I dunked three years ago. In some ways it feels like a lifetime away, but yet it is only a mere thirty six months give or take a few. For those not in the know, in order to convert to Judaism, the ritual includes submersion in a very specific ritual bath called a mikvah. Upon exit from this water, presto-change-o, you are a Jew! This concise explanation clearly leaves out much. The mental, spiritual and emotional experience which leads one to so drastically change religion are not brief or easy.
Did I mention that at the time of my conversion I was a Buddhist Unitarian Universalist?
I have embraced this new life and the many choices that come with it. Some people would call these choices rules or laws. I prefer the word choice because I have chosen this path with an open mind and heart. This includes keeping Kosher. Kosher is a complex system of food regulations/choices and yes religious laws that the Jewish people have been following for thousands of years.
Having been Buddhist for approximately 20 years, I have spent a good portion of my adult life flirting with various forms of food restrictions, vegetarianism. Clearly, I am accustomed to not being in step with the mainstream regarding gastronomy. I have been, in my life, at times, the queen of food issues. So kosher shouldn’t be such a big change.... well, maybe not!
I miss bacon. I miss pancetta, Italian bacon. Did I mention I have a strong Italian family heritage? I miss cooking with it, the smoky flavor of it and generally the entire gestalt of it. I remember being at a diner with a friend during my strictest vegetarian days. This friend was complaining vigorously about the smell of the animal flesh, bacon, and even then, I loved that aroma! It was my vegetarian cheating animal product, but now I have chosen to forsake the porcine delight…forever.
I truly do not want to eat it. Currently my convictions are stronger than my urges. Yet I can't help but wonder, does loving the smell and the taste, of bacon make me somehow a failed Jew? Has my first hand understanding of the power of that savory slice made it impossible for me to join the rest of the tribe? Being a convert has some extra pressures to it. In some ways I feel as if I am held to a stricter standard if only in my own mind. If I dream about eating that delectable traif, non kosher meat, is that a violation? If I get my pathetic fix with kosher, artificially bacon flavored food products, am I cheating? At last perhaps my only choice is to keep my cochen, pork dreams a secret and rely on another pre-dunk legacy, guilt.
Did I mention I was once Catholic?