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When I was on summer break from college one year, I went to visit my friend Melissa on her family's farm. It was more like a house in the country than an actual farm, acres of land with a big garden and some chickens and goats. They were celebrating her brother's high school graduation with a big party. Her family was Filipino, and after the all-American meat-and-potatoes- and-frozen-vegetables-boiled-to-death diet I'd grown up on, their food seemed heavenly, other-wordly. They had a pig roasting on a spit, and I sat watching the golden carcass turn, mesmerized by the flickering flames. I had never seen anything like it. What I ate wasn't pork as I knew it; it was some kind of delectable juicy treat, sprung from the soil of the earth, melting in my mouth. I've never eaten anything as blissful since. The incident popped into my head recently and I thought - That's it! A pig roast wedding!
I know that I (and most Americans) eat too much meat. While our cave-dwelling ancestors were certainly carnivores, they were not wolfing down 16-ounce steaks at one sitting. I know that vegetables are a healthier choice, and I cringe at the numbers explaining how much water and power are used to create one pound of edible beef. I have cut back on my meat consumption, but I'm not able to give it up entirely. Steak is my favorite food ... and pork, salami, turkey and chicken (dark meat and skin), ribs, roast beef, and any kind of hot dog or sausage. Especially sausage. Other people have weaknesses for chocolate, cheese, or fresh-baked bread - I crave meat fat. And I'm not too proud to eat it off other people's plates. Maybe it's something deep in my genetic makeup, inherited from my northern and eastern European ancestors' needs to survive bitter winters and potato famines. Or maybe I have a nutritional deficiency.
At any rate, I'm not about to become a vegetarian. And as meat is my favorite food, it's only natural that I would want it to figure prominently at my wedding reception. A pig roast opportunity has not presented itself in the 20-some years since my visit to Melissa's; now certainly seems like as good a time as any. Neither of us particularly wanted a formal wedding; my fiance had actually suggested a bonfire on the beach, which I think led me to barbecue and ultimately, pig roast . My family is huge – 70 people in my immediate family and extended family of aunts, uncles, and first cousins with spouses – and we still need room for his family and our friends. I would rather have a casual event so that we could invite more people and keep costs down. The problem? My fiancé is Jewish.
"YOU CANNOT HAVE A PIG ROAST WEDDING WHEN HIS FAMILY IS JEWISH!!!" Though my sister does tend towards the dramatic, I was a little shocked at her vehemence. I explained that my fiancé is a non-practicing Jew who does eat pork and that of course we would have other meat and vegetable dishes for any Jewish people or vegetarians who didn't eat it. My sister and her fiancé Ron are vegetarian (Ron - seriously, she - less so). I explained that it didn't really matter what food we had at the wedding; we would have to have food specially made for his brother's family and any other Jewish guests who keep kosher, since they need everything cooked in separate, disposable containers.
"HIS BROTHER'S FAMILY CAN'T BE THERE IF A PIG IS ROASTING ON A SPIT!!!" They can't be there? Because it would be upsetting? Because they aren't allowed to be in the presence of a cooking pig? I don't know whether she was being literal or metaphoric. I would love a spinning pig, Hawaiian luau-style, but I think they take up to 14 hours to cook. Most likely no one would see the pig cooking; it would be cut up, all ready to go, on a big serving platter. One friend told me she had heard of doing pig roasts in a pit, in which case there wouldn't be much to see anyway. I don't what the typical size of a pig roast pig is, but I'm guessing more than one would be needed for such a large group of people. Maybe a pit makes more sense.
"Well, I know Ron would have no desire to see a pig roasting on a spit." She was calming down a little. I don't have any particular desire to have my food served on plates after cats have jumped up and walked all over them, yet I accept that at her house. What I find repulsive, she does not, and when I'm at her house, at her invitation, I accept her parameters. Is it different at a wedding? Should I be concerned with the Jewish and vegetarian guests who might be offended by my choice of dinner and mode of preparing it? I know that it is impossible to please everyone, but should I try harder given that members of our immediate families may be upset?
I've spent the majority of my life denying my wants, giving in to others who asserted theirs at the expense of mine. I had buried my desires so deeply that I really thought I didn't have any. I thought it genuinely didn't matter to me where I went for vacation, what food I ate, where I went on Saturday night, what movie I saw - I was always fine with whatever the group or partner I was with wanted. It took some work to become conscious of myself again - to allow myself to feel. I know I have the right to want a pig roast wedding - but would I be asserting that right at the expense of others? Is that healthy, or is it selfish? Is it okay for two herbivores who wed to have a vegetarian reception without meat for the carnivores? Is it all right for two teetotalers who wed to have a dry reception without alcohol for the drinkers? When my sister gets married, she wants to have a swing band play, since she and Ron really enjoy ballroom dancing. Is that fair to the guests who don't enjoy or don't know how to dance along to swing music?
Should a wedding be the way the bride wants it? The way the family wants it? Ultimately, my fiance and I will decide together, come to a decision that makes us both comfortable, with as little guilt as possible. I hope.
Or maybe we'll just have separately worded invitations.