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Woodworking column: Bacon in all of its forms

"BACON MAKES BETTER LOVERS"—seen on a seed corn cap in River Falls

That's right. Not Sir Francis, the renowned 17th century essayist thought by some to have written the works of Shakespeare, but just plain bacon, the pork product striated with fat and lean, sliced thin or extra thick, fried crisp or limp, has arrived on our cultural scene with a real sizzle.

I recently read that bacon-flavored ice cream is a tantalizing new taste treat.

On TV's "Delicious Destinations" recently, I saw a film clip of a saloon in Philadelphia that served free fried bacon at its happy hour every Tuesday afternoon. LOTS of deep-fried bacon.

And, of course, not to be outdone, River Falls each year sponsors a Bacon Bash, where barkeeps move heaven and earth to figure out a way to concoct a tasty Boodles 'n' bacon martini, or a Bahama 'n' Bacon Bacardi.

Recently at Selah Vie, the local coffee house, the backroom Sages stopped discussing their debate about asphalt vs. concrete driveways and the digestive effectiveness of Metamucil to embark into the ethos of Midwest dietary habits, specifically the introduction of bacon in its many forms and permutations into their childhood households.

I modestly mentioned that many years ago I was mentioned in a column by the great Minneapolis Tribune humorist Will Jones, who reported that I recalled in a Whitehall Times column about Tuesday suppers at Grandma Wood's which all winter was the same every week. "A bowl of cold bacon grease, a pitcher of Karo Syrup, and a stack of homemade bread was placed on the kitchen table. Grandma told us to put three heaping tablespoons of bacon grease into our own little bowls, pour syrup to taste over the grease, stir well with a fork until we had a pool of soft glop, then dip bits of bread into the mixture, pop them into our mouths, then chew, and repeat."

I wrote that it was "kinda like Norwegian guacamole." Will Jones liked that line and apparently so did the editor because soon after I was hired as an occasional columnist.

A torrent of recollections from other Sages echoed through the backroom.

"At home we melted bacon grease and poured it on popped corn!"

"At dinner's end, my Ma brought us our desserts. Her dessert was the heel of a loaf of bread that was sopped full of bacon grease from her frying pan."

"My Old Man never put butter on his pancakes. He preferred hot bacon grease, for a salty kick."

"My Ma always had a coffee can of old bacon grease in the icebox. It was her Universal Ingredient X. She always counseled us to dig deep into the can in order to get some of the good brown stuff."

"My Great Grandpa attended rural school out on the frontier. We didn't have a hot lunch program, so all the kids brought syrup pails stuffed with sandwiches. You could tell the rich kids from the poor kids. The rich kids had bread smeared with bacon grease. The poor kids had bread smeared with white leaf lard. If they could afford it, those kids brought along salt shakers."

Back then it wasn't all fun and games when it came to bacon. If, perchance, a kid developed a taste for RAW bacon, all hell broke loose. "You eat that raw bacon young man, and you will die. Eat raw bacon. Die." It was that simple because in the good old days farmers fed hogs garbage and some of the pigs spread the dread trichinosis, which if you contracted, you were dead. Raw. Dead.

Fortunately today farmers feed hogs food and raise them in sanitary, if very stinky, housing and the worm doesn't get a chance to insinuate itself. So you can snarf down a raw slice now and then. Of course the new pork doesn't taste as good as the old, so you probably wouldn't want to eat it anyway.

But that's another story. The Sages resumed their conversation about Metamucil.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.