My first time
The summer of 1998 was just great. I started working as a cook, I had my first steady girlfriend and there was a great love. I was absolutely sure that I'm going to conquer the world, long before I understood that it wasn't going to happen.
D. came from a blasphemous family which used to serve ham'n'cheese sandwiches while driving on Yom Kippur. For my non-Jewish crowd: I've just described something so blasphemous and not Kosher that whoever does this will surely go straight to hell and back only to get there again. As for myself, well - back then (now that's a hint) I used to eat Kosher, so whenever I ate with her family I used to follow one line of dishes - meat or dairy - in order not to mix them, while they enjoyed themselves over excellent food which her father brought from abroad. My mom used to say that when I was very young I used to eat pork sausages, but it was long before this story takes place and when I really believed that it was a sin!
How I thought it would look like (Giovanni da Modena, The Inferno)
That's why I hesitated terribly when D. suggested that we try 'Dim Sum', the new Asian place which was a true innovation in Tel Aviv back then. It took a lot to convince me together with promises that there are also kosher dishes, but I accepted her offer with a great fear mixed with great excitement.
As you might guess, at that point I hadn't still had many food experiences so all seemed new and fascinating. And I also was in love, remember? We were seated at a tiny table right next to the window by the sole waitress who was juggling between the tasks of seating the clients, getting their orders and serving the steamer baskets from a small crate which she pushed between the tables. It was the closest I had gotten to the Far East so the excitement just grew. We opened the menus… and I didn't understand a thing.
Unknown names of dishes and ingredients halted me from ordering anything, but D. didn't consider giving up and translated everything with great patience. Among the dishes we picked (who am I kidding? D. picked for the both of us) was shumai, which D. promised it would be awesome, ignoring me stating that there was pork inside. My heartbeat went faster, my heart beats went stronger, so I mainly concentrated on staring throughout the window, not knowing that the literal translation of shumai is 'a drop from the good part of the heart'. How appropriate.
The waitress put the steamer basket in front of us and I was sweating like the shumai that layed inside, soft dough dumplings that wrapped around the unrepentant sin. I looked at them, they looked at me, and I looked at D. who looked at me with a smile and like Eve who tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit she laughed and said: "Come on, taste it. Taste it and see how good it is".
I couldn't explain to her that I ACTUALLY believed that the second I'd put the dumpling in my mouth a lightening would get out of the sky, smash the window and strike my sinner soul? I did my best to handle the chopsticks, picked one dumpling and put it in my mouth. Without chewing. Getting used to the smell, looking around to see if anyone was noticing me.
Here… in a second… a bite.
There was no lightening but enlightenment. Like in Christian art where a ray of light bursts through the clouds and shines around the saint with a guarding aura, so I felt when the defined pork's taste hit the tongue and palate. Round and unfamiliar. The thinness of the coversheet helped to slide the shumai on the tongue in another new experience for me. One bite after the other - I didn't need to over chew the finely-ground almost-melting meat - and I was already anxious to take another one.
And this is how it actually felt (Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Santo Tomás de Aquino)
The earth didn't open to swallow me that night, but it was my palate which hasn't closed since. Since then I haven't found something that I would refuse to eat and kosher matters are definitely irrelevant for me anymore. I don’t know, and I will never know, if D. took me to 'Dim Sum' for my sake or hers, but probably without this experience there wouldn't be a post, there wouldn't be a blog and there wouldn't be me.