Don’t ask me about food.. I texted my friend, but there is a noodle place I’ve been wanting to try.
He replied back and said we’d just eat there instead of looking for another place, and so after spending hours going through souvenir t-shirts1 and batik, we drove to the noodle place to eat a late lunch.
As soon as we sat down, my friend said, “Don’t you want to ask a question?”
I looked around and then I got it. He wanted me to ask if the noddles were cooked with pork.
Living in Java, an island that according to Wikipedia is more than 90% Muslim, pork isn’t something I frequently find. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t exist. In Solo in particular, you can drive down the street and see several eateries advertising pork. On the flip side, you also often see eateries with signs that say they don’t serve pork. Sometimes they also have signs that say the don’t serve alcohol, occasionally to humorous results.
But though I often gripe about how much I miss pork, I do recognize that not eating pork is actually a serious religious decision and so—even though I hate talking to strangers and especially hate talking to strangers in Indonesian—I sucked it up and asked about the pork. Actually, what I said was, “This has chicken in it, doesn’t it?”
The person dishing up my noodle soup was quick to inform me that no—it was B2, the polite abbreviation for pork2.
I turned back to my friend, instantly feeling awful. Way to go, Zoë, picking a noodle place that serves pork and taking a Muslim there to go eat. At the same time, I also felt a slight bit of resentment toward the eatery itself—why wasn’t there a sign saying that they served pork? How was anyone supposed to know? It seemed to me that people would be operating under a default of no pork.
My friend hastily said it was fine. He would just drink something. Still, that was mainly him just being nice.
The person serving then cut in to add that the meatball soup didn’t contain pork.
My friend accepted this and ate it, though first he made me try it and tell him if it tasted different than mine. It actually did taste completely different, but who knows if that was because of lack of pork or just because of different cooking techniques. My friend had his own doubts and over the next several days sent me several texts hinting at his discomfort and general religious struggles.
As for me, I also still haven’t really gotten over the situation. I know it was my friend’s choice to eat or not to eat. I also really don’t think that his soup had any pork in it. That said, it was my choice to eat there and therefore at least partially my responsibility to think it through and realize that a noodle place in Solo—which has a larger Chinese population than Jogja—could potentially be serving pork. I know my lingering unsettledness stems from the fact that I feel like I put my friend in a situation that made him uncomfortable. The blame lies on both of us, I guess and I’ll get over it eventually. But I’ll also think twice before taking a Muslim friend to a noodle place that I haven’t tried yet.
1My purchase in the banner above.
2B1 being dog.