In Praise of Pork

Myths abound among blacks about the swine's connection to slavery. Let's set the record straight.

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Natalie Y. Moore (Courtesy of Prince A. Mhoon)

I get really excited when I meet a black man who eats pork. This is not so simple if you live outside the South and want to date a man younger than 45 years old. In certain parts of the black community, eating swine is a cultural no-no.

Alas, this can be a dating challenge in my world.

I went on a blind date with a guy who didn't eat pork. I know this because he had trolled my Facebook page and had seen that I was a "fan" of bacon. He confronted me and turned up his nose as I rhapsodized about the beauty of bacon. He told me why he didn't eat pork by quoting a 20-year-old Rakim rap song.

We never went out again.

Recently a friend came by my house, and I had just finished cooking my favorite Saturday snack of sliced avocado with crumbled bacon. The lingering smell of fat offended him. I had to tune out as he extolled the virtues of turkey bacon. Turkey bacon is crap.

Pork bacon, on the other hand, makes me smile. The juiciness of a pork roast is more succulent than a pot roast. Broiled pork chops with balsamic vinegar and fresh basil is a quick, yet fine, meal. Luckily for me, pork is the "it" meat in many restaurants -- from pork belly to high-end pork rinds. Yes, there is such a thing as high-end pork rinds.

For some black folks, however, the pig is not the "other white meat." Instead it represents filth and a nasty animal that will afflict you with all kinds of diseases. (See Elijah Muhammad's How to Eat to Live.) Anti-pork ideology is a throwback from the black power era, when militants demonized pork. "Pig" also became a pejorative for the police.

As black consciousness in the hip-hop generation -- those growing up in the 1980s and 1990s -- blossomed, pork didn't fit into the diet. In Ice Cube's classic "It Was a Good Day," he raps: "I don't know but today seems kinda odd/No barking from the dog, no smog/And momma cooked a breakfast with no hog."

I don't begrudge eating choices that are based on religion. But even for non-Muslims, this no-pork edict is weighty. When my friends and acquaintances deride pork, I think it's more out of habit than based in fact. Something clicked in the black community about the pig.

Leni Sorensen is an African-American research historian at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate who specializes in food. She says it's a myth that slaves ate parts of the pig because it was the nasty animal that slave owners dumped on them. A butchered hog was not considered a punishment for slaves.