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.
At 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.
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.
Adapted from Tyler Florence
-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
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.
Adapted from Todd English
-2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
-1 teaspoon sea salt
-2 large eggs
-3 large egg yolks
-Extra flour, for sprinkling
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.