Feel Better Bacon

by Kelly on April 26, 2010

When I was interviewing for the job I have now I commonly got asked what I was looking for in my next opportunity.  Without  fail I would answer that I was looking to be thrown outside my comfort zone – to be scared.  I said it not because it was what some fancy interview book told me, but because I meant it.  I’d been living in Boston since 2001.  It was comfortable and safe.   I longed for the adventure of something new.

A week or so ago I had a night that tested how I felt about that answer…  It was 11:30 pm on a Tuesday and I found myself emotionally and physically drained.  I had worked a Sunday followed by two 14-hour days.  I’d been invigorated by my move to Chicago, but it was also taking its toll on me.  I was starting to see the downside of being out of my element.  I missed living in a place that wasn’t just my shelter, but really felt like home.  I missed sinking into a friend’s couch and venting after a tough week, missed my routines and habits.  I felt sad.  I really missed Boston for the first time.  I also felt a bit like a fraud.  Only days earlier a friend had told me that she had told her therapist that she wanted to be more like me because I had taken a big risk and it had paid off.  In that moment I felt weak and not at all like a role model.

It was late.  I should have gone to bed, but instead I decided to make bacon, because that’s just how I am.  I pulled my pork belly out of the refrigerator.  I mixed together my kosher salt, pink salt, maple sugar, and maple syrup.  I rubbed it over the meat and then put it in the refrigerator where it would cure for a week.  And then I went to bed.

baconAt some point during the week while my bacon cured my perspective changed.  I realized it was silly that I could wait a week for my bacon to be ready to smoke, but I couldn’t be patient enough to give myself time to settle in.  My bacon needed time to reach its full flavor and I needed time and patience to make a new city home.  By the time the bacon had finished its cure time and was in my stovetop smoker I found myself with a renewed perspective.  I was going to be kinder to myself.  I had decided it was okay to feel lonely sometimes, okay to miss my old life.  So already I’m feeling much better.  I’m accepting that my life will always be a work in progress and that sometimes (like now) I will feel it more than others.

bacon2

When I find I’m being unkind to myself I’ve found myself saying ‘Feel better bacon!’ in my head.  It’s nonsensical, but it makes me smile.  In the meantime, I’ve been finding pleasure in the little things that make my happy, like long walks with my dog and perfectly luscious Fettuccine Carbonara with homemade pasta and bacon.
pasta2

Fettuccine Carbonara
Adapted from Tyler Florence
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
-1/2 recipe homemade pasta (see below)
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-4 ounces good quality bacon, cubed
-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-2 large eggs
-1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
-Freshly ground black pepper
-1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Method:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until tender (about 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of your pasta). Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute for 3 minutes until crispy. Toss the garlic into the pan and saute until softened (less than a minute).

Drain the fresh pasta and toss into the pan for two minutes until the strands are coated with bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a bowl. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly pour in the egg mixture. You’ll want to simultaneously whisk vigorously so the eggs thicken but do not scramble. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with parsley.

Homemade Pasta
Adapted from Todd English

Ingredients:
-2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
-1 teaspoon sea salt
-2 large eggs
-3 large egg yolks
-Extra flour, for sprinkling

Method:

Place 2 cups of flour in a food processor. Add the eggs and yolks pulsing until the mixture forms a dough and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If necessary, add up to 1/2 cup of the remaining flour. Let rest for at least 30 minutes in a covered bowl.

Divide the dough into two pieces. Roll each piece out and put the dough through a pasta machine, folding into halves each time and then reinserting 15 to 20 times, to knead it. Continue until the pasta is paper-thin. Lay out the sheets of dough and cut them them into fettuccine using a knife or a pasta maker attachment.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica @ How Sweet April 26, 2010 at 11:36 am

I love this comparison, especially since I am the biggest bacon fan ever!

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Astrid April 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm

That looks so delicious and comforting. The comparison of letting the bacon cure to lettin yourself adjust to a new life is really easy to understand and relate to. I have a little saying that I sing to myself from time to time that makes me smile. Like yours, it sounds like complete nonsense to others: “I wish I were a muffin.” Everyone loves muffins, and they can be healthy, liscious, indulgent, plain, spectacular. Everything that a person (or me) can be.

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Jen (Modern Beet) April 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

This is such a lovely and thoughtful post! As much as one tries to be rational, natural human emotions sometimes pull us in other directions. I love that your homemade bacon was helpful in providing a little perspective!

On a totally different note — can I inquire about the meat slicer in your picture? where did you get it? do you like it? is it electric or hand cranked?

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Erin April 26, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Great post!

I can so relate to what you’ve been going through. While I didn’t change my world as completely as you have, moving into a new apartment without any cupboards, bedroom doors, or completely private bathrooms has been a bit of a harrowing life change as well.

Be gentle with yourself! And huge kudos to you for making bacon. That’s a fabulous cooking accomplishment to have under your belt.

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Maris (In Good Taste) April 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I can totally relate. I can honestly say I don’t miss my “old life” in NY/NJ but sometimes I do give myself a hard time because I haven’t accomplished certain things that I’d hoped to accomplish or because even though the pieces of my life are coming together, they aren’t all there yet.

If you’re ever lonely and want someone to help you eat all that Fettuccine Carbonara though, you know where to find me 😉

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Kelly April 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Thanks everyone for the sweet comments. It really makes my day. 🙂

Jen – I’ll post this on your blog as well, but the meat slicer is hand crank and actually came from my grandmother’s basement. She bought it in Germany in the early 80’s.

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Shannon April 26, 2010 at 7:00 pm

wow, i wish i could be that insightful for myself 🙂 i recently went through a pretty big transition myself in moving to boston and it definitely took a toll on me mentally. as much as i tried to find some of that perspective, it never took hold. off to go buy some bacon 😉

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Sarah @ Semi-Sweet April 26, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Fabulous post Kelly! First – any woman who can make her own bacon can pretty much do what she sets her mind to. Next – I think you ought to expand that post into an essay and submit it somewhere . . . it’s worthy. Glad you got the perspective you needed – and bacon to boot!

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5 Star Foodie April 26, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Wow, homemade bacon and homemade pasta – totally awesome!

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Juliana April 27, 2010 at 10:48 am

Wow, everything homemade 🙂 I never made pasta…sounds and looks delicious…sure very fresh!

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Elina April 27, 2010 at 5:24 pm

It took me a while to call Boston home but I like it here now. It will definitely take time but Chicago is a beautiful city and I’m sure you’ll get into a routine with your new job too. Hopefully the hours aren’t crazy long all the time, and you can take time to enjoy some homemade bacon or maybe a sweet chocolaty treat and a walk in your new city 😀

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The Duo Dishes April 27, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Agreed that Chicago is an absolutely beautiful, vibrant, cultured and lively city. It always takes time to adjust to something new, no matter what. Most of us who love to cook know that it’s cathartic. Good luck with the rest of your transition!

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Carolyn Jung April 27, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Making bacon in the wee hours of the night? Too funny!
As for life being a work in progress…it never stops being that. And really, you wouldn’t want it any other way. It’d be way too boring, otherwise. 😉

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Bethany April 27, 2010 at 10:29 pm

1) That last pic is… wonderful. And I’m totally impressed that you made bacon.

2) I agree with Maris, anytime you need a buddy, I’m around!

3) Give it time 🙂 Good for you for resolving to be kinder to yourself! It’s probably good to be missing Boston — what if you had lived there for so long and hadn’t made good friends, or had good memories?? Missing it means there was something worth missing! And that’s great.

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The Beso Team April 28, 2010 at 2:03 am

Dear Kelly,

Thank You for entering the Bake Up Summer Sweets Contest. I hope you are given the opportunity to own a new KitchenAid mixer so you can whip up your coconut lime pudding pie recipe with ease.
Thank You and Good Luck!
The Beso Team
http://www.beso.com/style-director-contest/bake-up-summer-sweets

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Kerstin May 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm

What a comforting dish. The best things in life never seem to be the easiest and I think it’s awesome and inspirational that you’re challenging yourself – I’m sure you’ll feel more settled soon 🙂

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Esi May 2, 2010 at 12:53 am

I definitely agree, bacon can cure most problems 🙂

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