Bacon, Lobster, and Feeling Left Out

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Is it just me, or is the foodie world going a little treif crazy recently? Don’t get me wrong, I’m decidedly not the most kosher keeping consumer on the planet. (Aside from being a vegetarian and therefore avoiding a lot of the major “no-nos,” I’m generally content to eat most unhekhshered products and eat out at non-kosher restaurants.)

But somehow, I feel like everywhere I turn lately, non-kosher foods are screaming at me – particularly bacon, as pork-anything has become trendy, and more recently lobster. Witness a few recent examples below.

June 2008: Lobster Forensics article in New York Magazine (see image above) which instructs readers on how to “buy, steam, and suck out every last ounce of meat from your favorite crustacean.”

January, 2008: The rise in popularity of of bacon vodka and, as a direct result, bacon cocktails.

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March, 2008: Candied bacon ice cream and a bacon doughnut burger featured on Serious Eats.

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June, 2008 – Lobster shaped bread. Why? Why not?

For some reason, the food world’s recent treif obsession irks me. I don’t *think* I’m jealous – I never particularly cared for bacon (or any breakfast meat for that matter), and the few times I tried lobster with my family, I ended up preferring to dip bread into the butter sauce. It probably has something to do with, as my friend Jay Michaelson once put it, feeling gastronomically marginalized around all this foodie glory that I so blatantly can’t partake in.

As a vegetarian, I’m of course already used to feeling limited from an entire food group. But like anything else, there’s a certain desire in the foodie world to be up on the latest trends. And whereas I could fawn with everyone else over Magnolia cupcakes (which, fyi, now has a kosher location on New York’s Upper West Side), boast my knowledge about ramps or fiddleheads from the farmers’ market, or jive with NPR’s take on “2008 food trends,” I feel utterly left out of the bacon-infused conversation.

Someday, the bacon and lobster craze will end. Until then, I guess I’ll just sit this round out and console myself with a glass of pomegranate juice.

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15 Responses to “Bacon, Lobster, and Feeling Left Out”

  1. Hannah Lee Says:

    Thanks, Leah, I’ll check out the kosher Magnolia the next time I’m in town. I’ve maintained a subscription to Bon Appetit since my college days, even though I didn’t need the recipes for non-kosher or meat items. It’s frustrating, but it’s the same way I finally got over my resentment for the restriction against ‘kitniyot’ on Pesach (for Ashkenazi Jews): it’s a matter of choice and I choose to keep kosher and be a vegan-wannabe. More generally, I choose to not be swept up in the latest craze when it interferes with my values.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I see where you’re coming from, but your examples just make me want to throw up. I mean, who on earth would want bacon ice cream? And bacon cocktails? Just thinking about it makes me dry heave.

    Thanks for an interesting blog.

  3. Michael Greenberg Says:

    Bacon ice cream is actually really good — don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. The sweetness of a maple-cured bacon goes quite well with an egg-rich custard. Have it on toast as a sort of breakfast ice cream, maybe? I have to say, I can’t really foresee the bacon “craze” ending until, say, people stop making bacon.

    Weeniecello and its cousins (Hambellini, Spamhattan, etc.), however, are less successful. Or so I’ve heard on eGullet. Probably a good thing to be left out of.

  4. Rabbi Shmuel Says:

    bacon vodka? – suddenly single malt scotch aged in a sherry cask doesn’t seem such a problem:)

  5. Asher ben Avraham Says:

    Certain people I know just can’t get enough pork products. I too am disturbed, and annoyed, by it. In fact, there have been times when I also felt marginalized by a kind of insistence that if you’re not eating pork, you’re not one of “us.” Anyway, food crazes, all kinds of crazes, turn what should be nourishment into something close to idolatry and coveting. It’s not longer *about* the food, it’s about morel mushrooms for $50 a pound, or Alaskan king crab, or truffles for $200 a pound, or Venison or whatever. I admittedly have a love affair with antique fruit and vegetable varieties like Arkansas Black or Blue Pearmain apples and I do like to try lots of new things, but there is not one thing I eat that reaches the level of “put it in EVERYTHING” like some do with pork.

  6. Rabbi Shmuel Says:

    ” but there is not one thing I eat that reaches the level of “put it in EVERYTHING” like some do with pork.”

    Then you have obviously never tried Sweet Whisper Farms Maple Syrup:)

    But seriously, you raise a valid point – how much of this locavore madness is related to a desire to minimize the carbon footprint of our food supply and how much is driven by “foodie” obsession with better, fresher, more exotic? And was you point out what happens when these worlds collide? (I love my greens garden fresh, but there’s this little boutique olive oil from Cote D’Azur to DIE for . . .)

    Leah – how about a post digging a bit deeper into the conflict?

    Asher – you hit it right on the head with your comment – “It’s no longer about the food” – it’s about the people – its like saying “I love fish” no you don’t – you love yourself and manifest that self-love through enjoying a tasty fish. Food for thought

  7. Leah Koenig Says:

    Thanks Hannah – of course we must weigh each food craze against our values and make choices accordingly. But sometimes, I still get swept up in it all. I mean, as Asher rightly states, food crazes can escalate to a point where it’s not really about the food anymore – but there must be *something* special about the food in the first place to jump start the craze. And that’s what I want to try!

    I have to admit Johanna, despite not loving bacon (and being a veg), the thought of bacon ice cream is intriguing. ..especially Michael’s description of it!

    Really Asher? There’s nothing in your household that has reached that near-idolatry level? Not olive oil? Not a certain type of coffee you *always* buy? Just curious…and also wondering what happens when food crazes get so incorporated into our culture that they become the norm? (David Kamp’s book, The United States of Arugula, delves into that question.)

    I had the same thought Rabbi Shmuel – if there’s time, I will write a part 2 that digs into some of the points brought up in these comments. And of course you’re always welcome to a contribute a post in addition to leaving comments.

  8. Asher ben Avraham Says:

    It’s a fair challenge Leah. Chocolate probably comes closest, but I can live without it and often go days without it. Tea, also something I enjoy a lot, but it’s not a necessity. I know some coffee drinkers and it’s not really about fashion for them, it’s about existence. ; ) The day doesn’t start for them until *after* coffee.

    One thing I have been thinking about lately is an idea I read somewhere about choosing 1 or 5 or 10 special things that can’t be bought locally, sustainably, or organically but deliver a lot of pleasure to one’s life. Giving yourself those items despite their non-local, conventional, etc. origins and committing otherwise to as much “ethical” food as possible is an idea that might help others move from mass market shopping to an approach that takes more factors into account that ease of purchase and low price.

  9. Hannah Lee Says:

    Asher, It was a tactic used by Barbara Kingsolver’s family, as mentioned in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.

  10. Ketzirah Carly Says:

    My husband actually made the Bacon Vodka. You’re not missing much. I was up at Kohenet training at Elat Chayyim and joking about the impossibility of keeping kosher at my house because my husband cures his own bacon (http://tinyurl.com/56qno8) and makes crazy things like bacon vodka, when someone suggested he cure his own Lox like they do at Isabella Freedman now.

    I don’t see him giving up the bacon, but I think we Jews have the market on the creative salmon. You could start a new movement! I’ve had “salmon candy,” which is like sweet dried salmon.

  11. Hillary Says:

    I hear ya…bacon doesn’t seem to be pretty popular, and I’m not sure why! You can always use “bacon bits” if necessary.

  12. Rivster Says:

    So here is the question — is there actually more focus on treyf right now or are you just feeling sensitive? Like when I was trying to get pregnant and seriously felt as though Southern California had been invaded by pregnant women.

    Some days it just feels annoying that the whole world eats this stuff AND assumes that everyone else does too. We were at a restaurant last week and after FOUR of us ordered our burgers without cheese, the (rocket scientist of a) server asked if we were vegan or something.

    I have never heard of bacon ice cream. But I am reminded of a cruise I took with my husband’s “Conservative” family some years ago. Not ONE SINGLE meal passed by without EVERYONE ordering treyf! I was amazed. And remarked (privately to him, of course) that I felt certain that had treyf ice cream been available, they would have ordered that too.

  13. sarah Says:

    hi all. after seeing ‘bacon wrapped pork’ on the menu at a bar a few nights ago, i tend to agree with Leah. is that redundant or what?

    my most useful advise, gleaned from the podcast “vegetarian food for thought” by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks is this: know your cravings. as omnivores, our cravings for meat do not come from deep animal instincts like a lion smacking his lips as prey walks by. really, if you saw a pig on the road, would your mouth start to water?

    when we smell bacon wafts coming from a bodega or chicken soup simmering, a lot of what we are smelling is actually salt, fat, and, surprise surprise, VEGETABLE SEASONINGS. you can even buy liquid smoke and use it to cook up split pea soup, veggie meat, or anything else you want to taste like bacon, since – hey – it’s what they use to make the bacon in the first place. not only will you save a life, you’ll save a ton of cholesterol as well.

    personally, when i stopped eating meat and fish, the ‘know your cravings’ mantra helped me a great deal. each time i craved meat, i tried to thinking about what i was really craving – and most of the time, it was just something filling and hearty, which i was psyched to get from beans, lentils, and other plants.

  14. RB Says:

    I agree that yes, treif is becoming more and more popular. As a foodie, I like going to restaurants and trying combinations of food that I’ve never had before. Lately though, it seems that I’m picking my menu items not by what ingredients I like best, but by which items don’t contain pork or shellfish. Sometimes I’m left with only one or two options to choose from a ten item menu. It’s frustrating to say the least, and I’m fairly certain that things haven’t always been this way.

    Ah, but who knows? Maybe soon the bacon trend will pass, and a trend for matzoh balls or borscht will come in to replace it.

  15. Leah Koenig Says:

    Yet another example: CHOCOLATE BACON!

    http://www.seriouseats.com/req.....co-ca.html

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