There are some days that I enjoy cooking. I savor the smells and the textures of the food. I love the aroma of onion as I chop it, even though I am not fond of the tears. A whiff of fresh garlic makes my mouth water. I can never chop bell pepper or potatoes without taking a bite of their sweet flavor.
Though I try hard to resist it, sometimes my roots just come to the surface. You see, the women in my family had a “secret ingredient” to make anything taste wonderful: bacon grease. Growing up, I thought that bacon grease was the fifth major food group.
My Mamaw and my mother both kept Folger’s Coffee cans filled with drippings on the back of the stove. Instead of butter or olive oil, bacon grease was used to saute everything. No, it probably wasn’t healthy to fry food in it (though my grandparents ate it every day of their lives and they were older than dirt when they died). But I guarantee that the taste of anything cooked in bacon grease sends your taste buds to Heaven. Bacon grease was, in those days, “nectar of the Gods.”
They say, in my family, that once my Mamaw wanted to bake a cake and didn’t have any butter. She used bacon grease instead and no one noticed the difference! I think that was a joke, but you can never be sure.
I don’t keep a coffee can of grease. The guilt of throwing away perfectly good bacon grease is almost too much to bear, but I try to cook in a more healthy way. I use olive oil most of the time.
Still, the sound of bacon sizzling in the pan is music to my ears. The smell of applewood smoked bacon sends me into a paroxysm of joy. And, I simply would never dream of frying okra in any pedestrian oil. It must be fried in bacon grease. Anything else is a travesty.
Take a moment to stop and remember. I know that everyone is busy, but don’t let the memories get lost in this technological world we inhabit.
Bacon grease may not have been revered in your home. What foods were on your table? Think about the sights and sounds and smells of the kitchen when you were growing up. The kitchen was the “Heart of the Home” long ago (now it’s the television or the computer). What was your favorite food? Who cooked it?
If you think about it, you can almost taste it.