May 27, 2018

The Bacon Project

I had five pounds of bacon in the freezer, a gift from a friend of a friend who had moved to another state. Normally, I would never eat bacon. Besides the well-known health risks, bacon tastes like a burned-out building. I wonder sometimes why it even exists. But, hey, free food tastes better, right?

What could I do with five pounds of bacon, though? It finally occurred to me that it might be useful as a flavoring in soup. As I looked into this, the proportions weren’t so favorable. The most bacon you could reasonably add to soup would be one strip of bacon in a bowl of soup, or probably less. It would take three years to use up all the bacon I had by eating it in soup. I might have to find another use for bacon along the way.

But soup would get me started. I devised a recipe loosely based on a traditional Pennsylvania recipe for ham and bean soup. I still had to learn to cook bacon. In this, I was in luck — cooking bacon doesn’t require skill so much as a skillet and tongs, and I had those. I opened one frozen package and pulled out the first 6.4 ounces of bacon. After a few minutes of frying and an hour of slow cooking, I had two liters of soup.

It was a culinary success. The smoke and fat of the bacon added a depth of flavor to the soup. Diluted, the bacon flavor made sense. It tasted good enough to eat. There was still a problem, though. After I ate two bowls of soup, I was more hungry than I had been before I started eating. Was bacon one of those trick foods, like diet soda, that make you more hungry the more you consume? Apparently it is, I decided, after noting the same effect on eating the third bowl of soup two days later. If bacon made me hungry, so that I would tend to overeat for the rest of the day, that would make it harder to eat bacon in soup or in any other form. I did not want to gain weight. Perhaps instead of three years, it might take me five years to go through five pounds of bacon.

No doubt someone knows an answer for this, but it was not for me to find it. Recall that I don’t really like bacon. I was only trying to make something of the bacon because it had fallen into my hands. It is a situation I might never face again, so there was no consequence for failing to solve for it.

Lots of material possessions are like this. It seems like a good idea at first, and you try to make something of it, but there is one obstacle after another. It turns into a project. You already have too many projects. Eventually you have to throw up your hands and admit failure.

The solution to the bacon was staring right at me. Everything would be easier if I could cook with a different ingredient, something other than bacon. A garbage truck would be picking up the trash the next morning. All I had to do was get the bacon from the freezer to the garbage can, then get the garbage can to the street. There was plenty of room in the garbage can, so while I was at it, I threw away most of the other processed food in the freezer.

A funny thing happened. Underneath the bacon, pork, pierogies, egg rolls, and duck sauce, I found food that was more valuable. Donuts. Walnut pieces. Italian rolls. Burritos. It was nothing exciting, but it was food I could eat without having to make an elaborate plan. It was food I had forgotten I had because the problem food was on top of it.

Again, this is the way it usually happens. Clutter takes your attention away from the possessions you would actually want to use. Throw the clutter away, and in a practical sense, your material wealth increases. When I decided to throw the bacon away, I upgraded my freezer from a no-win food project to a cache of food almost ready to eat. It is so much simpler that way.

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