Cincinnati’s adopted mascot is a flying pig. Go visit sometime, and practically everywhere you look will be statues, billboards, posters, eateries, sports jerseys, pillows, books, stuffed animals, porcelain figures, window decals, rugs, sheets, blankets, lamps, etc. depicting flying pigs of all colors, shapes and sizes. All cheerfully grinning and flying, their lithe little piggy wings sprouted.
Pork is understandable. During the early 1800’s Cincinnati was one of the nation’s leading importer/exporter of pork products – and, to this day, celebrates with the nickname Porkopolis. But why flying? Well, because the massive Ohio River that snakes up against the city is prone to intense flooding during heavy storms. How will the pigs escape this Wrath of God?Grow wings, of course. So, there were pigs, pigs, pigs flying everywhere, all the time.
Except in my not-quite-kosher house.
My paternal grandparents kept strict kosher. But my family was modern, advanced, reformed. We mixed milk and meat, had a single set of plates and utensils. Still, we kept no pork, no shellfish, no bacon in the house. You had to go out for that. So, we ate out quite a bit.
In its absence, pork was omnipresent, always lingering. Oh, bacon was okay. Bacon and sausage were almost Not Pork, breakfast foods, pizza toppings. But pork chops, ham, pork loin, ribs, roast, spam – none were ever eaten even out of the house. So, if a friend invited you over for dinner, say, my mother would politely inquire what was being served. And if the answer was wrong, then please excuse Alex. I’m afraid he has other plans this evening.
Me: “They could have picked lamb, right? No one eats lamb, anyway. What did they – spin the big kosher wheel and it landed on pork?”
Dad: “Think it had something to do with trichinosis.”
“You don’t see millions of non-Jews suffering from trichinosis every day.”
“Actually, kosher isn’t about pigs. It’s about how you kill the animal. You have to – ”
“Slit its throat under the neck – the humane way – ”
“So, why don’t we just slice the pig under the neck?”
“Uh – ”
“And what’s up with shellfish? And why is it okay to eat bacon at restaurants, but not at home?”
“Well, it’s already there. So, no harm done, right?”
“You don’t think it’s kind of inconsistent to have one set of rules inside the house and another set outside?”
“Well, we’re trying to maintain some traditions while getting on with the convenience of our lives.”
“Y’know, every Jew I know eats bacon. They served bacon at my bar mitzvah. At a Jewish Country Club.”
“See, you’ve stumbled onto one of the most important truths about our people.”
“Jews like bacon.”
“And they like to have other people serve it to them.”