The Story of Porc

Performed at a story-themed birthday gathering, served with Aliments Viens mortadella, Pork Futures garlic and herb sausages, and baby cilantro.

I’ve just returned from a trip visiting my mother. This is the first time that I’ve deliberately spent time with her — one on one — since I’ve left the house at age 18. As I’ve recently become an only child, I felt it important to spend time with her while we’re still able.

There are three things that my mother despises: garlic, cilantro, and pork. And like any good daughter, my three favorite things have become: garlic, cilantro, and pork. We couldn’t disagree more on the status of pho or Cuban beans.

My mother immigrated to the States at the age of 24, and after clutching her green card for forty years, she finally applied for US citizenship. In fact, my recent visit with her was to be emotional support for her naturalization interview.

I, too, am an immigrant to this country (Canada), albeit under very different circumstances than my mother. But, same as my mother, I only knew two people in Montreal when I arrived in July of 2016.

One of them is a self-taught butcher, who makes sausages out of his home and sells them to friends in a neighborhood gathering twice a year. His name is Nick, long and lanky with an eye for photography.

It was from those gatherings that I started to expand my circle of friends, all through the shared interest of delighting in all things food. In fact, as much as foods can be divisive (especially those like garlic, cilantro, and pork), food was what brought my community together.

It was through my friend Nick that I met Phil Viens, another pork enthusiast. Phil used to make his charcuterie underground, literally underground in the basement of Boucherie Lawrence’s prep kitchen. He opened his own store on St-Laurent a year-and-a-half ago.

When my brother passed away unexpectedly last Fall, I’d completely lost my appetite. I can’t recall much from my early grieving, but I do remember Phil’s being my first outing and social interaction. And when I arrived at his shop, blank-faced and quiet, he already knew. He skipped the ‘how are you’ and softly asked if I wanted mortadella. I nodded yes.

Fanmail for Porc (2019) by Maya Hey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Fast-forward to today, and I spend my weekends prepping food for the upcoming week. I bake bread, I triage the crisper drawer, and I make stock with whatever odds and ends I’ve lying around. Pork bones continue to balm whatever ails me.

Since returning from my mother’s, I’ve been reflecting on how far I’ve come. I’m applying for permanent residency here, j’ai besoin de pratiquer mon fran├žais, and I’m excited to spend this summer hosting friends and celebrating good weather.

While a love for pork may not be shared by all, I’m still hopeful that we can connect, perhaps as a fellow immigrant, perhaps as one of the bereaved, or perhaps as a child of a food-loving mother.