Sky Full of Bacon

Today was one of those days where you’re doing ten million crazy things, those of you who watch the next Sky Full of Bacon will see just how crazy, so when I got home from them and my wife had wound up stuck with the duty of picking up the kids in Rogers Park and the dog in West Town, I figured the least I could do was cook dinner.

I remembered something I had been importuned into by my youngest son. We’d gone to Trader Joe’s a week ago, and they were giving out samples of, well, let’s call them Trader Giotto’s Nouvelle Spaghetti-Os. Take a 32 oz. box of TJ tomato soup, a couple of tablespoons of TJ pumpkin butter, and a couple of cups of TJ pasta in an O-ring shape. Boil pasta, heat soup with pumpkin butter, dash with soy sauce (Trader Jao’s?), drain pasta, dump into soup mixture, let absorb soup, and in not much time… instant dinner. So I bought the ingredients, fully recognizing that I was taking a step into the kind of mix-three-packaged-products cooking that I loathe and, understandably, associate with the worst cooking show in the history of mankind, Semi-Homemade With Sandra Lee. I hated myself for doing it, but I knew the night would come when it would be handy and make a kid or two happy.

And so it came and I made it. To be honest, it wasn’t bad– too sweet, as you might expect (some recommended parmesan helped there), but at least of some interest, I didn’t mind it a bit. In fact, it made me want to sing a song, a la Mad magazine (*Sung to the tune of “Sandra Dee”):

Look at me, I’m Sandra Lee
Lousy culinarily,
Won’t cook a meal ‘less it comes with a seal
To open, Sandra Lee

Taste it! Hey, I’m Rachel Ray
Eating on forty dollars a day
I’ll double yum a sauteed chewing gum
Oh my God, I’m Rachel Ray*

So are you concerned that I’ve gone over to the dark side? Ironically, at the very moment I was being a kitchen ho and making my family dinner out of jars, bags and Tetra-Paks, I was engaged in the most diametric opposite kitchen activity I can imagine. Well, okay, maybe not THE most, I hadn’t nailed an eel to a board to skin it, but close enough. A pair of pork bellies had just arrived from my friends at Northeast Iowa Specialty Meats, and so once I had the Trader Joe pumpkin butter cooking in the Trader Joe tomato soup, I turned my attention for a moment to pouring pre-mixed (by me) cure into the bags with the bellies, adding some maple syrup and smooshed juniper berries, and sealing them up to cure in the beer fridge for the next 10 days or so. Semi-Ho dinner, but homemade bacon. We all find ourselves with such culinary split personalities from time to time….

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