It seems the further North you go the better the bacon tastes. I don't know why, but it does. I had a friend down in St. Croix, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, who complained bitterly about not being able to buy decent bacon. After listening to his grousing for several months, I finally bought five pounds of the best northern bacon I could find and sent it to him. It had been smoked by a little old man in the back woods of Vermont over maple-wood and hickory.
At the same time, I bought some for myself. The kids and I enjoyed this bacon more than any other I had ever bought. Funny thing, though, I never heard from my friend in the V.I. again. He never even thanked me for the bacon.
Now, living here in Mount Perry, Florida, not far from the great snow capped mountain which graces the center of our beautiful town. I can see now where heat is quite possibly the problem. The bacon here simply can't be smoked properly because of the heat, it just doesn't taste as good as it did up North.
I know it isn't the quality, because I have bought the same brand here as I did up North. Still, I was only to be disappointed in the taste. As of this day, the search goes on for the ideal bacon - bacon which tastes as good here as it did up North.
Being single and a writer, I am not only charged with the home making but the food shopping also. This works out nicely. I often shop up in Tallahassee when I go to see my publisher. The publisher takes sadistic delight in bleeding red ink all over my works of art. The final insult was the time they wrote on one of my masterpieces, "Please translate into English and resubmit!"
As a general rule, after these encounters I go to a super-market and take out my frustration on the fresh produce, squeezing tomatoes and other fruit in the same manner as I have seen so many ladies do. I assume they, too, were venting pent-up hostility.
One fine day on the way home from Tallahassee, I noticed there was a new shop open on the border between the town of, Third Way There, and Mount Perry. They specialized in pork products. The store had a huge sign advertising that they did their own smoking in the traditional Vermont style. Nothing would do but what I had to go in and see if they really had good bacon.
I did an instant stop and U-turn in the middle of the crowded State Routes19/27 causing traffic on both sides of the road to slam on their brakes and head for the ditch. If I remember my TV correctly, what I did was called a "Bud Turn." For those of you who have never seen Bud Man on TV, he would deploy a parachute from his car and pull a complete 180 on the spot at any speed.
On TV, in a controlled situation, it looks great, but on a crowded highway, when your fellow motorists are not expecting it, the maneuver has a somewhat more profound effect.
Warding off the evil looks of my fellow motorists, as they crawled from their crumpled and overturned cars with a cheerful smile, I pulled into the parking lot of the pork store. I was surprised to find it was the same little old man who I had bought bacon from in Vermont. I introduced myself to him and told him of my previous visit to his store up North in Vermont.
As we talked, a large crowd began to gather outside. Seeing this, the old man suggested we have the rest of this conversation at some other time; it might be in my best interest to sneak out the back way and go quietly home.
Following the old man's gaze, I saw the crowd of people were not in the best of humor. I decided to take his advice and beat a hasty retreat.
The following week, on my way back from Tallahassee, I stopped again at the pork store. The old man was glad to see me, explaining he had been worried about me getting home. I couldn't understand his concern, but I was glad some one cared.
We talked for a while about things in general, then we got down to the subject of bacon. I told him of my friend in the Virgin Islands and how strange it was I had never heard from him again. His reaction was strange, to say the least. He just smiled and said, "I can understand this."
He invited me to look over his operation and we walked out to the smoke house as the old man explained in detail just how he imported the wood and smoked everything himself. He made great issue of the fact he used old time-proven methods and absolutely no chemicals. Even the animals he slaughtered for his inventory were killed in a most humane way.
By the time he was finished, I couldn't wait to buy several pounds of bacon to try on the kids. We would have bacon for dinner. It just looked and smelled too good to pass up.
When the kids got home from school, I placed my prize on the counter and unwrapped it for all to see. In truth the bacon was beautiful. I explained to the kids about having this prize bacon for dinner and there was unanimous agreement.
Dragging out my biggest and best iron frying pan, I made ready to cook up about two pounds of this culinary delight. The kids sat there watching me with hungry anticipation written all over their faces.
The bacon began to sizzle and snap in the frying pan. The smell of this bacon was just great. As I waved the fork over it, I turned to the kids to watch the expression on their faces. Seldom had I seen them more excited about a meal.
Suddenly the expression on their faces turned from anticipation to round-eyed surprise. They sat bolt upright and stared past me at the frying pan. I followed their gaze to the pan. There, weaving back and forth, snapping at my fork was a strip of bacon. I recoiled in horror, not believing my eyes.
Cautiously I poked the fork back toward the frying pan. The bacon strip reared back like a snake and struck at the implement. There was an audible thud as the bacon made contact with it. The force of the strike nearly knocked the fork out of my hand. This was all quite real.
Between the force of the strike and my own recoil, I found myself with my back against the sink on the other side of the kitchen. I froze there and watched what was happening on top of the stove with a kind of morbid fascination.
As I watched, the other bacon strips in the pan began moving about. The first strip of bacon, now fully animated, slithered out of the pan onto the top of the stove, still hissing and snapping at me.
The others followed, and soon the whole top of the stove was covered by bacon strips, all of which hissed and snapped at anything that moved anywhere near them. It seemed the heat of the stove warmed the bacon. As it did so the bacon became more supple and animated.
I had seen bacon move about in the pan on many occasions, but this was ridiculous. Normal bacon would curl and bend a little but never crawl out of the pan.
The kids had come around the counter for a closer look. Now the bacon was slithering down off the stove and advancing on us in a menacing way. Pushing the kids along before me, I retreated to the dining room.
Smoke began pouring from the unattended frying pan on top of the stove. I had left the heat on under the pan and the grease in it was about to burn. The confusion created by the smoke and the moving bacon caused a near panic in our otherwise quiet household.
If I didn't turn the heat off under the pan, it would soon burst into flames. I had to get to the stove and turn off the heat, before the whole place went up in flames.
I raced to the fire place and got the long, heavy poker I had recently bought to handle some rather large logs we had in the back yard. Wielding the poker like a sword, I advanced on the still hissing and snapping bacon.
With wild swings of the poker I cut a path through the wriggling mass to the stove where I quickly turned off the heat. Then I moved carefully back to the comparative safety of the living-room where the kids were watching in horror.
My son grabbed the other poker and, while I held one piece of bacon down with my poker, beat it to death with his poker. After a few convulsive twitches the bacon under my poker lay still on the floor.
Using my poker, I carefully dragged the dead bacon over for the three of us to examine it. It looked, felt, and smelled like ordinary bacon, yet there must have been another fifteen pieces of the stuff wriggling about on the kitchen floor, hissing and striking at us.
The remaining three pounds of bacon had been left open on the kitchen counter. As it warmed to room temperature, this bacon also came to life. Now, with the exception of the one strip of bacon we had killed, there was five pounds of live, slithering, hissing bacon advancing across the livingroom floor toward us.
Just then the cat arrived. As it became aware of what was going on in the livingroom, it froze in its tracks. Then the cat cautiously advanced on the piece of bacon nearest it. As the cat approached, the bacon reared back and hissed. The cat, being unaccustomed to this kind of thing, continued to advance but ever so cautiously.
As the cat moved closer, the bacon reared higher and hissed even louder. When the cat had moved to within about eight inches of the bacon, the bacon struck. It got the cat square on the nose. Poor kitty let out one mighty screech and headed for the wide open spaces, the bacon still firmly attached to its nose.
We couldn't help but speculate about finding the bacon at some later date, curled up in some warm sunny place, with a cat sized bulge about half way down its length. However, feeling the cat might just have hit on the right idea, the kids and I fell in behind it. As we ran for the front door, I took up the rear to be sure both of the kids got out. Then, when I was sure they had reached safety, I ran also.
It says somewhere in the book of knowledge, when running through a three-foot-wide doorway one must be sure to carry the three-and-one-half-foot long poker in an upright position. Now I know why. The poker stopped at the doorway and catapulted me flat onto my back just outside on the front porch.
As my head cleared I could hear the kids yelling at me to get up and move. I looked behind me and found the bacon was only inches from my head. The bacon was rearing back and ready to strike. I rolled forward and out onto the lawn, then gathering my feet under me the kids and I raced for the car.
We drove around for about an hour before we could get up the courage to return to the house. The bacon was gone, all five pounds of it. The only thing left of it was the bacon grease trail from the kitchen stove, through the livingroom to the computer room, then out the front door. The trail vanished out in the yard.
Even the package of unused bacon I had left on the side of the stove was gone. Obviously, as considered before, it also had warmed enough to become animated, but the one we killed had escaped into the wild with its brethren. Only the paper wrapper and one dead bacon strip were left.
The bacon must have been dormant at refrigerator temperature. Once heated in the pan or being left on the side of the stove, it had come to life as it warmed up to room temperature or better.
Later in the day, I went back to the little old man and told him what had happened. He listened patiently to my tale with an air of humor on his wrinkled old face. He was a kind old man who had heard just about every kind of story anyone could think of. But this, he told me, topped them all.
He went back to the meat case and took out a beautiful smoked ham. He wrapped it carefully and with great tenderness, telling me he was saving this for a special customer. I could have it for half price because he liked me.
I was flattered by his offer and excepted the ham with many profound thanks. As I paid the man, I happened to look into the meat case. There on one end was a pile of freshly cut bacon which looked strangely familiar. As I watched, one piece reared back and struck at me through the glass. It struck with such force that it created an audible "thud," loud enough for both of us to hear it through the glass.
A wave of terror swept over me and I nearly dropped the ham. The old man rushed to my side to help steady me. I blinked my eyes a couple of times and, there being no further movement in the case, I thanked the old man for his trouble and left for home. As I left, the old man looked at me in a strange kind of way and wished me well.
Arriving at the house, I pointed with pride to the ham. I told the kids the next day we would have this great ham for dinner but tonight it would be the Yellow Arches. I placed the ham on a large platter and put it into the refrigerator. It was indeed a thing of beauty.
It's morning now. The kids and I are sitting here in the kitchen. We are listening to the growls and snarls which are coming from our refrigerator. We have been here for about a half an hour but not one of us can get up the nerve to open the refrigerator door to see just what is causing all the commotion. Occasionally, we can hear something break or topple over as 'it', what ever it is, moves around in there.
Both of the kids are just as curious as I am about what's in there. I'm not too sure about anything anymore, but I can assure you of one thing: It won't be me who opens the refrigerator door.