Posts tagged ‘salty’
I spent my last day in Seattle with my parents. We woke up early and got pancakes at one of our favorite dives, a run-down little restaurant near the airport. I spent the afternoon at home with Dad and the dogs, looking through old photo albums. We shared some good sushi for an early lunch, and ice cream sundaes for dessert. Even though sleet fell and dirty puddles collected, damp leaves sticking to our soles, I couldn’t have felt happier about my last afternoon.
At home after dinner, I watched my mom boil water for tea, facing away from me. I sat at the table and checked my email as she talked, only half listening. She stopped mid-sentence, and I finally noticed that she’d been crying – so quiet I hadn’t heard from three feet away.
She left the kitchen and I heard the closet open down the hall. She came back with a white cloth napkin with sky blue trim. “Recognize this?”
The last time I saw my parents before winter break was in Boston, a few days before classes started. We had dinner at a fancy seafood restaurant in the North End, a light meal before I left in near tears and caught the next train to my dorms. We didn’t say goodbye for very long because I didn’t want my parents to see I was upset.
“After you walked out, I started crying,” my mom said. I unfolded the napkin and turned it around in my hands. It was so neatly folded and wrinkle-free that it looked new.
“Your father and I left soon after you. We walked down the street and he gave me the napkin – he stole it from the restaurant. He said he thought I might need it.”
And here it was now, a seeming lifetime later, in our chipped little kitchen.
“We walked a little further and went into some of the stores. Your dad, he picked up this jar of something and said ‘Oh – Elissa would really like this.’ He just kept looking at it and finally he bought it. He said, ‘We should give it to her.’”
“The fig spread?”
I remembered this. I thought I’d said goodbye to my parents for the last time, but later that night, my dad stopped by the lobby of my dorm. He had a box of water crackers, a thick wedge of creamy brie, and a small glass jar of an incredible fig jam. It was the last real quality food I had before I settled into my routine of café sandwiches and dining hall chicken fingers. It was the last little bit that felt like Seattle as I settled into Boston.
The first week of school, I passed it around the common room and shared it with my floor. Nobody had eaten anything like that fig spread before, and I saw people right, left and center falling in love. Between my roommate E- and I, the jam lasted a few weeks. When it was gone, I washed out the jar and set it on the windowsill. That’s where it is now, catching the fleeting light that filters into my room.
When it was gone, I craved more, but I wasn’t about to buy more on my college student budget. One afternoon E- came into the room with a grocery bag. She pulled out a package of crackers. “I keep thinking about that fig spread,” she admitted. With or without it, the crackers satisfied us, and now our room is always stocked with a box or two.
Mom was smiling now. “After the hard time your dad gave me about being upset, he was the one buying stuff for you half an hour later. He said we should go to Whole Foods and get something to go with the jam. I thought he was being ridiculous but he was so stubborn about the idea.”
They didn’t know where Whole Foods was, but they took a train and managed to find it. I can picture Dad walking up and down the cheese aisle, like he used to when we shopped together, looking for the particular brie I’m so smitten with. I imagine him looking at shelves and shelves of crackers, deciding which box would go best with the spread.
As I thought about all the work behind that simple gesture, a paper bag with a last-minute snack, I started to feel sad for the first time about winter break ending. I gave my mom a long hug and told her not to cry. I folded up the napkin, following the creases, and handed it to her.
“Hang onto this. I’m serious. Keep this forever, okay?”
“Okay.” She paused, and then smiled. “I’ll use it at your graduation.”
She put the napkin back in the linen closet, Dad came and sat down, and the two of them talked at the dinner table as I finished packing.
Boston, here I come.
When I was in 5th grade, my class went on an overnight trip to a pioneer farm. We took a tour of the farm, learned about the equipment and tools, and slept that evening in a real pioneer cabin. The next morning after breakfast, we were given our authentic pioneer chores. Mine was cleaning up after the farm’s pig, Susan Bacon Anthony. I was not amused.
While some of my friends pressed apples into cider, and other classmates tried out the tools at the blacksmith house, I trudged through the mud towards the barn. Susan Bacon Anthony was a huge pig, bright pink and vivacious. My mood lightened considerably even as I raked out her pen, and by the end of the morning, I was in love. I considered the possibilities of owning a pet pig.
By the time my parents arrived to pick me up, I had an announcement to make – I was becoming a vegetarian so that I never had to eat a Susan Bacon Anthony, or any of her friends, ever again.
My parents seemed complacent enough throughout the drive home. When they started on breakfast, though, my dad asked casually, “This means no bacon for you, right?”
As a child I was passionate about bacon. I couldn’t get enough of its smokiness, its crisp and chewy texture, its salty goodness. But at ten years old I stood my ground and agreed – no bacon. I told myself it was a sacrifice I’d have to make, and I pictured Susan Bacon Anthony’s corkscrew tail and thin, floppy ears.
As the pan sizzled and the house filled with the smell of bacon, I ended up going outside. I clutched a glass of orange juice and sipped it fervently, trying not to give in. Ten minutes into our breakfast, I caved, and took a piece of bacon from the center plate. We all knew the two hour vegetarianism had only been a half-hearted attempt at best, and I haven’t tried to play the vegetarian card since.
I’m not fooling anybody.
When faced with bacon brownies, I think many people are divided. Some might have seen the unusual combination of bacon and chocolate before in fancy restaurants or among foodie circles. But more commonly, I think most people think the idea of bacon and chocolate together sounds disgusting. You are not alone, but you might want to give it a fair chance.
My friend M- is very conservative about food. Once, when I was just starting to bake, I brought a cake with me to a friend’s house. We had cut the cake, transferred the slices to plates, and passed around the forks. My friends had the first bite halfway to their mouths when M- casually asked, “So what is this exactly?”
I answered truthfully and replied, “It’s a chocolate cake with a chocolate-sour cream frosting.” I looked up and saw that M- had put his fork right back down onto the plate, and my other friends followed his lead. “Sour cream?” He just couldn’t wrap his mind around sour cream in dessert, despite my protests, and not a single bite of the cake was even tried. Frustrated, I had to transfer all the slices back to the cake carrier and bring the untouched cake home.
The following day, I made a sour cream banana pound cake with sour cream frosting and brought it to my friends. With an entire cup of sour cream in the cake alone, they were truly about to eat their words. When the cake was fully consumed, M- having had his second slice, I told them the truth. Sour cream is delicious, and you’d like it if you gave it a chance.
After I made these brownies, M- happened to stop by. Since I began baking he’s become more adventurous, and he agreed to try one of the brownies even though he was repulsed by the combination of bacon and chocolate. He accepted the piece, examined it carefully, and then took a small bite. He proclaimed it “pretty good.”
Chocolate and bacon actually make a natural combination. The brownies are dense and fudgy, and the crumbled bits of bacon add a bit of texture and a hint of smokiness. In the same way that coffee provides a solid foundation for chocolate, bacon adds something special and elevates a simple brownie to something more.
And I can’t help but think that if maybe everyone gave Bacon Brownies a chance, we could all stand together on something, despite our differences. Bacon and chocolate = world peace.