Eating like Judas Escarrot
I'm not talking about heavy-duty antisemitism - I'll leave that to Melanie Phillips - but some people do make it hard being a Jew. For instance, why did the thieves who broke into my house steal almost nothing except my menorah? Was it antisemitism? It was certainly a nuisance. A good man is hard to find but a good menorah is harder. And this was a very good menorah. If the thieves were Jewish I suppose I say "Happy Chanucah" but if (as I suspect) not, would they be kind enough to take computers, cameras, jewellery and money in future.
Then there was that recent dinner at one of London's grandest hotels - a very fancy affair with more courses than a university. I informed them in advance that pork and shellfish were not for me and arrived confident that I would be treated like a king (King David). Things began satisfactorily enough. To be honest, the cooking was so sophisticated it was difficult to know precisely what was what, but I was sure I was being steered down the paths of relative righteousness and I felt I was being treated as an equal. I had no sense of people looking at me and thinking: "Oh, he must be Jewish. They get worse food but they probably do all right in other ways."
Then came the lobster. I am no expert on lobsters, never having made one's acquaintance, but I know they're a big deal - the ganze machers of crustaceans. It's only fair to point out that what my companions were enjoying was not the whole red-clawed beast but a meticulously chosen element thereof. Even so, I waited expectantly for something sensational by way of compensation. Their lobster, by the way, was served with tandoori spices and a posh carrot-and-citrus puree.
My plate arrived. What enviable Jew-pleasing magic would they have confected, in place of the presumably celestial (satanic) lobster? The answer was: almost nothing. Just a lobster-shaped hole with an extra dab of puree and a couple of carrots. And when I say carrots, they weren't carrots as you know them. Miraculous things they were, miraculously tiny, specimens that you might admire under a microscope. Since this story has a religious dimension I'll say this: if you had to feed the 5,000 you would never do it with these carrots, no matter who you were.
It was difficult to feel anything other than singled out and punished. I had arrived as an honoured guest. Now, while all around me feasted, I was cast in the role of Judas Escarrot. The woman next to me blushed and looked away. The man to my right looked steadfastly ahead. I suggested quietly that this might be an exquisite new form of antisemitism, although only in a jokey kind of way. I didn't want to spoil their evening. Not that I could have done - they were eating lobster.
Subsequent enquiries to the head chef revealed that his aim had been to provide me with a similar taste to match the wines (it was an evening of fine wines). So at least I learnt something new. I have never lusted after lobster but if I ever do I shall be able to resist because now I know: it tastes just like carrots.