook the image of a pink pig, with wings, flying across a blue sky.  The accompanying text read:  "If pigs really could fly, I bet their wings would . . . taste absolutely delicious."

I've eaten pork almost everyday of my life.  Lately, I've been eating it twice a day. Gorging on it, I guess, in anticipation of the cold turkey withdrawal I soon face when I move to Qatar. Qatarians are devout Muslims, for whom pork is not only forbidden, but perhaps even disgusting.

I'm eating grilled country pork ribs that are a local cut I did not know until I moved to the mountains.  Delicious!  I'm eating a St. Louis staple known as pork steaks.  Delicious!  Then there are the thousand of pork sausages I've eaten -- mostly the Italian variety, but also bratwurst.  Delicious, especially when grilled! Bacon. Oh my god, so much bacon.

And, then, prosciutto (which I can find here), salami in several iterations, and ham (mostly the country style and Black Forest).

I'm told that the expat store on the edge of Doha sells pork, as long as you have the right license to buy it. A new friend also suggested bringing it into the country, frozen, and stashed deeply among a woman's underclothes.  Apparently, the customs inspectors just won't go there.

Unlike Dubai, "pork rooms" at hotel and restaurants that cater to expats simply do not exist in Doha.

So, I recently bought these two little stone sculptures of pigs.  I'm taking them with me. That way, when I get to Qatar, I can say: "I have a little pork in the house."

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