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Bacon, Eggs and a Toast

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<img align="left" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1124243374/gallery_29805_1195_3626.jpg">by Margaret McArthur

I’m old enough that the words “open bar” shouldn’t sing that siren song. I should be smart enough not to strap on three-inch heels, but I’m not. And I shouldn’t have danced that crazy tango with my sister, but, well, I did. I teetered at the podium, a tousled, tipsy toastmistress.

For a woman who hadn’t delivered an important address since her high school valedelictory, I was damned confident. I beheld my audience, a beaming roomful of pilgrims who’d gathered at the Ottawa Westin on September 23, 2000, to celebrate fifty years of perfect romantic married love: half-century of wedded -- no other word for it -- bliss. My parents’ golden anniversary.

I’m not waxing poetic, gilding the lily, or slopping the truffle oil. Despite a breadbasket brimming with health problems, frequent relocations, and four children whose combined escapades present the best possible case for free universal vasectomy, my parents’ marriage has that fairytale ending: they live happily ever after. A cousin held her girlfriend’s hand and sighed. “Gee, it’s tough being around Auntie and Uncle, knowing that no matter how hard you try, your relationship is never going to be as good as theirs.” Another cousin looked grim despite our frequent meetings at the bar. It’s hard not to be wistful at the shores of the sea of love when your marital lifeboat is about to ram the iceberg and sink without a trace. And I’d held the hair of an old family friend as she knelt on the marble floor of the ladies' room barfing beaujolais, and wondering, “Why can’t I feel married the way they feel married?” My parents’ passionate paradigm intimidates us lesser lovers, who can’t see the billets-doux for the bills.

By the time I tinkled my glass with a fork still sticky with raspberry coulis, the room was mellow. The trio was on a between-set break, and all eyes were fixed on the septuagenarian lovers -- not, thank God, on the splat of sauce that accessorized the bodice of the frivolous purple frock I’d snatched from the sale rack at Banana Republic. They’re a handsome couple: a tall blonde in a Marlene Dietrich-style black evening suit and a fuchsia silk blouse and scarf she’d picked up at Holt Renfrew the same weekend I bought my second fridge. (The blouse rang up at six bucks more than the Kenmore, and it didn’t feature an icemaker.) If Harrison Ford is lucky, he’ll resemble Daddy when he’s seventy-three. But no matter how often Harrison struts the red carpet, he’ll never wear a tux with the insouciance of Ian McArthur.

A series of preprandial Glenfiddiches guaranteed I wouldn’t remember much of the speech I’d composed on my pillow the night before while digesting the feast my mother had provided for the welcome of the Oldest Child, and metabolizing Daddy’s killer Old Fashioneds. I’m sure I was fulsome, sentimental and over-the-top -- no snide daughterly jabs or Viagra jokes. I recounted their first date, engineered by my Aunt Char who thought her brother might take a shine to her leggy classmate. (That game at Mimico High was also the last time either of my parents has willingly sat through four quarters of basketball.) The courtship followed, featuring shameless necking in the stands of Varsity Stadium.

I wended my way down Lover’s Lane, hitting all the romantic highlights: the wedding (my only quip: I noted that it was dry, to the general hilarity and disbelief of the audience), the honeymoon in Montreal, the move to Trois-Rivieres, the eager embrace of all the things that French-speaking people do better than we do. Summer holidays in the Pontiac station wagon, the trips to Europe, the time my nine-year-old-daughter caught them in flagrante delicto . . .

I was rolling, peeps, more flowery than the chintz curtains in the guest bedroom or the Ontario ice wine in my glass. Like the silly endearments lovers whisper, nothing I said could sound sappy, because it was all true. I quoted The Rubaiyat, which my father had memorized to recite to his bride. I hit Sonnet Twenty-Nine, the mere mention of which makes their eyes well. I didn’t neglect to recite the wedding vows, explaining how my parents understand and honor them at a level most of us never approach. Daddy brushed away a tear with the knuckle of his right forefinger, and his wasn’t the only leaky eye in the room. It was time to ask the company to stand, and raise a glass. “To Marilyn and Ian, a couple that can swap spit with the big time: Antony and Cleopatra, Fred and Ginger, Pepe and Petunia . . .”

“Bacon and eggs!”

No one has better timing than my mother. To her, Romeo and Juliet were just a couple of rich teenagers who’d have eventually moved on to Tomasso, Ricardo or Lola. Bacon and eggs, now -- they’ll sizzle until the end of time.

Unlike many of my girlfriends, I abandoned the struggle early and acknowledged that eternal truth: my mother is always right. Sure, we have differences about minor matters like religion, politics and football (Mummy loves it), but she is infallible on everything worth knowing, like why bacon and eggs belong in the pantheon of passion. I could wake up every morning with a plate of bacon and eggs. And toast.

Let me explain what I’m describing here. “Bacon and eggs” means eggs sunny side up, fried in bacon fat. Scrambled eggs, poached eggs, eggs fried in butter -- even the delightfully smutty-sounding eggs over easy -- are pretenders on the plate. Bacon means streaky bacon, although we could work up a threesome if good back bacon is present, eager and willing. But lean Canadian bacon doesn’t sweat the sizzling puddle of hot grease required for cooking the eggs, so my guy on the side is American. The toast? A long thick slice of day old artisan boule makes the best toast on earth, but in a pinch I’ve substituted English Muffins, Wonder Bread and a two week old, soft-as-the-day-I-bought-it hamburger bun (after checking for blue fuzz). Rye bread, crumpets, bagels seven-grain loaf from the bread machine -- choose your carb -- anything that slides into the toaster slot. But know this: toast is essential. The saddest thing about the Atkins Diet is its cruel eagerness to let bacon and eggs lie naked and slippery on the plate. They need their crusty chaise longue.

My parents eat B and E for lunch, their reward for the Puritan yogurt and shredded wheat with which they break their fast. I yearn for a bacon and eggs dinner at least once a week, but I’ve never broken sentimental tradition and given in to mere ease, economy and pleasure. I know, I know -- the matins of lapsed Episcopalians who observe the secular Sunday ritual of the New York Times must play out in a few hundred thousand kitchens every Sunday. But I won’t bother with self-examination, the meaning of ritual or spiritual sublimation. Week after week, year after year, I count on Sunday-morning bacon and eggs as the most reliably happy twenty minutes of the previous seven days. And much of the charm is that it’s the only day I luxuriate in breakfast. Winnie the Pooh had it right:

<blockquote>'When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,' said Piglet at last, 'what's the first thing you say to yourself?'

'What's for breakfast?' said Pooh. 'What do you say, Piglet?'

'I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?' said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. 'It's the same thing,' he said. (A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner)</blockquote>And it is exciting to wake up on a Sunday and know you have eight ounces of bacon and an egg or two -- and seven pounds of newsprint lolling on the driveway. The stagger downstairs to turn on the coffee is less tortuous on Sunday. Still, retrieving the paper requires clothing, so I beat a retreat to the bathroom for a quick encounter with the toothbrush, soap and water, and whatever emollient has most recently suckered me into believing that it reduces the visible signs of aging. Besides, clothing isn’t optional when dealing with splattering bacon grease. (Gentlemen, don’t preen at the stove in your sixteen-year-old son’s drawstring pajama pants: graying chest hair is a brush fire waiting to happen. Ladies, the weekly cleaning bill for a splattered Victoria’s Secret teddy, prorated over twelve months, could better be spent on pedicures, a Le Creuset casserole or an orgy with a garden catalogue.) Sure, sweats are adequate, but admit it: you aren’t about to fish out a pair of pantyhose, tell him which tie to wear, then whistle up the kids for church. Would it kill you to pull on a pair of jeans and a shirt?

Start with the bacon. A perfect world would provide a cast-iron skillet with a diameter that accommodates six strips of bacon, but even my twelve-inch Lodge flunks the test; half the strips are forced into nervous smiles, and their apprehension prevents them from cooking evenly. My alternative lets the bacon stretch out straight, and requires less attention. It also ensures that splattering is contained to my self-cleaning oven, and I don’t have to spend five minutes with a scrubbie and a bottle of 409, swabbing the walls, the stovetop and the back of the coffee grinder.

Pull out your most disreputable sheet pan and deal those strips of bacon like the flop in a hand of Texas Hold ’Em. Put it in a cold oven, crank the heat up to 450, then fan the Sunday paper out on the table. Wait for the beep, which indicates the oven is up to temperature. This is very suspect science, but zero to 450 takes seventeen minutes in my gas oven: I have time to wish to that I could write like Maureen Dowd and memorize the salient portions of Sunday Styles before I tear myself away from the Vows story and heed the chime of the oven. I might have to turn a slice or three, but the bacon is usually flat, crispy and two minutes from incineration: -porky perfection. I drain it on three layers of paper towel -- on those rare Sundays it isn’t upstairs with the Windex it the bathroom -- otherwise, the business section does the job.

The kitchen’s heating up. Pour the fat from the sheet pan into an eight-inch cast iron skillet, and fire up the flame -- make that fat sizzle! You have time to pull out a plate: a dinner plate. For years I squeezed and shimmied this feast onto a salad plate, a Calvinist crime; this spread needs to loll and languish, and the dishwasher doesn’t care what size the mattress is. Check for soft butter, and a spreader. Slice the bread, pop it into the toaster, and nudge the fridge door open with the left knee. Fumble for an egg.

A kind foodie friend from cyberspace once shipped me two dozen eggs warm from her henhouse. In the hissing fat, the yolks stood up stiff, hard and perky as a starlet’s silicone, and they ran the orange of a Cadbury Crème Egg. The flavor was so intense and eggy that I moaned at the breakfast table. But I can’t hold to that ovoid standard every week. The egg from the Styrofoam carton is probably a week from its sell-by date, but the titty analogy wouldn’t be stretched to mention the considerable charms of a natural breast bestowed with the character that a few years rack up. Dude. It’s still sexy.

Pick up a tablespoon and dip it into the fat. Baste the egg, with special attention to the white, so you firm what my brother called the “egg snot.” Ten passes with the spoon will firm the albumen and veil the yolk, as tenderly as tulle over the face of a dewy bride.

God, the toast! It’s easy to forget when you’re trying to coax perfection from an egg sunny side up. Although cooking the egg is a matter of seconds, you must remember the raft, the couch, the mattress. Pull the toast from its slot, butter it, and spread it like a book on the plate. Plunk the egg on one page, the bacon on the other. Dust the egg with salt -- I love the crunch of fleur de sel -- and rub out three grinds of your Peugeot’s coarsest.

Dip the knife into the yolk and watch it spurt, half onto the plate, half lapping the bread. Cut a cube of toast, dip it into the golden mess on the plate, and spear an inch of bacon. Close your eyes and savor the crisp and the soft, the salt and the suave.

It’s not transubstantiation, conversion or orgasm: it’s yin and yang on your tongue. It’s holding hands across the real estate section, it’s kissing while you do the dishes. It’s hearing him whistle I’m in the Mood for Love through the window of your Florentine hotel room when he returns from the farmacia with your corn plasters in his pocket. It’s sustaining, it’s easy, it’s slippery and luscious and crunchy, as ageless and reliable as lazy love on a Sunday morning.

Long ago I bowed to the likelihood that few will ever know more than a few moments of the sweet shared bliss that my parents seem to conjure every moment of the day. But a newspaper, a lover, and a plate of bacon and eggs? I might settle for that. It’s certainly worth a toast.

<i>Margaret McArthur, aka maggiethecat, is host and Dark Lady of the Daily Gullet Competition Forum. She writes, cooks and tends her garden near Chicago.

Art by Dave Scantland, aka Dave the Cook.</i>

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I'd say you give Maureen Dowd some stiff competition!



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Since reading this earlier, I keep trying to find some neat thing to say that would amuse, but no cute lines are coming from me. The original thought remains stuck firmly in my mind and will not be pried out by any other words.

Lovely. Just lovely, Maggie.

In the hugest and best sense of the word.


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

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It helps that I've gotten a little distance on this (having had the pleasure of editing it) because it is indeed lovely. But:

- This bacon-basting , snot-coagulating, egg-frying method: has anyone tried it? I did, within hours of learning about it. Given a choice, I haven't had eggs any other way since.

- Is Maggie right about the best bread for toast -- day-old artisan boule?

- How many other food references can we pry out of A.A. Milne? (Maggie already found my favorite.)

- Given Maggie's well-documented Anglophilia: no broiled tomato? Discuss.

- Breasts and egg yolks. Compare and contrast (but stay on topic!)

- Precisely how many Glenfiddiches does it take to induce temporary amnesia?

I'd say you give Maureen Dowd some stiff competition!

More important, at least to the Daily Gullet, she gives Laurie Colwin the same.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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- How many other food references can we pry out of A.A. Milne? (Maggie already found my favorite.)

Off the top of my head:

What is the matter with Mary Jane?

She's perfectly well and she hasn't a pain.

It's lovely rice pudding for supper again.

So what is the matter with Mary Jane?

And:

The King said, "Bother!"

And then he said, "Oh, deary me!"

The King sobbed, "Oh, deary me!"

And went back to bed.

"Nobody,"

He whimpered, "Could call me a fussy man; but

I only want a little bit of butter for my bread!"

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- How many other food references can we pry out of A.A. Milne? (Maggie already found my favorite.)

The King said, "Bother!"

And then he said, "Oh, deary me!"

The King sobbed, "Oh, deary me!"

And went back to bed.

"Nobody,"

He whimpered, "Could call me a fussy man; but

I only want a little bit of butter for my bread!"

Oh Behemoth, I love that. The King asked the Queen and the Queen asked the dairymaid... (Is that right?) And "I don't want marmelade!"

Lovely rice pudding for dinner again. You made me cry. My father read Milne to me every night for years.... it's a perfect world.

However, given our context, and again I'm winging it sans taxt from a long time ago:

"A Bear, no matter how he tries

Grows tubby without exercise."


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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My (maternal) grandmother read those to me when I was little. She currently lives in a fairly nice condo/assisted living type place. The dining room is by and large quite good, but whenever she's bored with the food she turns to me and recites the rice pudding poem. :smile:

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What a lovely tale of what must have been a rip roaring event! Did your mother's interjection into your speech bring down the house? Or was this a private joke that you later so evocatively shared with us?

Flat bacon! I love flat bacon! Went RV camping with a bunch of Clampers. One of our contribution to a communal breakfast was oven roasted bacon. A slightly hung over Clamper picked up a slice, examined it quizzically along its length, and finally in wonderment proclaimed "Flat bacon! How'dja do that?" Ever since, that's its name.

However, I never bother to preheat the oven for flat bacon. Just stick it in there cold. You put bacon in a cold pan, don'tcha? In fact, I often set the oven temp at say 250 or 300 because then I can start it early, leisurely go about other breakfast tasks, and minimize the risk of burned flat bacon due to forgetfulness brought on by say an extra mimosa or good company. If you're in a hurry, 450 works great. All it takes is a couple of degrease sessions, and the flat bacon is nice and fresh when you are ready to eat.

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- How many other food references can we pry out of A.A. Milne? (Maggie already found my favorite.)

"How long does getting thin take? Pooh asked anxiously."

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- Breasts and egg yolks. Compare and contrast (but stay on topic!)

". . .an egg which has succeeded in being fresh has done all that can reasonably be expected of it."

(Henry James)

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There is something about bacon and eggs that satisfies, regardless of the circumstances. But bacon and eggs cooked by the love of your life is something else altogether. I don't know it there's anything better -- well, except for the toast, perhaps.

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Maggie - gorgeous story!

Your beautiful words filled my heart and your recipe just finished filling my tummy!

Yummy!!

Thanks,

Patti


Patti Davis

www.anatomyofadinnerparty.com

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Thanks for all your kind words.

Did your mother's interjection into your speech bring down the house?
Oh, yeah! And it made my writer persona want to jab one of those heels into my ankle. Why hadn't I thought of something that dead on perfect?
However, I never bother to preheat the oven for flat bacon. Just stick it in there cold. You put bacon in a cold pan, don'tcha? In fact, I often set the oven temp at say 250 or 300 because then I can start it early, leisurely go about other breakfast tasks, and minimize the risk of burned flat bacon due to forgetfulness

No, I don't preheat --just set the oven for 450 and wait for the beep that tells me it's up to temp. I like your idea of using a slower oven, and I'll try it some Sunday when I'm not ravenous.

Given Maggie's well-documented Anglophilia: no broiled tomato? Discuss.
Well, I don't think of myself as an Anglophile, actually-- I'm a granddaughter of English immigrants! And , of course, my mother, being a perfect person, always does the grilled tomatoes when she prepares her B and E lunches. A true daughter of Lancashire parents, she occasionally does the baked beans. I'm just too greedy to add another step and something else to watch .

On some strange karmic note, the blouse Mummy wore at the anniverary party arrived in the mailbox today. I love my mother's hand-me-downs!


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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There is something about bacon and eggs that satisfies, regardless of the circumstances. But bacon and eggs cooked by the love of your life is something else altogether. I don't know it there's anything better -- well, except for the toast, perhaps.

You are so right, JAZ. Bacon and eggs is a very satisfying dinner, for that matter, but I always do the grilled tomatoes if it's dinner -- gotta get the vegetable presence!

Cooking bacon and eggs for the love of your life -- there's nothing better.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Still wordless, I can only offer what Dorothy Sayer writes of your subject, Maggie:

"I have never regretted Paradise Lost since I discovered it contained no eggs-and-bacon."

:wink:

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"I have never regretted Paradise Lost since I discovered it contained no eggs-and-bacon."

:wink:

Dorothy was right. (It was sad to see her fall in love with Lord Peter, and project herself into the Harriet Vane role, but, well, writers aren't always all there!)

Back to Milne and food. I remembered haycorns today, and honey and thistle. (How could I have forgotten haycorns?) So I googled a little and found this gem from the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It's not about bacon and eggs , per se, but I wish JAMA published this stuff: Pooh had ADD. Kanga was a single Mom. Owl was dyslexic. Eeyore needed Lexapro. Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental perspective on A.A. Milne And poor Piglet....

Print it out and read it with your bacon and eggs tomorrow morning. You will have a better day.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Back to Milne and food.  I remembered haycorns today, and honey and thistle. (How could I have forgotten haycorns?) So I googled a little and found this gem from the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It's not about bacon and eggs , per se, but I wish JAMA published this stuff: Pooh had ADD. Kanga was a single Mom. Owl was dyslexic.  Eeyore needed Lexapro. Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental perspective on A.A. Milne And poor Piglet....

Print it out and read it with your bacon and eggs tomorrow morning.  You will have a better day.

Ah. How simple haycorns are, and honey and thistle. How wonderfully simple.

You reminded me that I have two books on my bookshelf (unread yet, a gift from a friend) on Pooh. "The Pooh Perplex" by Frederick C. Crews which includes such chapters as "Winnie and the Cultural Stream" or "A.A. Milne's Honey-Balloon-Pit-Gun-Tail- Bathtubcomplex" and then another book; "Postmodern Pooh" by the same author with chapters such as "The Fissured Subtext: Historical Problematics, the Absolute Cause, Transcoded Contradictions, and Late-Captitalist Metanarrative (in Pooh), or yet another "The Courage to Squeal".

(Yes, apparently, thank goodness, they are satire.)

And there is always "The Tao of Pooh" which is a rather nice little book, too.

Pooh rules.

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- This bacon-basting , snot-coagulating, egg-frying method: has anyone tried it? I did, within hours of learning about it. Given a choice, I haven't had eggs any other way since.

I like frying eggs in bacon fat, but don't tend to do the basting thing. I find that basting with bacon fat inevitably leaves little speckles of bacon schmutz on the otherwise pristine white surface of the egg. I suppose I could filter the bacon fat through a paper towel, but it seems like too much trouble. I also like to fry eggs over medium-low heat in nonstick rather than over high heat in cast iron. Lower heat tends to produce a more tender, whiter, less greasy fried egg whereas high heat results in a crispy, slightly browned, much greasier egg. Nonstick also helps in this regard. I find the frypan shape much easier to get a spatula into, and I confess that I also favor a large frypan because it's easier to make two fried eggs instead of one. Anyway. . . my trick for making sure the surface of the egg is cooked through is simply to cover the pan for around 30-60 seconds.

I suppose it comes down, in some ways, to the difference between a "city fried egg" and a "country fried egg" -- if that makes any sense. The former is more tender, less greasy and more cosmetic whereas the latter is crispy, less cosmetic and more greasy, but perhaps with a stronger flavor due to the increased absorption of bacon fat.

While we're on the subject of bacon, eggs and toast. . . what about other starches? Nothing satisfies quite like a couple of fried eggs, bacon and grits -- although I like to have toast with this as well.

Anyway. . . I was inspired by the article, and did two eggs crispy this morning with bacon, toast and grits.

gallery_8505_416_91159.jpg


--

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Excellent. :wub:


Noise is music. All else is food.

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That is one beautiful breakfast, Sam. Being a northern kinda person, grits don't come automatically to mind for me as a breakfast dish, and of course, they should. Nuts, I should have checked in here before I made breakfast!

My mother uses the covered pan method for solidifying eggs on occasion too, when she's looking for a low(er) cholesterol lunch. It works very well, and does produce the pristine citified egg you've described. I like bacon schmutz myself, and I prefer the crispy edge of the down-home egg, but hey, it's all good.

Other starches? Well, hashbrowns come to mind of course. But I'm wondering...reheated leftover garlic mashed potatoes, crowned with an egg?


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Very, very nice Maggie. My sweetie makes me bacon and eggs and toast every weekend. :smile: He is the master of sunny side up, lovely runny egg yolks, and yes, they are basted in bacon fat. I don't mind that splats, they add flavour to the eggs.

Toast is for dipping into your egg yolk! No grilled tomatoes please, but hash browns, real shredded, fried in butter, crispy hash browns? Yes please!


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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      That's the article as I started writing it. But over time, Nora's words came to haunt me. The whole shtick began to smell a bit fishy, and I began to fear that, like many tropes, this metaphor turned attention away from a trickier, worrisome truth hiding in plain view.

      But unlike many tropes, the worrisome truth I was hiding is in the object, and not the subject, of the metaphor. That is, the metaphor wasn't really about my relationship to mentoring. It was really about my relationship to sausage.

      Imagine the scene: I whip out my sausage maker and give ten reasons why my metaphor is bigger and better than everyone else's. (I did mention that I was the only man among three dozen women in that training, didn't I?) Laugh if you want, but one's sausage is important to many a man. A quick perusal of this topic reveals that I'm not alone. (You did notice the gender breakdown in that topic, didn't you?)

      Last weekend, while in the unfinished basement of a chef buddy, talk turned to our sausages, and before long we four charcuterie nuts were looking at our feet and commiserating about our failures. We shared a bond: our sausages had the better of us, and we knew it. Pathetic though it is, are you surprised that I felt a deep sense of relief, even of control, when I walked through my ten reasons? My metaphor afforded me a rare opportunity to feel superior to the process of sausage-making, and believe me, that doesn't happen often.

      My name is Chris A., and I have sausage anxiety.

      Read that list up there about my sausage maker, the instrument that I describe with distanced assurance. It's a ruse, I tell you. No matter how often I try to buck up, no matter how definitive a recipe, no matter how wonderful a pork butt or a lamb shoulder, when it comes to making sausages, I go limp with worry.

      Can you blame me? Look at all the places you can screw up, where your sausage can fail you utterly and leave you in tears.

      You grab some wonderful meat, hold it in your hands, appreciate its glory. Chill. You grind it, add some fat, and sprinkle some seasoning, whatever the flesh requires. Chill again. Slow down, contemplate the moon or something. You paddle that meat to bind it, melding flavor and texture seamlessly. Chill some more. What's your hurry? Toss a bit into a skillet, ask: are we ready? and adjust as needed. Stuff away. Then relax. If you can.

      I can't. You need to keep things cool to take care of your sausage, and it's challenging to stay cool when I'm all a-flutter about the prospect of a culminating, perfect, harmonious bind. If you read the books and you watch the shows, everyone acts just about as cool as a cucumber. But that's not real life with my sausage.

      It's a frenzy, I tell you. I know I should chill and relax, but I get all hot and bothered, start hurrying things along, unable to let the meat chill sufficiently, to take things slowly. Hell, I'm sweating now just thinking about it.

      I have to admit that I don't have this sausage problem when I'm alone in the house, have a couple of hours to kill, and know I won't be disturbed. I just settle in, take it nice and slow, not a care in the world, and everything comes out fine. But with someone else around, forget about it.

      Despite this mishegas, my wife is as supportive as she can be. She humors me patiently about these things, gently chiding, "Slow down! The house isn't on fire. It's just your sausage." Though I know she loves me despite my foibles, that sort of talk just adds fuel to that fire -- I mean, she can speak so glibly because it's not her sausage we're worrying about.

      Even if I am I able to relax, the prospect of sudden, precipitous sausage humiliation comes crashing down upon me. Think of it. All seems to be going so well -- a little too well. I'm keeping things cool, making sure that I'm taking it easy, following the plan step-by-step, trusting my instincts. I smile. I get cocky.

      And then, the frying pan hits the fire, and within moments I'm hanging my head: instead of forming a perfect bind, my sausage breaks and I break down. I want a firm, solid mass, and I'm watching a crumbly, limp link ooze liquid with embarrassing rapidity.

      Given my gender, in the past I've tried to subdue sausage anxiety with predictable contrivances: machines, science, and technique. If there's a tool or a book useful for perfecting my sausage, I've bought or coveted it. I calculate ratios of meat, salt, cure, sugar, and seasonings past the decimal; I measure out ingredients to the gram on digital scales; I poke instant-read thermometers into piles of seasoned meat; I take the grinder blade to my local knife sharpener to get the perfect edge. (We've already covered the stuffer above, of course.) I've got a full supply of dextrose, Bactoferm, and DQ curing salts numbers 1 and 2. The broken binding of my copy of Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie has xeroxes and print-outs from eight other sources, and the pages are filled with crossed-out and recalculated recipes.

      It's the sort of thing that I used to do when I was younger: arm myself with all things known to mankind and blast ahead. It hasn't helped. I've learned the hard way that my hysterical masculine attempt to master all knowledge and technology has led, simply, to more panic and collapse.

      There is, I think, hope. I'm older, and my approach to my sausage has matured. I'm in less of a hurry, I roll with the challenges, and when the house is on fire, I just find a hydrant for my hose.

      If things collapse, well, I try to take the long view, recall the successes of my youth, and keep my head up. I mean, it's just my sausage.

      * * *

      Chris Amirault (aka, well, chrisamirault) is Director of Operations, eG Forums. He also runs a preschool and teaches in Providence, RI.
    • By Tara Middleton
      Alright so as of a few months ago, I decided to take an impromptu trip to Europe--mostly unplanned but with several priorities set in mind: find the best food and locate the most game-changing ice cream spots on the grounds of each city I sought out for. One of the greatest, most architecturally unique and divine cities I have visited thus far has gotta be Vienna, Austria. But what in the heck is there to eat over there?! (you might ask). 'Cause I sure as hell didn't know. So, I desperately reached out to a local Viennese friend of mine, who knows and understands my avid passion for all things edible, and she immediately shot back some must-have food dishes. Doing a bit of research beforehand, I knew I had to try the classic "Kasekreiner". Please forgive my German if I spelled that wrong. But no matter how you say it- say it with passion, because passion is just about all I felt when I ate it. Translated: it basically means cheese sausage. Honestly, what is there not to love about those two words. Even if that's not necessarily your go-to, do me a favor and give it a shot. Trust me, you won't regret it. A classic Austrian pork sausage with pockets of melty cheese, stuffed into a crisp French Baguette. No ketchup necessary (...and as an American, that's saying a lot). YUM. Best spot to try out this one-of-a-kind treat?! Bitzinger bei der Albertina – Würstelstand. Now here's a shot of me with my one true love in front of this classic Viennese green-domed building-- Karlskirche. Now, go check it.
       
       

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