Oh readers! What an exciting time for a Yenta! My first Shmethicist column got a shout out in The Forward. And readers’ questions are pouring in.
So I thought I’d start with the spiciest query . . . and I don’t mean the one about habaneros versus jalapenos.
I am a 39 year old married mother of two. I love my husband, who is a good provider and wonderful husband. He is very reliable and a kind man. I find him as bland as a baked potato without sour cream. Our sex life has been pretty lousy. That is until recently.
You see, recently I have started an email affair with a 62 year old chef who keeps a blog. The blog is a little boring, but the flirty emails he sends me…sometimes with “attachments”…are all I need to get cooking. I don’t feel any guilt about my secret online flirtation and it has really fired things up for my husband and I in the bedroom.
Since I am guilt-free over this, does that mean I lose my nice Jewish girl status? Must I call it quits with my geriatric online lover even though it is only helping my marriage? The blogging chef lives on the other side of the country and there is little to no chance we would actually meet in real life. Is my fantasy life kosher or treyf?
Nice Jewish Girl or Pig in a Blanket?
Just because you have a favorite dish (say, the eggplant parmesan at Alejo’s restaurant in Los Angeles) doesn’t mean you don’t occasionally crave something else.
And while variety is the shmorgasbord of life, this presents one of the greatest challenges for sustaining a long-term relationship. The Shmethicist understands – taking a vow of monogamy doesn’t mean you’ll never be attracted to anyone else again. The shmethical question here is, how do you handle that attraction?
I admit it, I fantasize about that eggplant parmesan. And I eat it every time I’m in LA. In fact, I’ve been known to go to Alejo’s three times in one week for their eggplant parmesan. You see, I am a pescetarian. And my meat-loving partner is allergic to eggplant. So we have an agreement . . . I get my eggplant needs met outside the relationship, and he gets his meat needs met outside the relationship.
But the key ingredient is that we have that agreement. I know he eats meat. He knows I eat eggplant. No one is deceiving anyone. And this agreement extends to crushes … when one of us has a crush, we confess it to the other one. We can obsess and we can flirt, and we don’t have to share every sordid detail, but we can’t deceive each other by keeping the crush a secret. Even though the flirtations never become physical, keeping them secret is still a no-no, because emotional infidelity can be just as hurtful and destructive, or maybe more so, than actual sexual infidelity.
But enough about me. What about you? You have more than a crush, NJGoPiaB. You are having an “affair,” with some level of “attachment” – as you yourself put it. Which seems pretty treyf to me.
But what do I know? Well, enough to seek a second opinion, namely that of my fellow Jew and the Carrot contributor Rabbi Shmuel. And to keep this marginally food-related, I analogized the question.
Shmeth: There is a clear prohibition against eating treyf foods, but is there a
prohibition against otherwise enjoying them?
Shmuel: It depends – one cannot derive “hanaah” (benefit) from milk and meat – you can’t give a cheeseburger to your dog
Shmeth: Can one righteously smell a bacon double cheese burger and think, Yum! or is that a violation of the law?
Shmuel: It depends – can you camp out behind Macdonald’s and get high on the Big Mac fumes all day? No. But if you are innocently walking past Hu Kee Lau when the Moo Shoo Pork is up and you get a whiff you don’t have to fast or go to the mikva (remember, Rashi says that we are not supposed to say that treif tastes terrible, rather that it’s OK – we just don’t eat it).
Shmeth: What about if I notice my neighbor cooking a bacon double cheese burger and I knowingly open the window JUST SO I CAN smell it and get the olfactory yum?
Shmuel: Should be avoided – to get a bit technical you should avoid any scent upon which you are not allowed to make a bracha (eg incense from idolatry, etc);
it’s brought down in much greater detail in the Rambam (who actually once
served up a dish which freaked out some dinner guests because it resembled a
cooked human hand – it was some type of root or herb but he was trying to
make a point that you can’t rush to judgment).
Shmeth: Ethically, if I make a fake bacon double cheese burger – soy bacon and
either soy cheese on real burger or real cheese on veggie burger – am I
treading on dangerous ground?
Shmuel: Not at all – here is a true case where it’s simply the letter of the law
that governs – you can’t eat milk and meat together or treif meat (not
shechted) or chazzer, etc. but if you want to make faux frog’s legs out of
chicken wings and then taste them and smugly pronounce “yup, tastes like
chicken” – well go right ahead.
There you have it. If your husband is bland as a baked potato, slather on the sour cream. Fry up some soy fakin’ bacon and crumble it on top. Your commitment is to him, so you have to figure out a way to make HIM your hot potato. Maybe that means the two of you need some new recipes in the bedroom. Maybe a fine wine can bring out more enticing flavors in your post-prandial nibbling. Maybe you should explore using kitchen gadgets as sex toys.
Maybe you are sorry you asked me. But you did.
And anyone else out there can too, by sending their ethical food quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org anytime. Especially if they’re actually about food.