Monday, April 23, 2012

Do They Eat Pork In Rome?

When in Rome, right?    One practical application of this here is regarding pork.   I grew up in Canada in a fairly normal North American family.   The reality is, we ate pork.  Bacon.  Brats.  Ham.   Pork Chops.   Growing up in a mostly homogenous, town I never thought much about pork.  

Now having moved half-way around the world, I find myself in a largely Muslim context.    Kazak.  Uyghur.  Tajik.  Dungan.  Uzbek.  There are numerous Muslim minorities represented around me.   Eating kosher (halal in Arabic) is a big deal here.   I have Uyghur friends that won't even eat in a different Muslim minority simply because they don't believe they are 'really' halal.   Here, NOT eating pork is a strong identity marker for many Muslims.   Many of my friends, being Muslim, naturally don't eat pork.

A hugh part of hospitality out here is cooking for your guests, and while I might not be the best chief in the world, it only seemed appropriate, then, to make my home kosher/halal.  I haven't completely given up pork, but it seems that if some of my friends are going to be able to come to my house it needed to be pork-free.   Yet I'm finding that declaring my home halal isn't always enough.   Just tonight I served a local dish to a few friends.   I had previously told one of them that my home was halal.   Yet, as the main dish was set on the table I noticed the uneasy glances of my guests.  Using Uyghur, they asked my American friend that was there, "Is this house halal?"  Only after my friend's reassurance that my house was completely pork-free did they feel free to eat.   Other expats have reported guests that have come to their place but completely refused to eat.   For some, a simple declaration of 'halalness' is not enough.

It can be confusing to me at times.   It seems the safest bet is to always eat in restaurants or in other's homes at the invitation of friends.  Going that far isn't an option for me, I want to place hoste, and welcome others into my home.     I will continue to keep a halal kitchen.   No pork products.  I only buy meat at halal grocery stores.    "My house is halal", is a common phrase when inviting Muslim guests over.   Ultimately I can't make people feel comfortable eating at my house nor is it my goal to make someone feel this way.    There are some that I just simply won't invite over knowing their strong convictions.    Like many things in life, it seems prudent to know one's audience before inviting anyone

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