My uncle who lives in Astoria, Oregon, used to live in Saudi Arabia for ten years between the mid-1970s to 80s. I don’t know what he was doing there at the time, but when he came to visit us, he had some exciting tales and some pretty interesting gifts. He brought my brother an old sword, which appeared to have some dried blood on it. For my sister, he had a camel skin bag, which smelled horribly, but the etching and design on it were exquisite. He gave me a gold necklace with a pendant of a Sagittarius, which I thought was odd because no one in our household was that sign, but the design was pretty so I didn’t complain.
He’d ask my mother to make him some bacon, which was something he was not allowed to eat in the Muslim country. Nothing pleased him more than to have some bacon and rice, and of course, some good old American beer (alcohol was another forbidden item). Unfortunately, half of the beer would be out of the can before he would be able to drink it. My brother used to shake the can while he’d bring it upstairs from the basement fridge, and Uncle would have a welcome-home surprise.
Bacon and rice is a favorite breakfast item at my house. For the Princess, I would make “bacon maki” for which I would put a bite-size piece of bacon on top of a small ball of rice; she loves to eat with her fingers. Or sometimes, she prefers having bacon with some “moorl-bop” (water or tea with rice). HB likes to have his bacon and rice with a sunny-side up egg all mashed and mixed with a squirt of ketchup and some hot sauce. Me? Although I like bacon and rice like everyone else, I generally prefer bacon with egg between pieces of toasted bread. Sometimes I would get fancy and spread a bit of Boursin on the toast and add some baby spinach and Campari tomatoes in the sandwich. When I think of breakfast sandwiches, I am reminded of breakfasts at Sonia’s Café in Lechmere (no longer there), where I’d meet with my dear friend Daniel when he’d be post-call. Good times!
What makes bacon so comforting? The combination of salty and slightly sweet, crispy and chewy, tender and tough. It could also be the memories associated with it. I think of my soul-brother, Sam, who would be able to finish a pound or more of bacon in one setting. He claimed it was the way I cooked it that made it hard for him to stop eating. Even though he tried to replicate my technique of cooking it at home, it was never quite the same. (I joked, “You have to cook it with chopsticks in a non-stick pan at high heat, while turning it regularly to keep it from burning.”) I also think of my college friend, Romana, who is Muslim and also loves bacon. When she and I would go to Sam’s family house on the Cape, we would create magnificent feasts. For part of my wedding gift, she gave me a cast iron pan and a bacon press.
Nowadays, I just cook bacon using the broiler and give it one turn, especially as I’m busy mulitasking—whether it’s cutting up fresh fruit, preparing hash browns or fried potatoes, or making smoothies. But whenever I get the chance, I cook the bacon on the stovetop and think of all the people I’ve known who love bacon.