Author's Preface to "Porkless Days"

Thuy Nguyen '05, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2005

The women in my family and I have always said that we don't eat to live but rather live to eat. We love food. Family gatherings happen around food; if there was something to eat, it was a good enough reason to get together.

I grew up amidst banquets of food. Every weekend, regardless of the occasion, my entire extended family would gather at my aunt's house and take turns filling our plates with mountains of food. There were chicken, beef, pork, fish and even tofu. Although no one in my family was a vegetarian, there was always a dish or two for those who couldn't or didn't want to eat meat on that particular day. However, when asked what each dish is made of, the word "meat" would miraculously appear. After asking on many occasions, I finally realized that when the word "meat" is used in my family, it always refer to pork — the mystery meat.

While reading Sara Suleri's Meatless Days, I saw some similarities in Suleri's life and my own in terms to what we put in our bodies. Her obsession with kapura, a native dish of her country, is parallel to my obsession with pork. I have always known that pork was meat, but was never told where it came from. When I discovered that I've been eating my piglet friend for years, the truth was as horrific as the testicles of kapura. Even though it's been quite some time since the truth was uncovered, I am constantly reminded of that story.

As I was describing the dead pig at the beginning and later the slaughtering of the pig, I was reminded of the theme of the grotesque in many of the authors we read this semester. One that immediately came to mind was Annie Dillard and her passage of the dying frog. This connection between the grotesque and death is present in all the scenes with the pig, although it didn't blatantly appear until the final scene.

Like Didion, I tried to impose a narrative on my pork story to no only make it comprehensible but to also find the significance. As opposed to recounting the events in my childhood and letting them stand on their own, I started questioning the importance of these events. The writing became, to me, a search to understand why I put meat, specifically pork, in my body. And similar to Suleri, I realized that finding the truth about meat is in a sense, finding truth about oneself.

[To "Porkless days"]

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Last modified 12 May 2005