After living in a hotel for a week and having to eat most meals out, then moving and getting settled and grabbing food on the go or getting carry-out (or 'take away', as they say here,) I thought that a great way to make our new house feel like a home was to have a home-cooked, easily recognized entrée that wasn’t the British interpretation of our American fare. I strongly felt the need to create a family meal around which we could all recapture that secure, familiar feeling…you know, the one that has you thinking, “God, I am so fortunate! So blessed! Look at how wonderful my life is!” (And how tasty my food is.)
I was having a difficult time getting the seemingly simple meal put together, though. Here’s a sampling of how it went:
Want some pancakes? Okay, but I have to make the batter from scratch…I can’t find any pancake mix. And the recipe is in metric, and I don’t have a scale. The pan will only cook the middle of the pancake when I do it on this burner. Try a different burner? That one will only cook the outside of the pancake. No matter what, the pancake is gonna stick to the pan, too. It is apparently fake Teflon. The nasty scrapings that might pass as a pancake aren’t going to taste the same in the absence of maple syrup…ANOTHER product I cannot find. (Sigh.) I’ll just make you a PBJ.
Let’s try some grilled cheese sandwiches, or turkey and cheese panini! Oh, yeah…well, we can’t exactly do that easily, either. We first need to melt the butter to spread it on the bread, and we don’t have a microwave, so let’s melt it on the stove in another pan. We also need to warm the turkey and the cheese in yet another pan before we put it on the sandwich. Why? Because it will otherwise be cold in the middle of the sandwich since even the lowest setting is still too high to keep the bread from burning if it is on there for more than seconds at a time. Therefore, our family meal of sandwiches will be served one at a time, over the course of 45 minutes.
How about stir-fry? We have that cool new wok from Ikea. Uh, yes, but we need to buy oil as well as some sort of stir-fry sauce for the veggies and meat. Those kind of things we always had on hand at home, and I took them for granted.
I know…we can have spaghetti! Brown the ground beef, boil the noodles…. ummmm…. wait a minute. Where is the colander?
Bacon…yes, bacon. We are in the LAND of bacon, after all. We’ll have some bacon!
So, with great optimism for the family meal, I went to the butcher shop to get bacon, of which there are like a dozen kinds. There’s the kind that is really just ham (as we Yankees know it.) Then there’s the strip of it that has the oval shaped piece ham still attached. There’s the kind that has about a quarter of the bacon strip alongside the oval shaped piece of ham. It’s not easy to find the kind that’s just the strip. In addition to the multitude of shapes and kinds, they also come smoked, unsmoked, with or without the rind. Yes, the rind – the SKIN. The PIG’S SKIN. Now there’s a lesson learned that won’t soon be forgotten.
Here’s how the whole thing went:
Me: Look, babe! I got the kind of bacon you like, the kind the kids like, and it’s all in ONE PIECE! How cool is that? I gotta tell you, it was kind of stressful standing there in line at the butcher shop. As soon as I start speaking, everyone stares at me. Then, I can hardly understand what the butcher is saying to me as I ask a few questions. Plus there’s this line behind me and I’m feeling like they are all sighing and rolling their eyes because I’m taking too long. But the butcher shows me this stuff and I was all like, “Bonus!” because it has the two kinds of bacon and it costs the same as the other kind!
(I proudly place the wrapped package down on the counter and Husband starts to open it, wondering where things went so horribly wrong that his once cool wife was now capable of bubbling with joy over a few slices bacon.)
Husband: Sweet....we're all starving. I’ll start cooking it.
I walk away to start setting the table. A meal at last!
Husband: Ummmm, hon…can you come over here, please?”
I bounce back into the kitchen, anticipating something great…like I’ve purchased the Cadillac of bacon and Husband is going to show me how perfectly it cooks up. Or not.
Husband: The skin is still on the bacon.
Me: Whaddyu mean? Bacon doesn't have skin, Husband. (I look at the bacon, searching for something brown, hairy, and gross. He’s out of his mind, I’m thinking. How DARE he stomp on my great bacon buzz?) Where? I don’t see any skin. That’s just fat…trim it off.
Husband: No, that's skin. Feel it…it’s all rough.
Me: Hell no, I’m not feeling it!
Husband: (He points all along the perimeter of my previously perfect purchase) See? It’s the skin. It’s the stuff they use to make pork rinds….you know, like if you trim this off, drop it in a deep fryer, it’ll go like this (he makes a frying-like noise) and then puff up like a Cheeto.
Me: I’ve never eaten a pork rind in my entire life. (As if this princess-like statement was furthering the conversation or solving the problem.)
Husband: (Rolls his eyes) Glad to hear it. (He turns back to the counter, grabbing a knife.) I’ll just trim it off. Next time, ask for rindless bacon. (He starts to cut it.) Man, this shit’s NASTY.
Me: (Agitated) Who the hell wants bacon WITH rinds, anyway? What the f*#* do these people eat around here? (I walk to the family room, where the boys are hungrily and patiently watching TV.) Boys, it’s gonna be about 20 minutes until dinner is ready.
Son 2: But I’m STAAAAAARRRRRRVING!
Son 1: Didja burn something again?
Me: No, I did NOT burn anything. It’s just that – (I pause. If I say there’s pigskin in there, they are going to run in and want to see. If they touch it, I’m going to have to make them wash their hands for like 20 minutes.) - it’s just going to take some time to fry up all the delicious bacon, that’s all. (I return to the kitchen to gather the bleach spray and rubber gloves…I don’t know if the trichinosis bacteria survive through the smoking process, but I’m not taking any chances. This place is getting a sanitizing.)