Saudi Arabia - Abdul and the Bacon, by David Hogg (1973)

People away from their homeland develop strange cravings, mainly for food. I have known people to long for fresh apples, marmalade, English cheese and Marmite. In Saudi Arabia, most Europeans longed for pork products, which were, of course, forbidden in the Kingdom. You could get kosher bacon, made from beef. It was streaky and cooked brittle and was all right for flavouring other food. However, real English bacon, a meal on its own or with eggs, was an impossible dream, something to be drooled over in late night chats with friends.

Once during our stay we were given a pack of real English bacon – and with it came a dilemma. We could hardly ask our cook, Abdul, who was a devout Muslim, to cook it. Would we share it with our young children, who would probably not appreciate it?

It was mid-week, but we decided to keep the bacon for a relaxed meal on Friday, after the children’s bedtime, and when Abdul would be off-duty. In the meantime, we hid the bacon, tucked away at the back of the fridge’s freezer compartment. For the next few days we relished the thought of Friday’s repast.

Came Friday, the great day, and after a day outdoors, we were ready for our bacon (with eggs, we had decided). We went to the fridge, and then, disaster! The bacon was not there. We emptied the freezer compartment, searched the whole fridge, but no bacon! Huge disappointment, and, of course, suspicion. Who could have taken it?

On Saturday morning we could hardly wait to ask Abdul. He was quite a nervous individual and quickly picked up on our mood. He was already worried by the time we asked the burning question. What had become of the bacon from the freezer compartment (no mention of pork, of course)? His brow was furrowed and he stammered as he answered, “I used it in the children’s rice”. In the face of his injured innocence and already anxious state, we gave up on our investigation. There was no point in making Abdul even more nervous, and possibly offending his religious sensibilities. Besides, it was more than likely that his explanation was true.

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