Bacon No. 1: Going Low.
In deference to the upcoming tax season, we've agreed to spend less money on groceries. We're eschewing wines that have particular flavors in favor of wines that cost less than parsley, and we've committed to working through the mortifyingly monochromatic pantry arsenal of pasta, canned beans, and frozen walnuts. The Bacon of the Month Club has been instrumental in giving purpose to the wallpaper paste that dispiritedly calls out to me from all corners of the kitchen.
Intellectually—that is to say, in my imagination, which is slightly to the side of the grumpy old sleeping man that is my intellect—I began this bacon club documentation project with the loftiest of aspirations. I fully expected to grow as a cook, to broaden my horizons through the use of brave new techniques and exotic ingredients. Here and there, in indulgent moments, I pictured myself striding purposefully into a market catering to an unfamiliar, fast-speaking, foreign nationality, and picking up a yummy block of, say, tamarind paste. Perhaps a pack of bidis to roll into the sleeve of my white undershirt, little leafy smokes which I might puff postprandially as my friends congratulated me on a stellar bacon-tamarind paste "maki-wrapped pan-future burrito."
Well, not this week. Here are the two things I've cooked with my fancy, expensive artisanal bacon so far:
1) Bacon and lettuce sandwich (not even any mayonnaise, because it smelled off and I didn't want to break my arm whipping up a new one)
2) Chopped bacon stirred into some microwave-style kids' macaroni and cheese*
So! Dry sandwiches and microwave pasta. You may think that sounds pretty pathetic, and while I support your correctness, I must point out that it only sounds that way. The real truth of the food in question is quite different.
The Bacon and Lettuce Sandwich
Some toasted sourdough, two wide leaves of romaine heart, and three slices of thick, hickory-smoked Father's bacon inside, rendered tender but not too crisp. Originally I had kicked myself for not putting a moist dressing on the sandwich, but that soon became an unnecessary self-flagellation of the past (I am part Catholic, and so is my half-assed sense of guilt). Father's bacon didn't really need the bread or lettuce, as it turned out, because the bacon itself essentially turns off everything but one's caveman brain, and you go into a pretty excellent trance until it's gone (at which point you become furious and want to fuck something). So: my lousy-sounding dry sandwich, which I ate in my robe at noon, with a Mickey's grenade that the warehouse guy had left around the night before? Sorry, French Laundry. Where was the hickory-smoked bacon that time I paid you all that money? (The Mickey's, true to form, tasted extremely bad. I doubt if Thomas Keller routinely looks to these for inspiration.)
The Bacon and the Microwave Kids' Macaroni
This dish also sounds as though it were coming to you live from a house with a beach ball-sized propane tank. It was worlds removed from Slim Jim dogs on Wonder slices, of course. Some chemical aspect of smoke is all-permeating, and after a few stirs the bacon had entirely infused the light, creamy sauce like a battle-coiffed matron dripping White Diamonds in a crowded elevator. Only, unlike in that scenario, I was more than happy to open my mouth, close my eyes, and let what happened, happen.
- Afterword -
Clearly, the thing that makes Father's bacon special is the way it aggressively radiates intense, even smokiness in all directions. Starches love to assume that sort of submission, and so does delicate seafood like shrimp and scallops. Maybe a smoky paella is in the works. I've been barbarically shaking paprika into things lately, perhaps that's where we're headed. I implore that you remain tuned to this channel.
*To my credit, the macaroni was a white cheddar organic fancy-pants variety, and not the stuff that's the color of a Simpson. But, yes, the microwave was my go-to guy here.