There are a few smells in life that will pull in a person in from the back yard or rouse someone out of bed in the morning. Chocolate chip cookies in the oven. Marinara sauce simmering on the stove. Coffee brewing, or even better, a cup of coffee placed under your nose when you’re barely awake.
And one of these smells is that of bacon cooking. I remember waking up on Sunday morning when I was a small girl to the smell of Mom cooking bacon in the kitchen. Mom didn’t cook breakfast for us that often since she worked almost every day at the bakery. So Sunday morning bacon smells were special.
Bill said his mother made his father breakfast every day of their married life. And every day that breakfast consisted of bacon, eggs, and white toast. Rex probably was used to that from growing up on the North Carolina farm, although my guess is the white toast was biscuits when he was a child, North Carolina and all.
When Mom made bacon, she laid the slices of smoked meat in a skillet, let them cook a bit, turned them over, let them cook a bit, and then repeated until the bacon was cooked through and crispy. She laid them perfectly straight and in a row in a skillet.
All of her kids thought everything that Mom did in the kitchen was perfect, so it was with great surprise the first time I saw my brother cook bacon as an adult. Rather than laying it carefully in the skillet as I did in imitation of Mom, he simply tossed the entire pound of bacon in the skillet until it began to cook. At that point he separated the slices and continued cooking. Heresy. He’s lucky Mom always liked him best.
The first time I cooked breakfast for my mother-in-law Wilma, she watched carefully as I broke some eggs into a bowl. Before I could add any liquid, she casually asked, “Do you use water or milk for your scrambled eggs?”
Gulp. “Water?” I asked more than said. Ding ding ding. It was the right answer. Dodged that bullet.
When I first met Wilma, she cooked her bacon in a skillet like my mom. In her later years, however, she would cut each slice of bacon in half and place them on a paper towel; she would then cover the bacon with another paper towel and cook them in the microwave. The bacon always turned out perfectly.
My daughter-in-law Jll does the same thing. She always (or at least always when I’m there) cooks her bacon in the microwave and it always turns out perfectly. I have tried it my friends. It is safe to say that it has never – NEVER – turned out even close to right. Here’s what happens every single time: I lay the bacon on the paper towel and cover it with another paper towel. I set the timer for the correct amount of time (there is a formula for how many minutes to cook based on how many slices you’re cooking). I check the bacon and it is limp and undercooked. I cook it for another minute. I check it and it is undercooked. I cook it for another minute. I check it and it is undercooked. I cook it for another minute. I check it and it has disintegrated into a dust that formerly was known as bacon. Sigh.
So I continue to cut my bacon in half in imitation of Wilma and cook my bacon in a skillet in imitation of my mother.
Bill and I enjoy the bacon as part of our breakfast. And here’s my dirty little secret: One of my favorite ways to eat bacon is on buttered white toast. There’s something about the butter mixed with the bacon grease that is just good, if it isn’t healthy.
And, also like my mother, I cook my eggs in the bacon grease, breaking the yolk on one for Bill…..
And, while I’m not a huge breakfast eater, there is hardly anything better than bacon and eggs and white toast, just like Bill’s father ate every morning of his married life.