Grease is the soul of the kitchen
– Heart Of The World by Lady Antebellum
Music has the power to make people laugh, and to make them cry. It can bring back memories from deep within the recesses of the brain. And it can give hope for the future. Music unites people, and divides them. It goes beyond the written word, evoking long-buried emotions. Music has always been a force in my life. It has pulled me out of my darkest moments, and it has made me dance around the house wearing nothing but a big, goofy smile on my face. (I promise, all the shades were drawn when I did that!) And I almost never cook without music. In fact, I’m not sure I could without it!
So when I met my husband, I was thrilled to hear that music was equally important to him. He’s constantly drumming the dashboard or tapping his toes to whatever music is playing. I love that about him. We started going to concerts together early in our relationship, and we loved it! After each concert, we’d recap which songs we liked and which were a disappointment. After our 5th or 6th concert, we were discussing songs and I was going on and on about how beautifully written some of the lyrics were. He looked at me with a bit of a blank stare and said Oh, I don’t really ever listen to the lyrics. I just love the bands. What?? Did I hear that right? He doesn’t listen to the lyrics? How can that be? Isn’t that why we all listen to music? Well, apparently not. My husband loves music just as much as I do, and yet it’s for completely different reasons. In fact, he knows WAY more about music and the nuances than I do. I love lyrics and a good beat. He loves everything else. We still go to concerts, and still enjoy them just as much, but it’s funny to know that we’re really listening to completely different things – both with big, goofy smiles on our faces.
Well, imagine my surprise when Paul came to me the other day and said he heard a song that is a perfect representation of us and our family. And he was actually talking about the lyrics! I almost fell out of my chair. He played it for me. It’s a beautiful Lady Antebellum song called Heart of the World, and he’s right. It really is us!
If grease is the soul of the kitchen
And coffee the drink of the Gods
Routine too perfect to mention
Time is a thief I would rob
We’re meant to be baby hold onto me
I’ll never not be your girl
‘Cause love is the heart of the world
You see, perhaps the only thing more powerful in our lives than music is food! It’s our family hub. The center. It’s how we all connect with each other. We learn more about each other – our days, our struggles, our successes, and our failures – over family meals than anywhere. The soul of our family is the kitchen. And I’d say there’s no better way to celebrate that “grease is the soul of the kitchen” than with bacon! My philosophy is that there’s nothing that can’t be made better by adding bacon! My brother-in-law often says bacon is proof of God’s love. (I’m sure there are some folks that celebrate certain religions who would vehemently disagree with that, but that’s a debate not made for this blog…)
The thing about bacon is that it’s kind of a pain to make correctly without making a complete mess, and can be a nightmare to clean up. While there’s not much that can match the sight, smell, and sound of bacon spitting and splattering in a cast iron skillet, it’s quite a process to go through just to add a few crumbles to a salad, incorporate into a pasta dish, or to top those cheesy mashed potatoes. But I love bacon! So I was determined to figure out ways to prepare it for meals without leaving a complete mess. I’ve gotten it down to two processes – one for bacon pieces, and one for full strips. Both are nearly effortless and cleanup is a breeze.
If a recipe calls for bacon pieces, bits, or crumbles, simply take that whole pack of bacon, throw it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so (the colder the bacon, the easier it is to cut, but you can skip this step if you’re pressed for time), plop the whole mass of bacon on a cutting board and slice it crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces. The whole pack of bacon should only take about 10 or 12 cuts with a knife. You’ll be done cutting in about 30 seconds! Then throw it into a hot skillet and stir fry it for about 7-10 minutes, or until the desired crispness, then drain on a paper towel. You’ll have all the bacon pieces you need in about 10 minutes and cleanup will take about 30 seconds to wash the one skillet.
If you need full strips, bake it. Yep – bakin’ the bacon. Just line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, line up your bacon without overlapping, then stick it in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes, flipping once. Your bacon will be perfectly formed and evenly cooked. And all you have to do is throw the foil in the trash and give the baking sheet a quick rinse. That’s it! You’ll have all the strips you need for fabulous BLTs or a great topping for your grilled burgers.
So crank up the music, gather the family around, and enjoy the soul of the kitchen! (And don’t forget that “coffee is the drink of the Gods.” If you’ve read this, you already know how I feel about that!)