It is cold where I live when winter comes. The Arctic winds blow insane amounts of snow that seem to pierce your skin like bullets. It is often dangerous, if not impossible to manipulate the roadways, and the sidewalks with the amount of snow that piles up on them. It gets dark early. Usually by 4:30 or 5:00, the street lights come on, and you can see the snow flakes, still falling, glistening in their glow.
It was on such a cold, wintry night that I stopped in at The Cabbagetown Diner, a small ordinary eatery. I was a semi regular there, and with my wife working late, I took advantage of the opportunity. I sat near the open kitchen, revelling in the additional heat emanating from the oven, and began the customary conversation with Nick, head cook, and manager. He talked about the political and economic nightmare that had engulfed his beloved Greece, and I merely nodded in agreement. When he stopped to take a breath, I placed my usual order, meatloaf dinner, preferably an end piece.
I ate my meal. All of it. Not a crumb left. The Cabbagetown Diner had, what I believe was the best damned meatloaf ever created. Nick spoke to me the entire time I was eating. He was returning to his homeland, to work in the family business, and was leaving in 2 days. All I could think about was who was going to cook my meatloaf? I had asked Nick for the recipe several times, but he refused to disclose the secret.
I asked one more time, one final attempt to extract the information. When Nick revealed what he put into the meatloaf, I heard myself scream, but I wasn’t sure-was it only in my head, or did I really scream out loud? He said that he used a beef/pork mixture. Pork! I had never eaten pork. It was forbidden. It is forbidden. I felt sick, and I felt scared. Was I going to go to hell for this abomination? Do I have to gargle with salt water? Do I pray for forgiveness? The guilt, the shame enveloped me like a blanket. Could I ever tell my wife? I mean, I could never go back there. Ever! How do I explain it to my kids? I felt like I was going to throw up! ‘I think I need to go to emerg”, I heard myself say, “Or maybe I should call a Rabbi”.
I have never fully recovered from that night. I have not spoken about it to anyone. Not my wife. Not my kids. Not a doctor, and not a Rabbi. I have never been back to The Cabbagetown Diner, and have walked on the other side of the street ever since. I continue to struggle with the trauma, but believe that I have made great strides in recovery. I am able to look at pigs on television, however I am still not able to attend petting zoos, or farms.