What if the Lord's Prayer actually said, "...and give us this day our Daily bacon..."?
Bread is fine, don't get me wrong, and really good bread is brilliant. I love the chewy texture and light acidic tang of San Francisco sourdough. Olive Pugliese is heaven when grilled or just dipped in olive oil as an appetizer. A sturdy, dark Russian loaf, sliced and slathered with sinus blazing mustard and cured meat is the epitome of sustenance. But, bacon? It raises the Dead...
A guest at our Fourth of July party brought a perfect little tray of deviled eggs as part of the pot-luck and handed me a brown paper wrapped package. "You'll need something to help you clean up tomorrow morning after the mess we leave," she assured me with a chipper smile; lipstick and shoes perfectly matching coral. I didn't open it for two days, but, when we eventually got around to opening it and giving it some heat, Brendan, our home for the summer collegiate, found his voice.
"Shit! Where the F is this from!? Dad, this is like the BEST bacon I've ever had...it's so thick and the smoke is like perfect...and like it's not crispy...these are like bacon steaks!" I allow some latitude with language when the girls are not awake, so, channeling his passion for an outstanding product via dorm room profanity was permissible.
"So, you like, like it then?" I replied while pouring drippings into a ramekin, only to get actual eye contact of condescension for using 'like' twice in a sentence.
"Yeah, it's from Otto's Sausages over in Eastmoreland on Woodstock Blvd. They've been doing things right for over 80 years. Break down deer and elk, too, cut and wrapped."
"Damn, it's as good as Daily's, " Brendan noted, referencing our preferred, commercial brand we source for our home in restaurant supply houses, only this was even thicker.
Brendan and I went on to analyze these hefty strips of cured pork belly. What makes superior bacon so much more of a treat? Cut, cure, smoke? All of the above we concurred, but, proper slow cooking is key to doing honor. The fat and the meat in bacon must be cooked to the same temperature. Too fast and the meat draws up, curling the strip while the fat remains in cupped pockets of white. Wrong.
Too slow and over done? The fat renders and becomes crisp creating a rigid strip of incinerated protein and crunchy fat more reminiscent of Mexican chicharrones.
Last week, the family went on an outing to the Columbia River Gorge with stops at one art museum and a winery. It was a beautiful and breathtaking drive, but, a long one in 95 degrees. A final stop in Hood River at Full Sail Brewing seemed a logical recompense for the girls, Siobhan and Risa our Japanese exchange student, being such troopers. Plus Mom and Dad needed a pint of hoppy, malty goodness. Bonnie Belle ordered a cheeseburger, the rest of us Big Salads. The facility is a monstrous brewing complex started in 1987 and has grown each year. With balcony seating overlooking the windsurfers on the Columbia River and bustling train tracks directly below, it can't be beat. Cheese and crackers would have been fine. And beer.
Salads arrived and our 8 month pregnant waitress slid Siobhan's burger, open-faced, into her place setting.
"Dad, lookit," she motioned with her finger, "this bacon looks a-MAZ-ing!"
Sure as hell, on top of her burger patty with lightly melted cheese, lay two thick, perfectly cooked slices or porcine art, draping her entree like a festive table runner at a holiday meal.
"Oh baby, that looks NICE!" I proclaimed as Siobhan held a look of finding a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
We all dug in and as usual, something funny came up while dining. Risa cannot, under any circumstances, eat carrots or celery. So, Siobhan tried to fool her by blindfolding her with a napkin and putting small bites into her mouth while Risa guessed what it was. She immediately spit out the carrot shavings and minuscule celery slices we attempted to trick her with. The blindfold was passed around and each of us allowed our dining partners to put things in our mouths to test our palates. It became a source of entertainment to tables around us, but, I thought, it's OK; we weren't being loud or vulgar, just having fun. I was last...
Siobhan fed me a garbanzo bean, a black bean, Dijon with catsup. Slam dunk.
"Last one, Dad," she proclaimed as laughter increased around us.
Something scratched my nostril and soon was IN my nose! I jerked my head back, yelled 'OW!' and ripped off my blindfold to see Siobhan holding one of her french fries in two fingers.
"That's not fair!" I yelled.
"It's a French Fry, dad," she beamed with a horrible grin.
Tables around us were hooting. Thank God it didn't have any dipping sauce on it. Again, no harm and no foul.
We finished our meals but, Siobhan had one bite left of her burger. I offered to take care of it and she graciously acquiesced. The meat was thick and retained a perfect Medium temperature, the tail-end of a piece of bacon remained. Fortune was smiling on me. It was beyond delicious. The texture of the meat was as if we cooked it at home, the bacon cooked on a sheet pan in an oven, the best way to have flat, meat/fat doneness.
We paid our waitress and headed for the door, weaving through tables of windsurfer spectators.
"I'll bet that bacon was Daily's Brand," I told Lisa, "it was THAT good."
Passing the kitchen door, I couldn't help it, so, asked a nearby waitress what bacon brand was used for the burgers. She looked at me for a second like I was some kinda nut, then, changed to server face and said she would inquire. Peeking through the service door, I saw her asking a cook. His shoulder shrug indicated he didn't know and really didn't care. A floor manager passed by and came through the kitchen door, asking if I needed help. I told her how impressive the simple burger was: beef with Medium temp throughout and the bacon was perfectly cooked, not raw, not crunchy strips of fat.
The waitress popped through the door at this time.
"We use Daily's brand bacon...is that what you wanted?"
Yes, it's exactly what I wanted. Thick, flat, salty, smokey bacon that lays like glove leather.
Thank you Lord for our Daily Bacon...
Take care, God bless and remember:
"Food, Faith, Family and Friends,
the Best Things in Life Aren't Things!"