Grand Bizarre #9: Pigging Out
By J.A. McCarroll
June 9: 11 48 A.M
While not a religious man of any sort, I can certainly cop to a deep and abiding love to depictions of Jesus christ, as long as they are done up in gold and embellished with tons of precious stones. In practice, this style of christ is only found in cathedrals in old imperialistic nations or around the neck of rap stars. However, with Jesus, just as with real estate, location seems to trump all other considerations. Case in point, I’m currently looking at a magnificently over-embellished print of the crucifixion, framed in simple black vinyl and spotted with age, and I can honestly state it is making me happier than I’ve been in weeks. While my lord and savior and lamb of god and etc was originally an observant jew, his frown-y and embloodend visage now conveys a simple message of joy to the world; you can buy pork here. Hallelujah, amen, and afiyet olsun, I’ve finally found the greek butcher in Beyoğlu, and am ready to eat unclean meat for the first time in over a year.
June 9: 11 54 A.M.
Perhaps as a consequence of their status as an ethno-religious minority, the Hellenistic butchers have adopted a policy of extreme reticence regarding what, exactly, they happen to sell there. The left wall has a display of Worcestershire sauces and mustards, several more crucifixes, and a photo of a bunch of skinny men in dark suits, all of whom possess the kind of extravagant glower I tend to associate with people who are experts at their field.
Up in front, the meat counter is devoid of signs, and curiously bare, showing only the vaguest smattering of sausages ranging from an organ-y grey color to a rich, boudin-esque red, which indicate that I’m going to have to pretend to speak Greek if I want to bring home any bacon. (In the interest of accuracy, this is literally the fifth time I’ve used the phrase “bring home the bacon” today.)
June 9: 11 56 A.M.
Words I know in Greek, gleaned mainly from spending my childhood reading about dinosaurs:
Deinonychus- terrible claw
Greek Words I’ve learned from my over-priced university education:
Delta- Date Rape
Pi – 3.14159265
I also think that “triangle” is a greek word, but I can’t see that coming up.
June 9: 11 58
I walk up the counter and am momentarily dismayed to hear the butcher issue me a hearty “Hoş Geldiniz,” robbing me of the opportunity to, when later describing the incident, say “it was all Greek to me,” which I think would have been a real laugh riot. After I say hello back, I realize that I have a bit of a deeper problem; I’m not sure how to explain what I want in Turkish, which is, of course, basically my only problem ever.
“Et istiyorum,” I say, hoping that he’ll interpret that as “I need a half pound of bacon and a pound of boston butt, lightly scored for braising.” Something seems to be lost in translation, however. “Ichthys istamiyorum,” I say with a smile, hoping to earn some credit for my advanced knowledge of Greek. This doesn’t seem to register with him, and he wipes his bloodstained hands on his apron and hands me a small laminated chart detailing parts of the pig. Oddly enough, it is in English. It takes the butcher four tries to understand what I want, mostly because I keep trying to pronounce “bacon” as “ba-jon.” After finally placing my order, the butcher tells me in Turkish, “Come upstairs to look at the boston butts.” This is, I should think, probably the weirdest request I’ve had to deal with in the last few days.
June 9: 12 00
As you might expect, meat lockers are freezing. As you might not expect, being trapped in one with a man holding a bloody butcher knife makes you very inclined to nervously babble. While detailing my planned dish, pork carnitas tacos, I manage to say “Inşallah” three times accidentally, flinching nervously after each. The haunches of meat hanging from the ceiling have hair, skin, and bone still attached, and look uncannily like they might have belonged to other foreigners dumb enough to walk into the meat locker.
“I’ll take this one,” I say, pointing to a hunk suspended on a meat hook. “O taze mi?”
“Evet, çok güzel” The butcher says as he lifts it off the hook.
“Inşallah,” I mutter reflexively, then “whoops, fuck, Jesus christ.”
June 9: 12 15 P.M.
“Kokain,” I whisper to myself, “Bir kadın başı,” “hiçbir şey. Ne çantası?” I’m practicing jokes to deflect any curiosity towards my bag from the cab driver, just in case he should decide to hang up his cell phone, stub out his cigarette, turn down the music, and talk to me. Judging from the speeds we’re traveling at and the viscosity of the traffic, I’d say that any change in his routine will likely kill us both, anyways, but it’s always nice to have a cover story, if only to explain why in god’s name I’m sweating so much.
June 9: 1 04 P.M.
My haram purchase sits on my counter top, dripping clear drops of what my mother used to refer to as, “flavor juice,” but is more likely interstitial fluid, blood, or whatever else lives inside our bodies. Pigs it seems, are super-mega armored. In contrast to my own flesh, which can’t be out in the sun, and which gets worn away by my skinny jeans, the pig’s epidermis has proven to be nigh impregnable. All four of my knives lie around it, each having been tried and eventually found wanting. “What is the universe trying to tell me?” I ask rhetorically, washing my hands for what could easily be the fifteenth time. At just this moment, the opening strains of the adhan burst in through my open window, and I slowly back out of the kitchen, leaving the swine for my girlfriend to clean up, while I order myself a plate of simple, clean, and ritually slaughtered iskender kebap.
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