The story of Adam and Eve tells how Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat the fruit from a particular tree that God had forbidden them to eat. That story captures well how being ordered to refrain from eating something can make that food particularly alluring. This is especially the case when the ban seems arbitrary. After all, nobody wants to eat food that they are warned against as being poisonous and most people have no difficulty avoiding food that they are told is unhealthy or awful tasting. But being asked not to eat something that so many other people seem to eat and enjoy just because some religious leaders tell them not to makes the food particularly intriguing and must make them wonder what must it taste like. The very arbitrariness of these rules adds to the mystique of these foods and would make people curious about what could possibly happen if they tried it. And yet they usually refrain, out of a mix of obedience, loyalty to their family and community and religion, and fear of what might happen if they break a rule that was supposedly handed down by their god.
This is a problem particularly for Jews who have a huge number of dietary restrictions and whom I suspect must be curious about things that they are not allowed to even taste. One particular forbidden item that they share with Muslims is pork. Among pork products, bacon appears to be the big temptation, perhaps because it is so ubiquitous and the smell of frying bacon seems to be particularly appealing.
The short (nine-minute) documentary video below tells the story of a 90-year old Jewish woman who is Orthodox and has kept kosher all her life and then, at the age of 88, discovered the internet and was amazed at what she could find there in answer to her questions. She was particularly impressed with the fact that when she started to type a question into a search engine, she would be prompted with all manner of sentence completions, suggesting that other people were curious about things that she had not even considered. This took her down paths that quickly led her to become an unbeliever.
Razie Brownstone, 90, grew up with strict Jewish parents and a fear-mongering rabbi who told stories about sin and punishment to encourage good behaviour and instil a lifelong fear of God. In the acclaimed short documentary Bacon and God’s Wrath, Razie reflects on an adult life well lived, and especially her journey to becoming ‘an infidel’ in her later years with some help from ‘the Google’. The Canadian filmmaker Sol Friedman deploys some creative filmmaking techniques – including bringing animated life to the head of a pig’s carcass – to explore Razie’s complicated relationship with religion, and how she ultimately reached the conclusion that ‘faith is belief without evidence’. The film comes to a delicious climax with Razie trying bacon, a food forbidden to kosher Jews, for the first time in her life.
The video is nicely done. Razie seems like a really sweet lady.