A Biblical Travesty: the Slandering of the Pig

OCB

(Does this guy look familar? Then keep it to yourselves, please.)

The world’s most famous cookbook, the Old Testament, is pretty darn specific about what animals the chosen people could and could not eat. This was quite a list, as can be seen in the book of Deuteronomy;

3 Do not eat any detestable thing. 4 These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. [a] 6 You may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two and that chews the cud. 7 However, of those that chew the cud or that have a split hoof completely divided you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the coney. [b] Although they chew the cud, they do not have a split hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. 8 The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.

9 Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales. 10 But anything that does not have fins and scales you may not eat; for you it is unclean.

11 You may eat any clean bird. 12 But these you may not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 13 the red kite, the black kite, any kind of falcon, 14 any kind of raven, 15 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 16 the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, 17 the desert owl, the osprey, the cormorant, 18 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.

19 All flying insects that swarm are unclean to you; do not eat them. 20 But any winged creature that is clean you may eat.

And Leviticus adds a few more to the untouchable smörgåsbord:

20 ” ‘All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. 21 There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. 22 Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. 23 But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest.

29’Of the animals that move about on the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, 30 the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon. 31 Of all those that move along the ground, these are unclean for you.

(Why kidney stew, canned salmon and menudo weren’t considered destable is one of God’s mysteries.)

Most of the Mosaic laws were guidelines to help this fledgling people maintain their sense of civility as well as their good health. The proscribed animals are almost all carrion eaters or animals that ate these carrion eaters. Long before anyone had ever thought of animal hygiene or nutritional safety, the Jews had a system in place that would protect them from most of the parasites and poisons that plagued the remainder of the primitive world, even to this day.

Unless one is a practicing Jew or Muslim, most of these animals are no longer on the naughty list. We can thank Peter for sharing a dream he had in which all kinds of animals, including reptiles, were presented to him as acceptable fare. (I wonder what he ate before going to bed that night?) Most of these creatures the typical Westerner would never deign to eat, even with divine invitation. (Insects and reptiles are considered quite tasty throughout most of the world.) Those scrumptious bottom dwellers and carrion eaters we have developed a taste for (shrimp, oysters, crabs, lobsters, clams, crayfish and catfish) pose relatively little health problems (with the exception of oysters and crabs pulled from polluted waters.) One of the scale-less fish, however, is the shark. What’s so dangerous about shark?

So the stigma has been lifted from most of these animals. Except for one, arguably the most nutritious and tasty animal on the list. The king of meats, our own smooth pygmy buffalo, good from the snout to the tail – the pig, Sus Scrofa. Hams, bacon, chops, ribs, cracklin’, loin, roasts – succulent pork is the most versatile and adaptable of all the animal flesh that the human carnivore consumes.

Up until recently, if one was served pork it was usually overcooked, as everyone was well aware of the nasty parasite that might be found embedded in it’s muscle, Trichinosis. As described in Wikipedia:

Trichinosis, also called trichinellosis, or trichiniasis, is a parasitic disease caused by eating raw or undercooked pork and wild game products infected with the larvae of a species of roundworm Trichinella spiralis, commonly called the trichina worm. The few cases in the United States are mostly the result of eating undercooked game (an acceptably clean or kosher animal!)or home reared pigs. It is most common in the developing world and where pigs are commonly fed raw garbage.

Today we are fortunate to be able to enjoy pork cooked medium rare, tender, moist and much more flavorful than beef or chicken. And much leaner than both of those as well. Of course, the residents of Europe, Central and South America and our own Southern states have been serving up delicious renderings of our porcine friend for some time now and when they are finished there is little of him left unconsumed.

ribs

But I have been consistently plagued by people who refuse to eat the most minuscule piece of pig, claiming that it is dirty and unclean. Now, these gustatorial complainers do not hail from the Jewish or Muslim camps, but there is nevertheless an almost religious fervor in their denunciation of pork. After determining that it is not a dearly held religious custom that generates this response, I will usually endeavor to educate them on the silliness of their fears. (I am not constrained by any unnecessary political correctness. Culinary ignorance is not protected by the Constitution.)

I explain that pork is completely safe, even when served rare but definitely (since time immemorial) when cooked well done. The parasite is not even present when the pigs are fed properly and for over 40 years all commercially raised hogs have enjoyed a very safe and healthy diet. Not only do these malcontents refuse to be edified, they will often resort to insults, referring to our tasty friend as ‘swine’ (as if that was a more derogatory term than ‘pig’). It is difficult for me to not take offense as well, since I am a devoted fan of said ‘swine’, in all it’s various culinary manifestations.

These folk, as I’ve said, seem to have no religious reservations (the vast majority seem to be Protestant) but they almost always hail from a Northeastern urban background (no Southerner or farm raised Amercian would look down his nose at slow cooked pork shoulder or braised and broiled loin ribs). Upon further interrogation, some will grudgingly admit to a penchant for catfish, crabs and shrimp, all formerly proscribed by the Bible and arguably much more ‘unclean’ than our piggy friends. (Many that I have met, though they may not smoke pork, will smoke cigarettes. So much for the X factor.)

From where does this misguided nutritional vigilantism spring forth? Over the years I have discovered a pattern. I mentioned that the vast majority of these folk were Protestant. More specifically, they tend to belong to conservative denominations that strive on taking the words found within the Bible very literally. Like most literalists, they tend to ‘proof text’ scripture, clinging tightly to some passages, conveniently forgetting others. Taking the Biblical injunction against pork seriously (the one dietary law that for some reason has overshadowed all others in the public eye) they take fair pride in not fouling the pristine temple of their bodies with this beast that God has chosen to loathe.

Their loss. Can someone please pass the barbecue?

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  1. #1 by Ambrosia de Milano on September 9, 2007 - 10:38 am

    Wow–it sounds like Candians eat such Bacon–and I’m sure they find a way to light said bacon, and smoke it. 🙂

    Ambrosia

  2. #2 by Christian on September 9, 2007 - 12:50 pm

    Nice try, Ambrosio. Canadian bacon (known as“peameal bacon” in Canada) is not truly bacon at all. It is generally agreed that the term bacon defines the fatty cuts made from the belly of the hog. US stye Canadian bacon is cut from the back of the pig whereas the authentic ‘peameal’ bacon is specifically cut from the loin. Peameal and Canadian style bacon are both very lean, unlike what most of us are used to (and consequently not as flavorful).

  3. #3 by Ambrosia de Milano on September 9, 2007 - 1:08 pm

    Wow–you certainly are an expert on swine.

    Is that why they call it “Back-Bacon”?

    Is Canadian Bacon what we usually call Ham?

    Swine Eater in Mayberry

  4. #4 by BuddyO on September 10, 2007 - 8:36 am

    newcolors,

    I like your read on Peter’s vision. But to really take your interpretation to it’s fullest, you can’t really say that those rules apply to all Christians. Most of us are from Gentile ancestry. As you aptly point out, God, through his vision, tells Peter that the Levitical laws are in place for His chosen people, and that Peter shouldn’t go around trying to impose them on the Gentiles. This point is further emphasised in some of the later disagreements between Peter and Paul.

    I know I don’t have any ancestors from Ancient Israel so… Bring ON the Bacon!!!

  5. #5 by Christian Beyer on September 10, 2007 - 8:47 am

    Here you go, Bruce. All you ever wanted to know about bacon on one page:

    http://www.foodsubs.com/MeatcureBacon.html

  6. #6 by Ambrosia de Milano on September 10, 2007 - 4:55 pm

    Ooh. All I want to know about bacon is whether it is pre-cooked, low-salt, broken into bits, and where it sits on my cheeseburger.

    BTW, the best bacon I ever ate was a brand called Kruse, which was served (with pride) by the food service department at the junior college I attended. Man I loved that Kruse Bacon!

    BTW too, isn’t Oscar Mayer quite a Jewish name for a company that hawks so many pork products?

  7. #7 by Richard Wagner on May 3, 2008 - 3:45 pm

    Genesis 9
    1And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

    2And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

    3EVERY MOVING THING THAT LIVETH SHALL BE MEAT FOR YOU; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

    8And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,

    9And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;

    10And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.

    11And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

    12And God said, This is the token of THE COVENANT WHICH I MAKE BETWEEN ME AND YOU AND EVERY LIVING CREATURE THAT IS WITH YOU, FOR PERPETUAL GENERATIONS:

  8. #8 by Christian on May 3, 2008 - 11:59 pm

    Richard, love your preludes and overtures, not too fond of the bits in the middle. Way too much middle, if you ask me. Anyway, thanks for chiming in.

  9. #9 by Rob Wiedemann on December 28, 2009 - 12:29 pm

    I beg to differ. First of all, Peter’s dream had nothing at all to do dietary changes. What the dream was about was acceptance of the gentile, not the feasting on disgusting foods. It is important that we study “…rightly dividing the word of truth…” God showed Peter disgusting animals and three times let down a sheet with unclean animals in them and told him..”arize, Peter, Kill and eat!” Three times he refused saying “Not so Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” The answer came back, “And the voice [spake] unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, [that] call not thou.” Then the sheet was taken up again to heaven. This was repeated three times. Notice here, that first of all, Peter did not arise, kill and eat. He refused to do so every time, then wondered what the dream meant. Secondly: no where in the entire scripture where unclean animals are declared clean, even here! Notice the next events: Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate, Act 10:18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Act 10:20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” Here we see that God used this illustration to help Peter overcome a traditional taboo against other people that God had never established. Furthermore, Peter himself gives the interpretation of the meaning of the dream himself: “And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing 111 for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any MAN common or unclean. Act 10:29 Therefore came I [unto you] without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for…” Notice he did NOT say here: “Now I can come here and sit down and eat pig with you because God hath shewed me that I should not call any PIG common or unclean!”

    Almost everyone had memorized John 3:16 “For God so loved the WORLD that he gave his only begotten Son that WHOSOEVER believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life! That means everyone on the planet can be cleansed through the blood of Christ. Notice here, my friend, that Jesus did not die on the cross to cleanse pigs so that we could eat them. They remain just a filthy as they were in the book of Leviticus. Those health laws remain the same and no matter if e few pigs are raised in a safe environment, there are millions left in fields to forage as they might. (I know, I was born and raised in the hog country of Iowa and the are as filthy as they ever were. So say otherwise is extremely naive!) Furthermore, Loma Linda University has done an experiment with trichnosis where they autoclaved pork at very high temperatures. What they found was that the trichnosis simply went into a spore phase. It did nothing to kill them!

    Additionally, autopsy reports comparing the diaphragms of the average population with orthodox Jews reveals a distinct difference in trichnosis infestation. The Jews had almost none, whereas the average population had considerable infestation.

    I just wonder, how many heart, brain or other organic diseases, such as fibromyalgia and other disorders are blamed on other things which may in fact be related to trichnosis?

    One parting thought. The logic that “pigs are raised in a clean environment so now they are OK to eat,” is faulty logic. with that same logic we could say, “Rats are now raised in clean cages, so now we can indiscriminantly eat rat.” That makes me think of the internet pictures of chinese restraunts catching rats in the basement of the restaurant cleaning the fur off with a blowtorch and then serving them as “chicken”. Hmmmmm….another twist on “the other white meat!”

    You can eat pig all you want to. As for me and my house….we will obey the Lord!

    Thanks for listening

  10. #10 by Christian Beyer on December 30, 2009 - 8:41 pm

    Hmm. OK, Rob. Just means more ribs for me.

    What else don’t you eat? Shrimp? Crab? Oyster? Catfish? “Cuz I love ’em all..

    Speaking of chicken – do you know what they would eat? (if we didn’t cram corn down their gullets). Nasty stuff.
    The ‘nastier’ the animal’s diet, the tastier their flesh.

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