Friday, February 23, 2018

Makin' bacon and horse'n around

Makin' bacon and horse'n around

I’m a planner. I’m the kind of person that will plot out a route at a museum or amusement park so you end up seeing everything. It can be obsessive. I’m also an avoider. I avoid crap I don’t like, such as cooking. I hate to cook. I hate to cook, hate to clean up and hate to deal with leftover food. I eat out a lot for this reason. This aversion to cooking has led me into a few sticky situations, one quite recently.

The group of antique dealers I hang out with meets once a month to discuss better ways to run the store, sales, promotions etc. We usually have a potluck dinner and then a meeting afterwards.
This meeting had a theme of Breakfast for Dinner, so we all signed up to bring different items. I usually bring beverages, to prevent any cooking mischief. However, this time one of the items to bring was bacon, and since we help market awesome Ossabaw hog bacon I volunteered to bring drinks and the bacon IF someone else would cook it. I was assured someone would indeed cook the bacon. The best laid plans…..

A few things happened to render my plans moot.

1) Bron went to Texas and was unavailable to help. ( although in reality she has no more clue to cook bacon then I did)
2) After delivering the baptismal pool ( A whole other weird story) I forgot to pick up the fricking bacon out at the other farm
3) I had a doctor’s appointment the day of the meeting, which ran late, and so I couldn’t get the bacon over to the lady that agreed to cook it in time for it to get done.

I leave the doctor’s appointment with an hour and a half before the meeting. I’m 45 minutes from home. I speed over to the Food Lion and discover I don’t know shit about buying bacon. I thought there was just one kind. NOPE, there are all kinds of bacon; all different lengths and shapes and flavors. It was like walking up to the bit wall at Dennards, every shape, size and color. WTF? I grab two packs of thick cut bacon, which I later found out was 6 pounds of bacon, seriously too fricking much bacon for my purposes! My purpose was not to cause cholesterol comas in a bunch of little old ladies.

I leave the store and bolt home. It was there that I realized how truly unprepared I was for this endeavor. Despite being 51 years old I have literally cooked bacon MAYBE 3 times in my life and every time was under adult supervision. I was standing here googling “how do you cook bacon?” It was then I discovered that you could bake bacon. Who knew? I grab some baking sheets, lined them with foil and started laying how huge strips of bacon. I fill two sheets, load them in the oven and then fill a third and stick it in the little bread oven. (Which I discovered had been housing several pans that I had no idea were even missing) Set the alarm for 20 minutes and pray this doesn’t fail.

A few moments later I realize that I have ½ a slab of bacon left and it’s not going to cook itself. I break down, and google “How do you fry bacon?” and run to the pantry to grab my mom’s big black cast iron skillet. I spray it with Pam ( a step I found out later was completely unnecessary) load it with bacon strips, turn on the heat and wait for it to fry. I then remembered that Perry will occasionally microwave bacon. So I grabbed a plate, put a paper towel on it and added strips of bacon; into the microwave for 1 minute.

At that point I realized that every available cooking apparatus except the coffee maker was making bacon. I have no idea how to even begin to work a coffee maker so it was safe for the time being; overwhelming to say the least.

I turned back to the frying bacon, noticed it looked kinda like the stuff that I’ve seen in photos, ventured a taste and, when I didn’t immediately die, I decided it was ready. Removed it from the heat and got the stuff out of the microwave and threw it in the pan to finish off. Pulled it out and the timer on the oven went off. Now all the bacon was needing attention and I was rapidly running out of space. I grabbed a long cake pan, loaded it with papertowels and started shoveling bacon onto it. Then turned off the ovens, pulled out the pans and realized that the bottom one had that nasty really crispy bacon I won’t eat, but sometimes other people do. So rather than trash it I separated the bacon into bacon boundaries in the cake pan. Crispy in one corner, microwaved in another and baked in the middle. 3 pounds of cooked meat that was either a triumph or a failure, I had no idea at that point. I also had no more time. My kitchen smelled like a Waffle House at 2:00 AM, after the deadbeats have stuffed themselves with calories and are napping in the booths. Every surface was liberally splattered with bacon grease. I had no time to clean it up, and knew that it was not going to get better after I left. I grabbed my lidded cake pan, sodas, orange juice and bolted out the door, praying that this wasn’t going to end in humiliation.

Thankfully the gals said it was great and actually ate it! Even the nasty crispy stuff, which two of them declared they loved. I was amazed! I had succeeded!

A few days later I pondered that me cooking bacon was a lot like most people training horses.
I had NO idea what I was getting into, despite having eaten bacon my entire life. People can ride for decades and still not understand how to train.

1) I went into the market with NO idea what I needed. I knew what I wanted, which was tasty cooked bacon, I just didn’t know how to get there. The best option would have been for me to buy already cooked bacon from someone else. However, that would have probably limited me to either all crispy or all soft. When you buy something you have to rely on what the other bacon trainer thought was important and it may not be the same thing you think is important.

2) I didn’t use the ONE thing that would have made all of this easier: TIME. If I had planned better I could have gotten someone else to cook the fricking bacon in time. If I hadn’t been rushed when I dropped off the baptismal pool I wouldn’t have forgotten the farm raised bacon. If my doctor’s appointment hadn’t run late I wouldn’t have had to rush through fixing the bacon. Everything that happened after the point I agreed to bring the bacon was the result of me not managing my time well and rushing through stuff. I was being the trainer that starts a horse and goes from saddling to loping patterns in 30 days because they want to cycle through clients and collect checks. Do that shit and you’re going to burn a lot of bacon and screw up a lot of horses.

3) I had to look up info on the fly because I was too lazy over the past 51 years to learn how to cook bacon. So when I needed the skill I had to rely on google to fix this problem for me. This is not optimum. Far better to practice, do better research and actually know what the hell you’re doing. I could have dug up one of mom’s cook books. I’m sure there is a bacon whisperer somewhere, with a magic nonstick spatula to keep your pig parts in line, but I’m not much for meat mystics, so never followed their call. I also know that not all cooks, or trainers, are equal. Some people are better bakers, some are great fry cooks, some people make party food etc. It’s the same with horse trainers. You can be the best trick horse trainer ever, but if you can’t teach a lead change then you are not capable enough to finish out a horse. If all you can do is get a horse over a fence, but can’t create an light animal that stops then you aren’t really a trainer, you’re a rider. I’m that way with food. I’m an eater, not a chef. I know what tastes good and bad and can tell you what food group it belongs to, but ask me how to create meringue and you’re outta luck.

4) Once I started I realized I needed more, and better, equipment and that I was using some seriously backwards methods to achieve my goals. There is never any reason to attack a breakfast food with an oven, stove and microwave all at once. Kinda like asking your horse to raise his head, lower his head, round his back, hollow his back etc all at once. I equated lack of time as an excuse to go all out, because I didn’t want to disappoint the other people, while I was doing everything possible to create a bad situation that could end in disaster.

5) And guess what? I WON! They liked the bacon. This makes me an expert right? I can claim to be the best bacon chef ever, right? People should cue up for my cooking advice now. I could start selling a line of pans and endorse brands of bacon, even the ones that clog your arteries when you just look at them. Yeah, sounds stupid to me too, but people use this argument to endorse celebrity trainers, just because they win.

6) Returning home (back to the barn so to speak) revealed to me all the problems and issues I had ridden off and forgotten. I had a big mess to deal with. It took me an hour to clean up all the pans, drain bacon grease, clean the stove, re-season the cast iron ( I did know how to do that from watching my mom for years), wipe out the microwave and finally discovered I had used just about every paper towel I had owned. It basically proved to me I knew enough to be dangerous. I could read enough to cook bacon one time, didn’t kill anyone with food poisoning, didn’t set the house on fire and miraculously ended up with a good result, DESPITE all my wrong doing. I could be happy I succeeded, and still acknowledge I got there by grace and luck, not skill, like a lot of horse trainers do.

Sorry to be long winded, but I think sometimes the everyday things give us insight into horses that we might not correlate while standing in a barn. Analogies sometimes help us grasp things a little better. And of course if you can read this while eating some bacon, it makes it ever more meaningful

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