Monday, January 31, 2011
Memory Monday: Emergency Bacon
In the meat drawer of our main refrigerator in the kitchen/family room, there is a slab of bacon. It is made by Valentine’s, a business run by a Mennonite family, and sold at our local farmers’ market. In the meat drawer of our second refrigerator (which came with the house in 1983; we only bought the other refrigerator because we thought this one was not long for this world, but it never died, so it is our second refrigerator) in the little pantry off of the butler’s pantry that used to be the galley-style kitchen of the main house, there is a second, newer, slab of bacon.
This is my Emergency Bacon. Bacon is not the first comestible in our family to have the adjective “emergency” appended to it. Coffee was - “Mom’s Emergency Coffee.” That is the second jar of instant coffee that is always kept on hand so that if Mom (me) wakes up, goes to make her breakfast coffee, and finds only an empty jar, there will always be a second jar on the shelf. (Gourmet coffees and coffee made from freshly ground beans in the coffee pot are all great things, but I’m the only coffee-drinker in the family, so I have become used to drinking the instant stuff. I even like it.)
My husband started making sure that we always have that second jar of coffee both because he is a kind person and because it is better for my family if they do not have to deal with a Mom who has not had her morning coffee. And bacon followed that pattern, though kindness, not fear, was the only reason behind it. I don’t eat lots of it, but occasionally like it for “breakfast for dinner” or on my grilled cheese sandwich.
But even these items are not my first experience with “emergency food.” It was probably when I was in my preteens that I began to see the usefulness of setting aside a small supply of extra food. Sometimes it might just be a couple of small sweets for snacks; my skinny Dad had a wicked sweet tooth and dessert and snack foods often disappeared alarmingly fast in our house.
But there were also times when the shelves were pretty bare of food in general and even a few times when I was on my own for a while. So it was useful to have a little extra that would tide me over for a day or two - preferably something that would not get moldy or stale quickly. A box of crackers usually did the job. I kept it next to my jar of ironing money and old silver dollars (which over the years gradually disappeared).
In my high school years the emergency food supply was helped by the fact that we always had a long slab of welfare cheese in the refrigerator. In my opinion, welfare cheese was the best-tasting American cheese ever - great for grilled cheese sandwiches and tuna and cheese sandwiches (my favorite at that time). Sometimes the stash also included a package of vanilla cream cookies bought from a nearby family-owned convenience store. They were not my favorite cookies, but it did not cost much to buy a largish package (four rows of 10-12 cookies each), so they made a good emergency staple.
These not-quite-hoarding instincts have been retained to the present day. But the worry behind them is of a different type, inspired not by fear of running out of food; my husband and I are both employed and we live near a 7-11, which is great for times when there are blizzards or hurricanes. Whatever the circumstances and reasoning behind it, our pantry is filled with large quantities of certain staples and luxury items: next to piles of pasta boxes and precarious soup can towers (stocked up by my husband, who was a Boy Scout for many years and grew up in a family where “Be Prepared” was a sternly enforced rule of life) are five boxes of Farina and multiple jars of my favorite pesto sauce and HP sauce, which are too often hit-or-miss items at the local stores. From need to indulgence; from resourceful to pampered.
This post was written as part of Amy (We Tree) Coffin’s series of 52 weekly blogging prompts (featured on Genea-Bloggers) for writing our personal genealogy and history. The original prompt was: What was your favorite food from childhood? If it was homemade, who made it? What was in this dish, and why was it your favorite? What is your favorite dish now?
As usual, my post has strayed somewhat from the original questions. To return a bit to the original intent, I’ll say that my favorite lunch was a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. And my favorite lunch now? The same thing, only white bread and American cheese have been replaced with Indian nan bread and curd cheese, and the tomato soup is not Campbell’s but Toigo Farms. And sometimes, for a treat, that sandwich includes two strips of last week’s Emergency Bacon, which is this week’s Regular Bacon.