Essay from a Reader in Oxford American Magazine

Here’s an excerpt from an essay written by blog reader Jonathan Kime for Oxford American Magazine. We highly recommend you check out the rest of his humorous piece at the Oxford American website. Thanks for sending this our way, Jonathan!

“I never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to feel less Southern.

It’s not that I’m married to a woman from New York. It’s not that I work for an international health organization with staff members spread across fifteen countries. It’s not even that I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a liberal college town the late Senator Jessie Helms infamously suggested putting a fence around in lieu of building a state zoo. It’s that I can’t eat pork.

There’s no vegetarian conspiracy at work here. When I told my cousin—who lives in a decidedly more rural area of the state than I do—that I couldn’t eat pork, he said, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You mean you won’t eat pork.” I wish it were that easy, because then it would be something I could just snap the hell out of. A lot of Carolinians seem to have little capacity to understand this. In a way it’s like saying that if it’s not my own fault, if I didn’t choose to stop eating pork, then fate must be at work, or that God must have done this to me. If you want a North Carolinian to question his faith, tell him God won’t let him eat pork chops.

I realize I have some explaining to do. It’s not just pork I can’t eat; I’m allergic to something called alpha-galactose, a carbohydrate present in all mammals. Or at least all non-primate mammals. Say what you want about my rural, public-school education, but when the allergist told me this, I knew precisely what she was talking about. However, I have met some very educated people who have needed a refresher on the definitions of mammals and primates, so here goes: I can’t eat anything with fur except monkeys, which I have no interest in eating and probably can’t readily source in North Carolina anyway, not even at Whole Foods.”

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16 responses to “Essay from a Reader in Oxford American Magazine”

  1. Lucy Gorham says :

    Absolutely hilarious and well worth the trip to the Oxford American website for the full piece. Thank you for making my day. As a fellow sufferer in Chapel Hill, I feel your pain. I miss pork barbecue but what I miss even more is the BLT at Sandwich…

    Okay, enough torture.

    • dianne guinn says :

      What is amazing is how this problem affects differnt people differently. My husband(a southerner) can eat all the pork he wants, but can’t eat beef. Boy, does he miss his steak and baked potato!

    • kimetime says :

      Ah, yes. The OBLT at Sandwich. I do remember those. My wife is kind enough to order that only when I’m not with her.

  2. wrensong says :

    Me too. I can’t eat beef, lamb, venison or bison. But I have no trouble with pork. Thank goodness. I have to give up my cheese burgers but I can have my bacon and bar b Qz1

  3. PaolaG. says :

    hahahaha funny thing! been there tho… When I was a child I was always sick after eating meat, and my family would think that I didnt want to eat and I just wanted candy… Thanks God, Im an adult now and Im not forced to eat meat (but I live now in Germany where Schnitzels and Sausages are a big thing).
    About the mammals/primates thing, you can tell them like I do: “I can eat only monkeys and humans”, then they are a bit more shocked hahaha but the faces are priceless…

  4. Martha says :

    I wish it were that funny….what I miss most is being able to eat with other people what other people have cooked, without having to go into how bacon or gelatin can send me to the emergency room. I don’t mind (too much) forgoing the meat; it’s the hidden ‘poison’ that can sneakily send me into a scratching frenzy that makes life ‘challenging’.

    • kimetime says :

      It does cause some adjustments. I had been able to tolerate dairy, but I had a significant reaction to frozen yogurt two weeks ago — a pretty small amount at that. And now I’ve started to worry about gelatin, etc…. Luckily the frozen yogurt place close to my house has a couple of non-dairy versions. But you’re right, it’s the hidden stuff that’s hard to get around, and I feel like such a pain when we’re invited to dinner at other people’s houses and I start quizzing them about their recipes.

      • Lucy Gorham says :

        Yes, or going out to eat and having to fill in the wait staff about how your meal has to be kept separate from whatever else might be on the grill…or making sure that your cooked spinach isn’t full of pork fat (hooray for the South). In the scheme of things, however, not too bad. I do try to educate health care professionals, though, as I find that few are aware of this allergy and I hope to save someone the experience that some of you have had of suffering for several years before figuring out the cause. Once for me was bad enough.

  5. winny says :

    Loved it!!

    I just tell them I can eat long pig but not regular pig. Ha!!! Some people get it, some think I’m talking about a rare breed of pig!

    I have a whole riff I do about my mammalian meat allergy when asked with a list of all the prohibited mammal meat sources: Duckbilled platypus; baby harbor seals, porpoises, Siberian tigers, pandas, koala bears, possums, Blue whale blubber, kittens etc. as IF those would be on the menu, . I do tell them I can eat rare spotted owls however or the more common chicken. A great number seem to think birds ARE mammals. What the hey??

    I miss ham the most. Smoked, cured Ham. And a hamburger!!! sigh. I keep retesting once a year to see if it has gone away or I am less sensitive. So far no luck. I have not tried Bison or Elk, but have been tempted to try Emu, to see if it is more like red meat. My neighbor has a couple in a pen by his house and I think I could wrangle one down and pluck it, but I think he might notice if I start barbecuing an extremely large chicken at the same time an Emu goes missing.

    • Jennifer says :

      “My neighbor has a couple in a pen by his house and I think I could wrangle one down and pluck it, but I think he might notice if I start barbecuing an extremely large chicken at the same time an Emu goes missing.” LOL that’s too funny!

      • winny says :

        Jennifer: You know you are really craving something when you will commit felony emu knapping in order to get something that resembles a steak!!! Or if you start wishing Canadian Bacon was made from REAL CANADIANS!

  6. steve says :

    You are right it does have different effects on us all. My best rule of thumb is if flies or swims< i can eat it. If it runs on the ground I can't. I miss BBQ most of all but can live without the beef. Life is tough but gotta move on.

  7. Jennifer Zerby says :

    This essay (read the full one) made me laugh out loud…and the comments that followed it were almost as entertaining. Thanks to the author for helping us to feel less “alone” — because unless you’re IN it, it’s difficult find true understanding. I don’t miss pork (chops, bbq, ribs, etc.) so much as bacon, beef, lamb and veal. I’m making do with the chicken/turkey/veg substitutes but you do live in fear of the sneaky, hidden mammal ingredient and get tired of explaining it…over and over…

    • winny says :

      Jennifer: re “the sneaky, hidden mammal ingredient” I soooo understand that problem. I have had reactions to cross contamination even at restaurants because they segregate seafood on grills away from other meats, but have no problem grilling or cooking chicken beef or pork on the same surface. I have learned to ask if they can do that or just never order grilled items!!! And have been caught by refried beans in Mexican food a few times or the real (delicious) toritillas that are made using lard. And you had to mention BACON, OMG BACON!!! I feel like the dog on the bacon treat advertisement. Why o Why did they make it so deeeelicious?? I traveled for work and it got very difficult to eat out on the road, and you get tired of salad bars. But on the plus side my cholesterol levels are FANTASTIC!!! Ha!!!

  8. Dawn says :

    I feel your Southern pain. I graduated from UNC-G and my greatest loss suffering from this allergy is no North Carolina BBQ and no snaps (green beans) cooked with bacon grease! Best entry I’ve seen on this website!

  9. Steve king says :

    Thats correct. My rule if it swims or flies I can eat it but if it runs on the ground and has fur I can’t. Im an 12 year alpha gal. Ive gotten use to it but dont like it. I miss the MEAT.

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