Why I don’t eat Pork

This is a really interesting video because Nas asks the question that why don’t secular Muslims eat pork.

It taps into the old Jesuit saying “give me a child till 7 and I will show you the man.” In fact it’s supposedly Aristotle who said it but the idea that initial childhood impressions form our adult views.

Back to the questions of Muslims & pork; it’s the ultimate shibboleth. Allegedly Quaid-e-Azam ate pork; I don’t really know if there is a good quality pork in the Subcontinent but perhaps it was different in the Raj.

In all religions there is that red line of apostasy. In Islam it is pork, in the Baha’i Faith it’s alcohol, for Hindus it’s beef and for Sikhs I guess it would be not wearing the turban?

To requote the late & great Anthony Bourdain in his first seminal article all the way back in 1999:

Like most other chefs I know, I’m amused when I hear people object to pork on nonreligious grounds. “Swine are filthy animals,” they say. These people have obviously never visited a poultry farm. Chicken—America’s favorite food—goes bad quickly; handled carelessly, it infects other foods with salmonella; and it bores the hell out of chefs. It occupies its ubiquitous place on menus as an option for customers who can’t decide what they want to eat. Most chefs believe that supermarket chickens in this country are slimy and tasteless compared with European varieties. Pork, on the other hand, is cool. Farmers stopped feeding garbage to pigs decades ago, and even if you eat pork rare you’re more likely to win the Lotto than to contract trichinosis. Pork tastes different, depending on what you do with it, but chicken always tastes like chicken.

ZackNote: As an aside I grew up not eating pork (there wasn’t much available in Kuwait in my earliest years) but when I moved to the West I noticed that among Persian Baha’is there was this insistence on eating pork. At the time I was non-plussed but then I realised that it was our way to announce that we were flagrantly the red line; though we emerged out of Islam in no way were we to be considered to be Muslims.

This is of course a serious issue for many of the Eastern believers since we can be so Islamicate in our behaviour and beliefs, for instance the strong prohibition on alcohol. Some of my Muslim friends cannot accept that I am not a Muslim since I seem a more faithful Muslim than most and in order not to offend them I won’t order pork; so it all comes full circle in the end!

32 thoughts on “Why I don’t eat Pork”

  1. most food taboos do crystallize age 5 to 10. this is probably adaptive in hunter-gatherer societies.

    fwiw, i don’t like pork, but i like processed meats that have a lot of pork. it doesn’t seem ‘porky’ 😉

    also, hindus from kerala eat beef.

  2. There are people in my extended family who eat pork.

    I wouldn’t eat it just because it seems gross to me. Not specifically for religious reasons. It’s all a matter of what you are used to.

  3. also, hindus from kerala eat beef.

    We from pure North India hindu-dom dont consider those apostates as real hindus 😛

    1. Interestingly enough when Razib wrote that I asked my friend who is a Keralan Hindu.

      She doesn’t eat beef her husband does but she went on tell me that it’s against the rules like how Brahmins can’t do non-veg. I didn’t ask her which community she is from (could be offensive etc) but it’s interesting how her conception of Hinduism is so North Indian.

      Much as we discuss the Arabization/consolidation of Pakistani Islam; people forget that Hindu/Hindu/Hindustan has made huge inroads into mixed areas. The local particular pagan/esoteric customs are either withering away or consolidating into other regional festivals.

      So we have navrati, Pongal, Durga Pooja, the Ganesh festival all consolidating their regional basis and becoming national totems of sorts.

      The peculiar and particular customs of most castes and subcastes are rapidly withering away.

      People of course forget that beyond the institutional of political Hinduism; religious Hinduism is somewhat dependent on shrines and god heads..

      1. I don’t know what political Hinduism means.

        But certainly various Hindu sects and traditions are dying. In part though it requires extraordinary intelligence and deep meditation to understand these things. Otherwise they seem like hocus pocus nonsense. For thousands of years knowledge was kept secret and passed on one to one.

        1. ” I don’t know what political Hinduism means”. What naivite! It means the RSS and Mr. Modi. Hindutva or Hindu nationalism is “political Hinduism” just as your favorite word (asides from “postmodernism”) “Islamism” is defined as political Islam.

      2. it’s interesting how her conception of Hinduism is so North Indian.

        Hinduism is a North Indian religion. Almost all the main deities , epics etc are N-Indian centric. What you have in the East and South is either co-existence or co-option of the local deities( Jagannath–>Vishnu, Ayyappa—>Shiva) Its not for nothing that the biggest critics of Hinduism/Hindutva do come from these very areas of India.

        The local particular pagan/esoteric customs are either withering away or consolidating into other regional festivals.

        This has already happened , and what you see is either partial co-option or total co-option. Partial–Jagganth,Aiyappa—still holds its tribal/Dravidian identities.

        navrati, Pongal, Durga Pooja, the Ganesh festival

        This i would say has to do more with sub nationalism rather than Hinduism. Its like the whole Jalikattu issue in Tamil Nadu, irrespective of religion we would all like to have our “own” State festivals similar to Basant.

        1. Yes the spread of Brahmins of course accelerated the spread of Vedic culture; Hindu culture outside of the core regions can be seen more properly a mix of Vedic + indigenous.

        2. Saurav, there are thousands of scriptures. Each of these deities (Jagganth, Aiyappa) have their own histories. They aren’t add-ons or co-options. Dravidian, I think refers to certain Arya Jatis. They have always been in the Hindu mainstream. It is hard to explain what all of these are. They have to do with spiritual experience and mysticism.

          What if every moment you were awake, you had several dreams simultaneously . . . some more real than the waking state. Perhaps these are inputs in the brain and nervous system not generally used. Perhaps we are walking in out own subconcious and unconcious brains if you wish to describe it that way. Perhaps we are always communicating with different aspects of our subconscious and unconcious brains, if you wish to call it that. These local systems are ways to understand and cope with this.

          These local deities are more real to many locals than their own families. And when we meet them we too can experience them [or the parts of our unconcious brains that are correlated with them if you prefer to see it that way].

          I think neuroscience will soon unlock more secrets about what these things really are.

          These aren’t made up frills or make believe. These practical ways to live life and are designed to purpose. Most of what is isn’t literal or sequential but out of order nonlinear.

          “This i would say has to do more with sub nationalism rather than Hinduism.” True. Sadly few alive today understand the science, narrative, meaning and implementation of these various sects and traditions.

      3. Great point about the consolidation of hinduism. I’ve seen a lot of people complain about the arabization of muslims in our parts, sartorially and otherwise. No one raises an eyebrow about similar changes in customs of hindus.

        1. The whole point of the RSS is to consolidate “Hinduism” and especially to bring Dalits into the Hindutva fold.

  4. It taps into the old Jesuit saying “give me a child till 7 and I will show you the man.”

    I did not eat pork/sausage/bacon until I was about 7 years of age. My parents were say quite frugal, so sausage was a rare treat possibly brought by a visiting relative. I also think relatives did not eat village pork which is/was cheaper than chicken/beef. They ate “Farm” pork products (sausage and bacon), not pork curry, trichinosis fears maybe.

    Vaguely recall seeing bacon at my maternal grandparents but was not allowed to eat. I had no wish to eat sausage as someone had put it into my head it was a pig byproduct as in from the rear end. One Christmas, my paternal uncle forced me to eat sausage. I was hooked, specially sausage and bacon

    Coastal Sri Lanka, pork is a must on Sunday with booze to go with it. Most other Sri Lankans eat pork (and beef) but many wont cook it in their homes.

    1. One heard Sri Lankan (food) culture is an anarchic, no-holds-barred, creative melting pot! I’m sure it’s delectable, I’m going to find out very soon. Does Buddhism not have any dietary prescriptions?

      Any recommendations for poor brainwashed vegetarians like myself? Esp Sinhalese dishes, since I’m probably familiar with the Tamil ones

      1. One heard Sri Lankan (food) culture is an anarchic
        Not as much as SE Asia but close specially when you get to the rural hinterlands, in the Dry Zone (NW, North Central and East) where I live. Some of the people (Sinhalese and Tamil) apparently eat monkey, Langurs. Wish they would eat Macaques, nasty fellows. Land monitor, Wild boar and deer are the norm and all illegal. Maybe even crocs., who knows, keep finding out different cultural practices. Water monitor is a no no as is toxic, its the second largest lizard after the Comodor Dragon. Anyway killing all wildlife is against the law.
        Not much different from rural US, where possum, squirrel, alligator etc are eaten.

        Does Buddhism not have any dietary prescriptions?
        No prescription except do not kill. Nothing about not eating.
        Nor eating beef is cultural. Cattle were used to plough the paddy fields and work animal. It was considered not very respectful to make use of the animal and then eat it. Much like horse in Europe.
        So muslims sell beef, Sinhalese/Tamil Christians (mainly roman catholic) do Pork and Buddhists and some Hindus eat both.

      2. Any recommendations for vegetarians like myself? Esp Sinhalese dishes, since I’m probably familiar with the Tamil ones

        The easy one: Dessert (not many)
        Curd (Yoghurt) with Coconut or Kitul Palm Syrup (called honey=syrup). Make sure it is Buffalo milk Curd. Thats the only traditional dairy dish I can think of. Dont think Sinhalese even drank cow milk in the past.

        Wattalapam; (if egg is OK). Malay dish. Think Flan (spanish) with coconut milk replacing milk and coconut jaggery/sugar replacing sugar + spices.

        There are plenty of vegetarian dishes. The only problem being Sri Lankans think Maldive Fish (Umbalkada in Sinhala) is vegetarian. Maldive fish is dried tuna with a very little/subtle fish taste. As Maldive fish is expensive they replace with generic Dried fish. Echos of SE Asia but the fish taste is not overpowering as in SE Asia. But guess enough to ring alarm bells in vegetarians.
        So please check about veggi dishes.

        Short Eats: Portuguese/Dutch. Pastries/Bread rolls with curry inside. They have veggi ones too, but check re dry fish.

        Hoppers/Appa/Appam (Tamil). Crisp rice pancake with soft middle. best hot hot with butter, though generally served with curry, maybe lentils/dhal for you.

        Stringhoppers/Indi-appam. Rice noodles. Best is red rice flour noodles. With curry.

        Coconut Roti. Thick; wheat flour with coconut. The more coconut the softer the roti. With curry and ideally Lunu miris (or Katta sambol). Lunu miris is onions, red pepper, lime salt. Katta sambol is Maldive Fish, Onions, Red pepper, lime and salt.

        Lot of veggi curry (different flavors, like red and green Thai), almost all with coconut milk. Hopefully you get to try Village veggies as against the carrots, beans, potato curry The word is Game (as in Gama) Elawalu. One exception is Wam-botu Moju (lightly fried Eggplant) made with mustard paste.

        Lots of fruit in season.
        Unusual (maybe).
        Beli/Bael (Aegle marmelos) and Woodapple (I dont like it).
        Best bought from small roadside stall in Dry Zone. Tree ripened, no fertilizer, pesticides.
        Rambutan, Mangosteen

        Jaffna Dishes.
        Its almost impossible to get authentic Jaffna dishes in Jaffna Restaurants. Its mostly a some junk with a lot of tomato sauce. The best place is in Colombo, Yarl Eat house, not very fancy. Jaffna is best known for sea food, specially Crab (Nandu), Praws and Cuttlefish (squid). Yarl eat house has some veggi dishes and guess would be as authentic as it goes.


        1. Thanks for the detailed recommendations, mate 🙂
          Really looking forward to the unusual fruits (rambutan, mangosten, king coconuts) and seafood (my partner’s a pescatarian). Cheers!

  5. Could not log in using Hotmail, did not get password either. It is not strange that emails bounced back to Anan. You should talk to Bill Gates. However, I received some other emails from India. It means, something is wrong with BP software and Billy is maybe innocent.

    Btw. – a question – since when and why the Hindu started worshiping cow?

      1. Thanks for the link. Good article, nice map, good explanation of roots of cow worshiping. However, some things are missing. Who were these mysterious Indo-European people and Indo-European language (for several decades they called it Indo-Germanishe language although the German language was formed 3400 years after this migration)? Where and when they disappeared in history and no one noticed this? What has happened with their unnamed language, how it continued to live up to these days? Is there a modern language which have 5000 identical and very similar words with 4000 years old cow worshiping travelers’ language, who moved to the East.

        Well, there is a new research task for pundits. They should answer some questions, most of them can be found even in Wikipedia.

        Who led these people to India? Or maybe they came as lost sheep?
        What was found in his grave in today’s Iraq just before American aggression?
        What was his symbol (also found in his grave)? How he named himself?
        What Bible says about him?
        What is the Bacchus(ism)?
        Is there any link between worshiping cows and previous question?
        How Baghdad got its name? So as Babylon?
        Etc, etc…

          1. Kalayavana is not known to me. I may know him under different name. It seems to me that all this is a part of mythology. In magic Wikipedia there is no reference when this may happened. Maybe it was something in the past what later got mythical proportions. An army of 3 million is really unbelievable and would not pass invisible in ancient history. At this time was not such strong organisation to organise this number of people and all following logistics. And what would be a goal for such enormous project, to conquer what and why. Greeks definitely cannot be organisers. They were unknown until 8th century BC and after that they had city (polis) state organisation. They never had empire which could organise large scale wars. I do not know anything about Serb participation although they were in one early period ruling in Egypt (Ramses dynasty). Assyrian kingdom ruled by Nino Belov, the leader of the first Aryan voyage to India, was the strongest in the world at this time and they had the most advanced arms (for eg. steel cavalry swords identical to modern). His empire was initially from Danube to China but later, due to enormous size and logistical reasons, was reduced only to its central part in Mesopotamia and Assyria. But, he did not fight locals (I will write about this some other time). At this time, the state organisations were very weak, without strong central authorities, without permanent armies, with bad communication, non-existent or undeveloped taxation, people lived in poor villages fighting to secure enough food to survive. It is possible that something happened around (probably later) the second Aryan invasion, i.e. after 1400 BC. This period I still haven’t well researched.

  6. Its interesting that so many Hindus avoid pork as Muslims do, considering how well swine thrive in most south asian ecological zones. Wild boar is more acceptable of course and that is consumed by the rural gentry even in areas where pork is absent from middle class hindu society, but its an occasional thing. I can’t think of many other places in the world in which pork is avoided among non-muslims as it is by caste hindus Indians. And I don’t know how much to attribute this to Islamicate cultural hegemony in the past because it manifests in cultural contexts that would preclude those assumptions. Its a shame as well considering how swine contribute to resilient food systems in the tropics, and the region still struggles so much in that regard.
    Regardless of this underrepresentation, there are still numerous outstanding pork dishes to try and the far east and far south of India are where they originate from mostly.

    1. I can say that Kashmiri Hindus do eat wild swine/boar traditionally. My grand mother cooked fantastic meat balls (matsh) out of it. It is quite gamey and rather tasty.

      There is definitely a caste-bias in eating pigs (which probably predates Islam).

  7. Siddarth who are you calling me mate, thats bloody English.

    The word here in SL is machang (or macho for the English speakers). That means either you have married my sister (or suitable as a cross cousin). Machang is Tamil, Massina is Sinhala.


    1. Siddarth,

      Electricity went off, started back the laptop (the battery is dead) and part of what I had typed was in the comments. Just not in the appropriate reply.

      Something to keep in mind, having to communicate with rural South Asia.
      What one takes for granted in the West/Urban SA does not work in rural SA.

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