22 October 2006

2 stories about eating pigs

I am not Moslem. But because I am originally from a predominantly Moslem country and because I have a Turkish name, as opposed to, say, a Jewish or Armenian name, people who don't know me (and sometimes those who know me) often assume that I am Moslem. I also eat pig meat occasionally.

Several years ago I had a Palestinian colleague at work who was a devout Moslem. And to my annoyance, he assumed I was one too. One year during Ramadan, he showed up in my office with a Ramadan calendar that he wanted to give me as a gift. I figured it would be rude to reject his gift, but at the same time if I had accepted it would have only reinforced his self-formed opinion about my being a Moslem. And who knows what else he had in mind? I refused the calendar, he insisted that I take it, I refused, he insisted. Finally, he gave up and left.

Some time passed. It was now December and the office was having the annual holiday party. I went to the room where all the good foods where and got in line. The Palestinian guy was next to me in the line. I looked at the table and saw that they had the usual cold cuts of turkey, roast beef and ham. So, I decided to shake this guy up a bit. When it was my turn I announced my culinary choice rather loudly: "I think I will have some ham today!" I noticed the Palestinian guy glancing at me briefly as I was reaching out for the ham. He never bothered me with his calendars again.

In 1842 some Polish refugees were given a small bit of land in the Ottoman Empire to the east of Istanbul, where they erected a village. To this day the village is known as Polonezköy, which means "Polonez Village" and sounds as if the residents are Polynesian rather than Polish.

The village is now a tourist attraction with several good restaurants. Last July when we were in Istanbul, my cousin Mete took me and Tim Pearce there one day for lunch (and for snail collecting afterwards in the surrounding forests). We had been eating Turkish food for 2 weeks, so I wanted to try some Polish food, something that I don't get to eat often. Besides the usual borscht soup, the menu had only 2 Polish sounding entries. The name of one of them also had the word "pork" (spelled as it would be in English) in it. When I inquired about it, the first thing the waiter did was to warn me that it had pig meat in it.

The borscht soup was fine, but the "pig" meat, which was in the form of some sort of stew, was tough and chewy. I didn't quite like it, but finished it nevertheless. Later, when I complained to the waiter about it, he said (in Turkish, of course) "Oh, that's because that wasn't a farm grown pig, that was a wild boar". Apparently wild boars are quite common in the nearby woods and they are hunted down for the Polish restaurants.

I llike good ham, but I don't think I will eat wild boar meat again.

Lunch at Polonezköy. From left: Tim, Mete, Aydin


Ken said...

Why not just tell him that your not a Moslem, and thank him for the thought. It was after all a gift.


He would have been offended the same.


My sister says "Polonez" comes from the French word Polonaise.

Roger B. said...

It's funny how some people jump to conclusions about ethnicity and religion.

A friend of mine delights in deliberately confusing such people: he has a strong Jamaican accent, but is white and Jewish!