Sky Full of Bacon

Here’s a slice of small-town America… served next to a heaping plate of an unusual meat. Sky Full of Bacon takes you to the 82nd Annual Coon Feed at the American Legion post in Delafield, Wisconsin.

Sky Full of Bacon 09: Raccoon Stories from Michael Gebert on Vimeo.

Since the 1920s, the American Legion Post in Delafield, Wisconsin has hosted a raccoon dinner to support its youth sports programs. Even as the World War II vets who run it get older and the town itself becomes a suburb of Milwaukee, the spirit of the old Delafield— a place where you hunted for your supper, the town barber was the center of all the activity, and Al Capone was an occasional visitor— lives on in the stories of the folks preparing the 82nd Annual Coon Feed… and in the hearty welcome they give old friends and strangers (with video cameras) alike. Plus a special guest appearance by a celebrity chef, who tells us his own story about cooking Delafield coon. It’s 18 and a half minutes of a midwest that’s fast disappearing, but still knows how to have a good time on a Saturday night.

Here’s the site for the American Legion post in Delafield—so you can watch for next year’s coon feed and make your travel plans.

Here and here are Cathy Lambrecht’s posts about past Coon Feeds at LTHForum, and this links to stories of the celebrity chef referenced above (I’d watch the video first, though). Monica Eng at the Chi-Trib also brought raccoon into the same place here.


About Sky Full of Bacon
Sky Full of Bacon #8: Pear-Shaped World
Sky Full of Bacon #7: Eat This City
Sky Full of Bacon #6: There Will Be Pork (pt. 2)
Sky Full of Bacon #5: There Will Be Pork (pt. 1)
Sky Full of Bacon #4: A Head’s Tale
Sky Full of Bacon #3: The Last Brisket Show
Sky Full of Bacon #2: Duck School
Sky Full of Bacon #1: How Local Can You Go?

Please feel free to comment here or to email me here.

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“Jealousy is often the tribute artists pay one another.”
—Harold Clurman, All People Are Famous

And so here goes the final set of links to Beard-worthy stuff.


Living Today, Martha Stewart Living Radio: José Andrés (not available online)
Host: Mario Bosquez
Area: Nationwide U.S.
Producers: Naomi Gabay and Lauren Gould Thomas Jefferson and Wine
Hosts: Brian Clark, Eric Anderson, and Jay Selman
Area: Online
Producer: Jay Selman

WINNER: WNYC, The Leonard Lopate Show: 3-Ingredient Challenge
Hosts: Leonard Lopate and Rozanne Gold
Area: New York City Metro, Online
Producer: Sarah English


Obsessives: School Lunch Revolutionary
Producer: Meredith Arthur

The Art of Blending
Hosts: Brian Clark, Eric Anderson, and Jay Selman
Producers: Jay Selman and Mark Ryan

WINNER: Savoring the Best of World Flavors, Volume III: Vietnam and the Island of Sicily
Host: Jonathan Coleman
Producers: John Barkley, Kenneth Wilmoth, Greg Drescher, Steve Jilleba, and Janet Fletcher


WINNER: Lidia’s Italy: Sweet Napoli (not available online)
Host: Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
Network: PBS
Producers: Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Julia Harrison, and Shelly Burgess Nicotra

The Château Dinner: A French Food at Home Special with Laura Calder (not available online)
Host: Laura Calder
Network: Food Network Canada
Producer: Johanna Eliot

We Live to Eat: New Orleans’ Love Affair with Food (not available online)
Network: PBS
Producers: e/Prime Media and the Historic New Orleans Collection


ABC News, Nightline: Platelist (links to one example of series)
Hosts: Martin Bashir, Cynthia McFadden, and Terry Moran
Network: ABC
Producer: Sarah Rosenberg

WINNER: CBS News Sunday Morning: In a Pinch (link to transcript)
Host: Martha Teichner
Network: CBS
Producers: Jon Carras and David Small

ABC 7 News Friday Night Special: Hungry Hound
Host: Steve Dolinsky
Network: ABC
Producer: Badriyyah Waheed

By the way, thanks to Helen at MenuPages and Jeff at Chicagomag’s Dish for making sure I was included in the mentions of the nomination for The Whole Hog Project, and to The Local Beet for putting me in the headline!  And to all the old friends gracious enough to email congratulations or make note of it on their own sites.

Now, on to the rest of the Journalism nominees, and as many links as we can find.  I’ll have one more post for the Broadcast Media awards.


Jonathan Gold
LA Weekly
“A Proper Brasserie,” “A Fine Palate,” “Pho Town”

WINNER: Adam Platt
New York Magazine
“Faux French,” “The Mario of Midtown,” “Corton on Hudson”

Tom Sietsema
The Washington Post
“Great Expectations,” “Robo Restaurant,” “An Earned Exclamation”


Andrew Knowlton
The BA Foodist

Hank Shaw
Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

WINNER: Erika Ehmsen, Elizabeth Jardina, Rick LaFrentz, Amy Machnak, Johanna Silver, Margaret Sloan, and Margo True
Our One-Block Diet


Dorie Greenspan
Bon Appétit
“Bacon-Cheddar Quick Bread,” “All-Purpose Holiday Cake,” “My Go-To Dough”

WINNER: Corby Kummer
The Atlantic
“A Papaya Grows in Holyoke,” “Beyond the McIntosh,” “Half a Loaf”

Laura Shapiro
“Campaign Cookies,” “Why Does America Hate Ratatouille?,” “The Lord is my Chef”

Jane Goldman

Tanya Steel
Ruth Reichl

and last but not least…


Ruth Reichl
“Gourmet Cookbook Club”

WINNER: Ruth Reichl
“The Test Kitchen”

Mike Sula
“The Whole Hog Project” (including Sky Full of Bacon podcasts)

Oh, cruel irony… first I’m overlooked in the LTHForum post about my half of a Beard nomination and then Hammond posts about some guy in Miami who had the same thought I did, about linking to the Beard nominees. What do I have to do to get some attention there, insult Little Three Happiness?

Anyway, time for more Beard nominees, I’ll continue by digging through the magazine articles (reviews and columns will be in the next installment).  Unfortunately, a couple of them are not available online.


WINNER: Ruth Reichl
“The Last Time I Saw Paris…” (not online; a related online piece is here)

Alan Richman
“Eating Small in New York”

Anya von Bremzen
Food & Wine
“The Grilling Genius of Spain”


WINNER: Edna Lewis
“What is Southern?”*
*published posthumously

David Dobbs
Recipes by John Ash
“The Wild Salmon Debate: A Fresh Look at Whether Eating Farmed Salmon is…Well…OK”

James Peterson
“Mother Sauce: The Ancient Art of the Saucier is Alive and Well in the Kitchens of Paris and Beyond” (not online)


WINNER: Alan Richman
“Made (Better) in Japan”

Patricia Sharpe and the staff members of Texas Monthly Magazine
Texas Monthly
“BBQ 08 (The Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas)” (some parts available, most not)

Monique Truong
“My Cherry Amour”


Barry Estabrook
“Greens of Wrath”

Mark Adams, Amanda Fortini, Melissa Kirsch, Josh Ozersky, Rob Patronite, Adam Platt, and Robin Raisfeld
New York Magazine
“What Good is Breakfast?”

WINNER: Rachael Moeller Gorman
“How to Feed Your Mind”


Jon Bonné
San Francisco Chronicle
“Revolution by the Glass”

Jay McInerney
Men’s Vogue
“Billionaire Winos”

WINNER: Alan Richman
“Viva La Revolucion!”


Celia Barbour
O, The Oprah Magazine
“Knead, Pray, Love”

WINNER: Aleksandra Crapanzano

Alan Richman
“My Sweet Life”

UPDATE: Monica Eng’s nominated slaughterhouse piece (which, again, is highly recommended reading) has a new, more readable link here.

As I found when I did a book on movie awards some years ago, the same organizations that make such a fuss over their ceremonies for awards often give short shrift to anyone’s ability to see what was considered award-worthy, or even to know what it actually was— there were titles from the major foreign film festivals, for instance, which had vanished completely (what were you, Golden Harvest of the Witwatersrand, that Venice gave you an award in the 30s?)

So I’m going to try to track down a bunch of the Beard-nominated food journalism and give you the chance to check it out for yourself.  Someday, online award lists will have links. Until then, here for starters are the newspaper nominees.  Enjoy some good eatin’-readin’.


Monica Eng, Phil Vettel
Chicago Tribune
“Big Night. Big Mystery: Why Did Michael Carlson Vanish the Day After Serving Dinner to the Greatest Chefs in the World?”

WINNER: Katy McLaughlin
The Wall Street Journal
“Sushi Bullies”

Tom Sietsema
The Washington Post
“Sound Check” (I think this piece is the correct one, though it has a different title here)


Monica Eng
Chicago Tribune
“Morality Bites: Mustering Some Sympathy for the Bedeviled Ham and Beef”

WINNER: Kristen Hinman
Riverfront Times
“The Pope of Pork”

Craig LaBan
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“The Tender and the Tough”


WINNER: Rebekah Denn
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“High on the Hairy Hogs: Super-Succulent Imports are Everything U.S. Pork Isn’t” (abstract onlyfull article now!)

David Leite
The New York Times
“Perfection? Hint: It’s Warm and Has a Secret”

Kathleen Purvis
The Charlotte Observer
“The Belly of the Beast”


Chicago Tribune
Carol Mighton Haddix

San Francisco Chronicle
Jon Bonné and Miriam Morgan

WINNER: The Washington Post
Joe Yonan

Incidentally, Monica Eng’s ham and beef piece is the one about slaughterhouses which I linked to when I posted the “There Will Be Pork” podcasts, it is definitely worth reading (not that most of them aren’t). The one that’s a mystery to me is David Leite’s one about aging your cookie dough overnight before baking cookies. One, it hardly seems a journalistic breakthrough, two, I tried it and I didn’t see what the big fuss was….

Other Nominees:

Miscellaneous print/online

The Chicago Reader and Sky Full of Bacon earned a nomination at the James Beard Awards today, the biggest awards in the food world. The Whole Hog Project, consisting of Mike Sula’s extensive series of articles and blog posts on mulefoot pigs, plus There Will Be Pork, my two-part video podcast on the same subject, was nominated in the Food Journalism/Multimedia category.

Here are the two parts, if you’ve never seen them:

Sky Full of Bacon 05: There Will Be Pork (pt. 1) from Michael Gebert on Vimeo

Sky Full of Bacon 06: There Will Be Pork (pt. 2) from Michael Gebert on Vimeo.

Incidentally, three of the restaurants featured in those podcasts are up for restaurant awards: Paul Kahan of Blackbird for best chef, Koren Grieveson of Avec (she’s not in it, but one of her chefs, Justin Large, is) for best chef Great Lakes, and The Publican for design/graphics. Other Chicago nominees include Monica Eng (twice), Carol Mighton Haddix and Phil Vettel of the Trib, Steve Hungry Hound Dolinsky, and the Alinea cookbook.

Here’s the Reader’s announcement, which mentions Sky Full of Bacon.

1. Especially good episode of KCRW’s radio show Good Food, with writer Rob Long’s account of life in the socially stratified world of a container ship, and Temple Grandin talking about how animals behave in slaughterhouses (which explained a lot about what I observed while shooting in one), among other things.

2. Stunning high-definition photos of traditional foodmaking in Europe— check out this one on the old way of making Speck (a prosciutto-like pork product), or this one on making cheese 8000 feet up in the Swiss Alps. You could spend hours here, gazing deeply into each photo.
3. Speaking of cheesemaking, here’s a whole blog about Wisconsin artisanal cheesemaking, and a very good one too.
4. Go ahead, say it. There’s an optimism to these 50s and 60s packages that’s missing from today’s soulless packaged goods designs. It’s the obvious comment, and it’s so true. (h/t Dinosaurs and Robots)
5. More Flickr: crashing a wedding in China. Food is involved.
6. Hugh Amano doesn’t post recipes. Believe me, looking at a lot of blogs for something to put here, I’m all for fewer recipes (especially of sweet breads/cakes) and more conceptual writing about cooking… like this piece.
7. There’s going to be an exhibit about one of Chicago’s most fascinating old time restaurants, the Dill Pickle Club, a hangout for bohemians (small b), anarchists, artistes, slumming aristos, and other interesting folks of the 20s.  What Wicker Park dreams of being, it really was.  Here’s a website about the exhibit, though there’s not much there yet.

I kept meaning, a couple of years ago, to go back to Follia, Bruno Abate’s ultrachic Italian restaurant that launched the strip that now includes Moto and Otom, to have true Italian-style woodburning pizza. Then suddenly woodburning Italian pizza places opened all over town and the urgency was gone. When I did finally have it, it was fine, but others were better and Follia did other things better.

Now Abate has himself opened a woodburning pizza place that looks chicer than a year’s subscription to L’Uomo, in Wicker Park, done in space station moderne and filled with his usual beautiful people (not least of them the imposingly tall and impeccably dressed Bruno himself, who looks exactly like he should look). It would be easy to make fun of Bruno and his places for empty glitz and eye candy over food, but tragically, he also runs really good Italian restaurants marked by his devotion to sourcing eye-openingly superior ingredients. I had the best caprese salad of my life, thanks to the best bufala mozzarella of my life, at Follia— and great ingredients are also the making of Tocco.

Well, they’re the making of the pizze, anyway. There have been rather bad notices so far for the other things at Tocco, but the pizza has gotten good comment, and since the pizza and everything else are basically coming out of two separate kitchens, it’s perhaps not surprising that there should be so much divergence. The pizze are made at an area behind the bar— infelicitously, at one point a stinky cheese wafted from that area over the bar— and cooked in some very handsome ovens behind a black tile wall. The crust is almost paper-thin, and frankly, it’s not as interesting as many of the other Italian-style pizzas in town, in terms of its own flavor or chewy texture. But the stuff that went on both of the ones we tried was absolutely top-notch— tangy, complex bufala on one, prosciutto and buttery mozzarella on another. In one of the pizza wars on LTHForum, Antonius said “pizza is about the bread,” to which I replied “except when it isn’t,” ie, when it belongs to a style where the crust is secondary, like Chicago deep dish. This is a pizza that belongs to a style that ought to be about the bread, but transcends it because the stuff on top is so good.

Service at the bar, another complaint in the Time Out review linked above, was helpful, knowledgeable and attentive; the only downside to sitting there is the absurd barstools, which are shaped so inexplicably I still don’t know, after two hours on one, which way you were really supposed to sit on it, and which sink much too low if you’re not model-thin. So try to get a table, and stick to the pizza, and Tocco will make for a solid evening of pizza and beautiful people.

1266 N. Milwaukee

The number in the headline refers to my ongoing series of places not written about so far on LTHForum.

Stephanie Izard has a new video about visiting Allen Brothers, which is better than the first two, if like me, you define better as “less clowning around, more actual chef skills and food related content.” It’s an interesting visit… though I have to think there are scarier parts of Allen Brothers they could have shown us. Oh well, I guess she has her niche (cute and perky) and I have mine (blood dripping from eyeless carcasses)….

(By the way, Ms. Izard doesn’t especially need me touting her videos, but others might benefit from the exposure, so consider this a standing invitation to send me any food videos you’ve made that I can embed (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.)  I’ll happily consider them for posting.  Email Mikegebert roundthingy gmail dottie commie, or post a comment.)