Posted in Food, Life

Call the bacon guy

So we are on our way somewhere in suburban Dallas when this work van pulls up next to us. I quickly snapped a picture, then pointed it out to my wife and some of our grandchildren riding along with us. I asked, “Wouldn’t it be great to work for bacon?”

That’s all it took to spark our imaginations. A granddaughter asked, “Who wouldn’t want to work for bacon?” I can almost smell bacon frying on the stove as I worked to solder copper pipe to fix a leak.

“How much bacon would it cost to fix the leak in your house?” My grandson added, “I helped the plumbers when they came to our house.” He’s considering that career path, although at age six, he may change his mind a few times. I asked, “How much would you charge to fix the AC?” He said, “A package of bacon!” “How about a BLT?” “No thanks, just bacon.”

“What if you get a free package of bacon every time you hire them for a repair?” “That would be great! The plumber comes to our house all the time.” This is true. My son has had a number of plumbing issues over the past year. A pound of bacon would take the edge off that flat-fee for just showing up.

It’s a win when your family name is the perfect marketing strategy. Who’s going to forget this logo-wrapped van? The next time there’s no hot water, someone’s going to say, “Call the bacon guy!”

Posted in Food, Life

A slow food restaurant

As we walked into the restaurant, I noticed this sign at the host station. This was a small breakfast/lunch place with both indoor and outdoor seating, lots of diners enjoying a meal or a cup of coffee brought by the waiters. No drive through window. No tablet ordering kiosks. Nothing resembling a fast food restaurant.

So I couldn’t help but wonder, “What have you experienced here that would make you order and post such a sign?”

I didn’t get the chance to ask anyone that question, but I can just imagine some of the comments and behaviors they have had to deal with. Patience is a virtue, but it is not a common virtue. People want want they want when they want it, and generally, they want it right now.

There may be another dozen tables in the restaurant, but some want you to get to work on their order immediately. Ten minutes has become too long to wait for food?

It could be that people just don’t cook that much at home. They forget how long it takes to prepare a meal. The longest they ever have to wait is two minutes for something to come out of the microwave.

I wonder if the customers who need to read that sign are the ones who see those words? Does a sign like that silence the impatient and demanding clientele? Do words like that really change anyone’s behavior? Do folks read that and react, “OK. I guess I’ll go somewhere else”?

If you don’t have time to wait for a table, don’t have time to sit and have something to drink and look over the menu, don’t have time to wait for the cook to prepare your food, and have to eat and run, then why did you come here at all?

There is something so nice about not having to rush, not having to cook, and not having to clean up. You can focus on the people you’re with, enjoy the place and sometimes the view, and be off the clock for a while.

Posted in Food, Life

I don’t think this is our food

My wife and I stopped at Starbuck’s after church last Sunday, and since it was already after noon, we each ordered something to eat. She went with her usual egg bites and I decided on an egg and bacon muffin sandwich. The shop wasn’t too busy, but since there weren’t too many table to sit at, I figured most of the business was drive thru and mobile order pickups.

Our coffee was ready first. The food took a little longer. At some point in our conversation, I thought I heard my name, meaning that the food order was up. I went over and quickly looked at the bags and saw what looked like our orders. Upon returning to my table, I took a closer look and saw someone else’s name. The label also stated “mobile order.”

Oops. For a moment I thought that the label had been misprinted. Or maybe those folks had taken ours by mistake. But then I decided to put it back and wait a little longer for my actual order. I’m glad I hadn’t taken a bite before I glanced at the label.

I wonder if that ever happens or how often that happens. The baristas crank out coffee after coffee and out out pastry after pastry. They cannot monitor who picks up what. Mobile orders are ready and sitting out before those folks even get to the restaurant. It’s all based on the honor system. I believe most people are honorable. I’m one of them – you don’t have to worry about me grabbing your food. But I know that not everyone is. And not everyone is paying close attention, either.

How many customers come in only to wonder where their order is? How many customers pick up an order and discover that a bite or a sip is already missing? I’ll bet some of you think that is amazingly disgusting. Yet sometimes I don’t look in the bag. I pull out pieces of lemon cake or a scone, assuming the whole thing is there. I wouldn’t even know. I wouldn’t know if someone took a sip of my latte, realized it had no flavor, and put it back on the counter.

Ew, right?

Posted in Food

The joy of grilled cheese

“What do you want for lunch today? How about a grilled cheese sandwich?”

My four-year-old grandson exclaimed, “Yes!”

A few minutes later, he bit in and with a giggle, stretched out an eight-inch string of melted Colby-jack cheese. He did this over and over, enjoying every bite and every inch of the cheese.

So I’m wondering, “Why is a grilled cheese sandwich so good?” It is so good that there are restaurants dedicated to nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches.

When one of my daughters was playing high school lacrosse, I volunteered to work the concession stand. My job was to make grilled cheese sandwiches. Equipped with a loaf of white bread, a stack of Velveeta slices, margarine, and a spatula, I was in my glory. These items were very popular on cool spring evenings when fans just couldn’t endure another foil-wrapped hot dog or hamburger. And I quickly learned that a diagonal slice was critical to a successful melt.

Who came up with this idea? Who invented the grilled cheese sandwich?

Melting cheese on bread isn’t a new idea. Some ancient Roman texts refer to it. You can find it in French recipes from the early 1900’s. Navy cooks in World War II melted grated cheese on plenty of slices of bread.

In 1949, Kraft began selling “Kraft Singles,” individually wrapped slices of processed cheese. It was easier than ever to slap a few pieces between bread and cook for a few minutes on each in a frying pan. The sandwich was official called grilled cheese in the 1960’s.1

I like to imagine Moses and the nation of Israel trying to figure out something creative to do with manna about twenty years into the exodus. Maybe someone suggested, “Hey, I know. Take some of that flat bread and try melting goat cheese in the middle. Doesn’t that sound yummy?”

Who knows? All I know is that it’s good to be alive in the age of grilled cheese sandwiches.

1The History of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Posted in Food, Ministry, Travel


livermushScanning the breakfast menu in the small North Carolina restaurant, I paused for a moment at an unfamiliar word in the menu. Livermush. Along with eggs and biscuits, you got to choose bacon, sausage or livermush. Interesting. At first glance it looked like the name of a Chronicles of Narnia character.

I did some quick Google research and discovered why I had never heard of livermush. It’s a southern dish, especially treasured in North Carolina. I’m a Yankee so I hadn’t ever encountered that stuff. Where I come from – not too far from the Pennsylvania Dutch — you eat scrapple. They are basically the same. When Mary Rizzo writes about the recipe in the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, she explains, “While parts of the pig became sausages or bacon, the rest, ‘everything but the oink,’ was collected for scrapple.” It was boiled up with sage and pepper, then thickened with cornmeal and buckwheat. Once it cooled into a loaf, you slice off a piece to fry up in a skillet. In the south, they threw in pig liver to make it a bit more palatable. In Ohio, oatmeal was used in place of corn meal, and it was called goetta.

scrappleWe didn’t eat scrapple all the time growing up, but often enough that I remember it well. My dad must have liked it. Of course, he also relished pickled pigs’ feet, sardines packaged in tins of oil and mustard that he would spread on a slice of buttered bread, and a vegetable he grew in his garden called kohlrabi. Thank goodness mom only worked as a nurse on the weekends. When my dad cooked, kohlrabi often made it to the table.

eggs and livermushYes, I ordered livermush that day with my scrambled eggs and it was almost as delicious as a fried slice of Habbersett Scrapple from the A&P (or from Friends restaurant in Flagler Beach, FL, who import some from Philadelphia each week). I offered to share, but few at my table dared to try a bite.