Wednesday, February 02, 2005

5. College, part 1

My relationship with Judaism during college is best described by the Chicken Incident. Although I never went back to services after my triumphant Shacharit, I decided to keep eating kosher food, such as I interpreted it. My mother, on the other hand, was thrilled to never make a plate of borscht or kishkas again after the divorce. She began to delight in BLTs and other pleasures forbidden since youth. I think I needed to hold on to some structure during this time of family turmoil, or perhaps I had six years of the fear of sin as inculcated by Rabbis N and S still rattling in my bones. Or maybe it was a little of both. In any case, I avoided treyf at college, although during my freshman year erroneously believed pepperoni was a vegetable, never having encountered one before, and for a few months ate the turkey tettrazini, which was pretty good. I tried the Kosher Kitchen, but although I enjoyed my mother's particular style of canned, overcooked, and wilted cuisine, I did have my limits. Besides, real Jews went to the Kosher Kitchen, and I was starting to feel like an imposter.

Passover posed a problem. During my freshman and sophomore years, I subsisted on hard-boiled eggs, dining hall salads, and jars of gefilte fish that my roommates found alien and disgusting. I craved protein. In my junior year, I decided to take advantage of the small basement kitchen available to undergraduates and cook myself a chicken. Never mind that I had never cooked a chicken before, and that it wouldn't be officially k for p, and that I had nowhere to put it. It was close enough, and would keep the ghosts of Rabbis N and S at bay.

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