Lard and the Lack of Logic

Please note – the blog post below reflects my own personal opinions, beliefs and experiences. It is not intended to offend, or to disrespect anyone else’s beliefs, opinions or practices.

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I am a Reform Jew. I was born into a Liberal Jewish family. In the UK, these are fairly similar, to the extent that they share a Rabbinical college, and whichever you are is usually determined by which type of Synagogue is closest. In London, it was a Liberal Shul, in South Wales where we live now, it’s a Reform Shul. Because I had a split family, London and South Wales, I actually had my Bat Mitzvah celebrated twice – once in a Liberal Shul and once in a Reform Shul.

This is only really relevant because we don’t keep Kosher. My family have never kept Kosher, and now, living in South Wales, married to a Pagan, I don’t feel any need to keep Kosher. I believe that the Kosher laws were very sensible in their day, ensuring that animals were treated with respect, and that foods that could easily spoil in hot weather were taboo. In this day and age, I feel it’s more important to eat free range or organic food.

I still have residual guilt about my non-Kosher status, plus a load of cultural influences cascading through the family from my grandparents and their grandparents – so that even though I’m quite happy to eat sausages and bacon, I don’t like roast pork or pork chops, and I would never have so much as considered using lard for cooking.

However, eating a truly Paleo diet is rather expensive, and slightly beyond our budget at the moment, so we’re having to make a few compromises. A lot of the recipes we’re following use coconut oil, which is ferociously expensive. Great for Paleo cakes and sweet (ish) treats, but not necessary for savoury dishes. So far we’ve used olive oil as a substitute where possible, but that doesn’t react well to high heat, so last week I bought some lard. Just a plain ordinary block of lard in a packet.

We’ve had quite a few fry ups, and I’m astonished to say they tasted great. We also had fried mushrooms – my current craving is for fried mushrooms, so I expect I’ll find a reason why I shouldn’t eat them fairly soon – and they were also lovely. I am rather surprised at the lack of, well, porky, bacony flavour. And even more surprised that I don’t have retributory feelings of nausea or a lightening bolt style poorly tummy.

And yet – I still don’t feel comfortable. There is no logic to this whatsoever. I will not stop eating bacon or pork sausages, ham, or salami. So in future, when we’re feeling flush I’ll go with coconut oil or possibly goose fat, and olive oil when times are tight. I’ll try to get some suet and experiment with that. But, as it turns out, lard is just one step too far.

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5 thoughts on “Lard and the Lack of Logic

  1. I have been wrestling with this myself. For health reasons, I can’t keep kosher, and I am also on a mostly Paleo diet. But I do wonder how I’m going to justify that to the rabbi when I meet with him next week for my first conversion discussion. I can’t see realistically keeping a kosher home when my pagan partner is not interested in keeping kosher, either, so even if I didn’t have the health-reasons reason, I’d still be unable to keep kosher at home.

    • I’ve had a look at your blog, and you say you’re converting to Reform Judaism. I’m not sure how that relates from the US to the UK, but in the UK, Reform Jews don’t always keep Kosher by any means. There was once a Rabbi (mentioning no names) whose wife kept a Kosher house, and who loved coming to our house for the Winter Solstice celebration gathering party things that we have (The Husband being pagan) because he looked forward to the baked ham – didn’t get it at home. Good luck with your Rabbi – if he’s willing to accept your lifestyle, then he’ll probably be fine with the Kosher issue. Look on the bright side – if you’re following a Paleo way of life, Pesach’ll be a breeze:-)

      • I intend to convert Reform, but the closest Reform synagogue is much farther away than I can get to right now, so I’m going to the Conservative temple down the street for now (but they seem to be pretty Reform-leaning anyway).

        And I just realized that I left off half of my comment! I continue to eat treyf, but sometimes I get really twitchy about it when I’m saying the brachot over my meals (like this morning – bacon rashers with eggs and cheese was breakfast). I know that if I only had the eggs and cheese, my blood sugar would spike, and that’s dangerous, so I include the bacon – but even pikuach nefesh doesn’t always assuage the twitchy feeling.

  2. Ah see – that twitchy feeling? That’s the guilt. Totally un-necessary – totally Jewish. Truly, you have the soul of a real Jew:-) For what it’s worth, if you’re taking steps to address your health problems, I can’t see HaShem having a problem with that, even if the people around you do.

    • Yeah, I’ve had some amusing discussions with my Jewish partner about the difference between Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt. She argues (successfully) that Jewish guilt trumps, but that I’m already well-primed for guilt since Catholic guilt is a distant second-place species of the beast.

      But I agree, that whole guilt thing was perfected by the Jews first. And so far, when I explain that it’s a health issue, people have backed off (except for the Orthodox trolls who have tried to tell me just to eat things I’m allergic to and deal with it because HaShem said so. Yeah, I don’t think so).

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