I have a confession. It’s a food confession.
There shouldn’t be a need to apologize for tastes in food. There are white meat people and dark meat people. There are sugar people and Splenda people. There are anchovy people and there are not.
But when the food you don’t like is loved by pretty much everybody, it’s troublesome, especially in a geographic area where the food is a staple. What do you do with your distaste when much of the world reveres the food and mounts festivals and competitions and waxes generally lyrical about it?
Up to now, I have suppressed expressions of distaste for a particular universally loved food. It’s easier to keep my mouth shut and order something else. This Monday morning, however, I feel like sharing.
I don’t like pulled pork.
I don’t dislike it. I just don’t like it.
It isn’t the pork part; I like pork in most forms. I like pork, in fact, in pretty much every form except pulled. Give me a chop, a roast, a slice of ham, a tenderloin medallion, a Schweineschnitzel or a bowl of chile verde any old day. Prosciutto is good. And that ham they make in Spain from pigs who eat only acorns is very good.
Maybe it’s the pulled part. In a sandwich it juts out from the bread, sea anemonelike, which offends my desire for order in the world. And on a plate by itself it brings to mind those Ethiopian stews that in turn bring to mind the effluence of cats with stomach flu.
Maybe it’s my Texas upbringing, where I remember barbecued ribs but no other pork from the grill. Brisket is manna; sliced or chopped. Chopped brisket stays in a bun neatly, like icing between layers of a cake. They make brisket here in Mississippi but it lacks the je ne sais quoi glory of Texas brisket. Don’t bother arguing with me; it just does. We also ate beef ribs a lot when I was young and I liked them very much.
As I suspect is the case with most confessions, I feel better having made mine. Unlike confessions made to law enforcement authorities, though, my confession is sure not to result in anything more serious than tsk-tsking among people I know who live for pulled pork. What I most definitely hope doesn’t result is people bringing pork sandwiches to me. I’m prepared for advice — “You obviously haven’t had ol’ Cletus Magee’s pulled pork” — but I don’t want the sandwiches. Thank you anyway.
NOTE: For Jews, Muslims, vegetarians and vegans, the avoidance of pulled pork would not be a matter of taste, so save your hostility. When I said “universally loved,” I wasn’t talking about people who can’t eat pork and stay true to their principles.
ANOTHER NOTE: I made pork ribs once at a small dinner party attended by Jon Bon Jovi and Bono. Bon Jovi took seconds, meaning he either liked my ribs or was very hungry, but I don’t remember what Bono ate.
YET ANOTHER NOTE: Pulled pork isn’t the only popular food I don’t like. During my high school years and young adulthood, my friends and I sustained ourselves often at Wendy’s, where my friend Craig usually ordered a Frosty. I liked Craig and wanted him not to feel any awkwardness from eating a Frosty alone, so I usually ordered one, too.
Sometime in 1990, however, somewhere in west Houston, we went bowling. Sitting in the car in the parking lot of the bowling alley, Craig asked if I wanted to get something to eat and suggested Wendy’s.
“Sure,” I said. “But I don’t want a Frosty.”
“What?” Craig asked.
“I don’t want a Frosty.”
“I thought you like Frostys.”
“No, I don’t. I’ve never liked ‘em. I always just got ‘em because you did.”
Craig laughed. Oh, how he laughed.