I don’t even like to write the word bacon, here. I’ll have bacon nothing, please, or plain with eggs &etc. It can be made at home without difficulty, and keeps in the refrigerator for a good long time. That is about enough said about bacon. Or close enough, rhetorically.
Pork belly, however. The thing bacon is made from. That.
A friend of mine, recently visiting, inventoried my freezer, saw my pork belly. Pure fat, rhetorically, barely struck through with pinkâ€”not even struck all the way through, to be clearâ€”the fattiest piece of pork belly I’ve ever handledâ€”gorgeous, perfectâ€”(raised by these friends of mine, incidentally)â€”how about we roast it, he said.
Roast a pork belly? Interesting, thought I. He took a pound, lacerated it, rubbed it with salt, lavender, (he is a lavender sort of fellow), let it sit. I don’t remember his roasting regimen. It’s not important.
It was exceptional. I mean, memorable. The culinary high point of a high week, culinarily. Nearly spreadable. We ate it on bread, some of itâ€”we ate it as one of several things at a meal. I came back to it throughout the meal. I started the meal with it, and I ended with it.
It was less strange than it might sound, oh timid reader. Bacon in another form, my lamb, except tender, moist, melting.
I believe this will become an annual feast dish in this household.
Accidentally, I’ve wound up in San Francisco for the winter. Olives are dropping from trees on the streets, and I’ve been saving some for bringing home, and growing the pits into houseplants. I’ve read you can expect a crop from an olive tree in a pot, but even so the foliage is beautiful.
Also, the plum trees are in bloom. My grandmother-in-law, for some 45 years a student of Zen, told me the other day that in Japan plum blossoms are a symbol of bravery, on account of that they are the first fruit to bloom in the spring, and thus the most likely to lose its crop to frost. I like that, thinking of them as brave, rather than stupid which is what some farmers I know have called them.
The apples here are boring compared to what I’m used to in the east, but then with demand sucking them up so fast this year, the apples left in the east this time of year, at least in Vermont, are pretty boring too. More disappointing, the citrus available here, that I’ve seen so far, has not knocked my socks off. And I came too late for persimmons. But the new-harvest olive oil is in, and a joy.
Restaurants are pissing me off, as typically too precious or pretentious or expensive, often all three. I am beginning to turn against this new foodism, as readers know. But here it’s as bad as anywhere.
On the other hand, wine and cheese availability, considering only that which I can afford, is stunning, and there are shops that hurt my heart to be in, to be surrounded by such plenty, with the expectation of being able to enjoy some of it. I am currently drinking the best bottle of wine I’ve probably had in six months, a Fronton from Chateau Flotis, the second bottle I’ve bought in the city, and I spent on it $12. Gorgeous.
But I’m missing West Virginia. While I can buy fifteen varieties of mushrooms here quite easily, I’d rather learn to pick them in the woods myself for free. And make cheese, and cure meats, and ferment cider, and everything else I do and want to do, and can do there, without being a rich man. And eat no worse than a rich man. Except, of course, for wine. Achilles heel of us here at the antipasto.
Save your vegetable trimmings!
Save your bones!
Save your wounded, wino soldiers!
You will need them for soup!
I am trying to remember this meal. My home-picked rabbit simmering on the stove all dayâ€”wine, stock, onion,Â with a little savory and marjoram.Â We drank a nice little Coteaux du VendÃ´mois rosÃ©, made from Pineau d’Aunis, with a beautiful color, and an amazing floral bouquet, and a steely unfloral taste. Guests arrived between five and six, bearing scallops in cream sauce, and a dried-tomato sauce and chÃ¨vre, and a fine loaf of home-baked bread. Also, we had some herbed and oiled garbanzo beans. We finished off a few eccentric ends of bottles of wine. Made a fire in the back-yard, and sat around until dark, when the last guests arrived.
We set in on the back deck. The rabbit, over wild rice, with a pleasant, typical CÃ´tes du RhÃ´ne.Â Then the goat leg, oven-roasted, with small potatoes, green-beans, and a pair of Aglianicos. Forgetting the salad, next was chocolate mousse with coffee cream, in martini glasses, and a claufoutis. Then most of us left, and there was a little fire-sitting, and some whisky.
A remarkably simple meal. I think I say that partly because there was so little running around, so little actual cooking to do once everyone had arrived.
My 28th birthday. Not bad.
I strongly advise againstÂ de-pitting the cherries.