CONFESSION: I am a wimp when it comes to vegetable gardening. I fought the weather, rabbits, weeds and blight; they won. So imagine my delight when my good friend, Gwen Nelson, dropped off a basket of fresh produce on my back steps. It contained broccoli, green beans, eggplant, cabbage, and my favorite TOMATOES! I grudgingly shared the tomatoes with my husband. My family of origin is “tomato nuts” according to my husband. We eat them on a plain slice of bread, in salads, and often just on a plate with salt, pepper, or sugar. After the tomato harvest we start looking forward to the next harvest! My brother never eats tomatoes except in sauce on pizza but he has always been a fussy eater. If we can send people to the moon, why can’t science make greenhouse tomatoes taste like fresh off the vine? I have tried every variety in the grocery store. They look lovely, perfectly formed and red in color; but they don’t have any taste. Off season I only eat canned tomatoes. Please scientists work on this. I mean Minnesota created my favorite apple, Honey Crisp. Instead of creating new varieties of vegetables: FOCUS ON REAL HOMEGROWN TOMATO TASTE, PLEASE. I would be willing to pay more.
Gwen’s basket of produce motivated me to try some new recipes. I made a green bean recipe with sauted onions and bacon. I tried a coleslaw recipe with pineapple and bacon. Both were great. Some cooks I know feel that any dish can be improved by adding bacon. I am amazed at the variety of bacon sold in stores. I can buy thick, extra thick, and even extra-extra thick. I can buy cured or uncured bacon. I can buy hickory smoked or apple smoked. I can buy lower sodium and/or lower fat bacon. I can buy turkey bacon. I can buy thick sliced garlic bacon and peppercorn bacon. The variety goes on and on. Americans love bacon.
If I say bacon what is the first thing that comes to mind: BLTs or bacon and eggs or bacon wrapped filet mignon or just a bacon sandwich? All of them sound delicious to me. But taste is not the only thing bacon has going for it. Fry some in the morning and people will get out of bed willingly because of the smell. Smell is very important when it comes to coffee, fresh baked bread or popcorn. Depending on the brand and the coffee maker, sometimes I think coffee smells better than it tastes. Most of the people I know drink coffee because of the kick of the caffeine or because it goes so well with sweets like cookies, cake, or donuts.
Now back to the basket of produce. My husband reminded me that it represented a great deal of work. Hoeing, planting, fertilizing, watering, weeding and picking. Then of course you have to clean, peel, can or freeze some of it so that it won’t go to waste. Gwen had canned 70 quarts of green beans already. Remember when the quarantine was romantic at first and then boring and then “some people are driving me crazy”? I digress. Jim then went on without any encouragement from me talking about how people raised on farms are so hardworking. He knew I had grown up in town so what was his point? Then he commented on how artfully the produce was arranged in the basket. Because I am often not as dignified as people give me credit for, I then accused him of liking Gwen better than me. He replied that if I was going to get weird, I should call my sister. Notice that he never denied it! Fortunately for me Gwen is happily married to a very, very good -looking man. I just happened to accidently notice it when he was wearing a white shirt.
Now, back to the bacon. Whoever brings home the bacon or fries it up in the pan, this will make people happy.
4 slices of bacon
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 cup milk
1 tsp. less-sodium soy sauce
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat; drain on paper towels. Discard all but 1 Tbsp. drippings. Add flour and pepper to the reserved drippings from the skillet. Stir frequently over medium low heat 1-2 minutes until hot and bubbly. Gradually whisk in milk until blended; stir in soy sauce. Cook stirring constantly over medium heat (3-4 minutes) until gravy comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat. Crumble bacon; stir into gravy. Spoon over biscuits or toast.