I like listening to classical music to remember my father.It was the one detail I had not divulged to anyone else.In the years of bitterness, anger, and deception that had slowly built a calloused wall between us, I still had that stream of pureness that effortlessly floated out as notes from Beethoven, Mozart or Brahms (his favorite) were played.I’d find myself sitting in the quiet intimacy of my car listening to the music playing loudly and softly thinking of Sunday mornings long ago when the air was thick with youth and carelessness as the bacon gently sizzled and life was good, safe and sweet.
Mom was alive and very beautiful, wrapped in her mocha-colored terry cloth robe, always an odd shade in my young mind, yet, soothing in the way it contrasted the gentle blush of her soft cheeks and opened center-stage to her unwavering blue eyes.Every Sunday morning I’d find her faithfully by the stovetop, stirring her scrambled eggs with a withheld patience, quietly luring them to a creamy perfection never duplicated by anyone since.Mom would turn towards me and smile as I approached her those mornings, a twinkle in her eye, the words that I knew would come from her comforted me long before they danced from her lips:
“Breakfast will be ready soon dear,” she’d say with a soft smile and I knew I was well and loved and safe.
Life with filled with a sleepy and thick layer of deliciousness.In a daze I’d float through the wonderful smells of velvety eggs, followed by the apple tart smokiness of sweet cured bacon, sputtering shamelessly on the back burner.
This was all in perfect synchrony with the music that would be playing.It would be whatever my father would have selected for that morning amongst his endless collection of classical albums, all stacked close together; the crumpled brown thin papers hugging the shinny vinyl and keeping it from harm.There were hundreds of records and each Sunday my father would approach them with a studious wrinkle in his brow and decide what mood would begin our day.Quietly and very carefully he’d pick one and gently caress it clean and place it on the turntable to come to life.
As the needle’s scratchy touch awoke the symphony our lesson would begin.Notes would rise and fall as my father pranced around the toasty kitchen all the while describing the music’s journey while wildly waving his arms about orchestrating his musical bliss.My sisters and I (all under the age of ten) would pretend to be annoyed but in reality we listened to the music and watched him, enthralled at how our father would savor each note with such pure and uncomplicated bliss, just as we’d soon sit to our meal of equal delight.
“Breakfast will be ready in five minutes,” mom would promise and we’d all gather closer to an intimate table of her sour cream slow-cooked scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, hot croissants and freshly squeezed orange juice.Some Sundays, when mom found she had more time, or energy, or both, she’d make cheddar dill biscuits and tuck them comfortably in an old wicker basket, which lay in the center of the table.I remember breaking one warm biscuit in two and placing a perfect square of sweet butter on it.It would slowly melt as I closed my eyes and bit down and there would be a moment where I’d be caught in that lovely circuit of love bound by music, butter and love.
These were our Sunday mornings, our very own moments of quiet and peace, laughter and love, family and food.It was the one time where the outside world no longer mattered.The air we breathed was clean and pure and all of father’s impending distractions would, for that instant, remain uninvited.On those days our family was sealed from such harm.
We played and ran around in our pajamas as mom would work her culinary magic in her remaining five minutes.The symphony rolled on full throttle as we watched our dad in amazement, not quite understanding the look of complete satisfaction that shone in his hazel eyes, eyes that had not yet begun to tire, but rather burned brightly with youth, hope and love.As he’d wave his arms wildly in the air imitating the moves the conductor would make to bring this grandiose piece of music together, a chuckle would escape his happy face.He’d quickly glance at us and realize that his tiny, rambunctious and free family was together for that instant, held close by the notes of love, food, and Brahms. He’d wave his imaginary baton in its final frenzy and declare with a bow, “Let’s eat!” breaking our trance and leading us all giggling and happy to the breakfast table. We were suspended between seconds of music, laughter and food: a perfect and forever ours, Sunday morning.
Twelve-year old girls usually come in twos and I was no exception. Attached to my prepubescent hip was my all-time buddy and life long pal, Kim. Together we witnessed the first coveted signs of growing up: The Beloved Pimple (she got hers first), The First Dark Hair ANYWHERE (she got hers first) and of course, The Fateful Symbol of Utter Womanhood: any sign of a Boob (she got hers first (okay, so I was a rather late bloomer)). Even the illusion of the first signs of affection from a crooned-over unattainable boy like super cute Mark Decasola (to whom I readily handed over my much-coveted Venezuelan candy bar at lunch just for a flash of those amazing pearly whites) was done hand in hand. She always told me I was too good for him.Even though Kim moved away at the start of high school and we lost touch soon thereafter, too many secrets and pacts where exchanged for me to ever forget her. But aside from mixing blood (Best Friends Forever Pact) and mixing each other’s hairs (Best Friends Forever Backup Pact), we also mixed taste buds in the kitchen as we were both adamant and fervent lovers of cooking.Mornings in Kim’s house began early when we’d wake up to the sound of her large labrador barking, brush off her annoying little brother, and head downstairs to the gleaming and abandoned kitchen, where we had free range to explore and invent as our taste buds and imaginations desired. Many combinations deserve to die within the secrecy of our friendship, but one dish that was born amongst our frenzy for culinary perfection was so good, so perfect, so us, that it remains one of my favorites today. The Crazy Plopper, as it was named that fateful day in 1984 was a marriage of mess and deliciousness. Nestled amongst a crusty baguette, Kim and I created the ultimate egg sandwich that serves as the perfect crossover from breakfast to lunch to dinner. Whichever hour of the day we chose to devour this delight, we’d always wash it down with a cold Coke and a climb up to our secret hideout, the roof of the storage room, where we’d sit and listen to the wild parrots squawk and drool over our pact of delicious food.
There is something deliciously comforting about a home infused with the smell of freshly fried bacon. Mind you, this is coming from a Jew, obviously not hard-core, heck, if I am ranting and raving about pork, then I barely qualify as soft-boiled. As much as I try to remember and light the Shabbat candles, diligently send the kids to Torah school, and always leave a cup full of wine for Elijah during Passover, when it comes to bacon, I crumble (no pun intended).My kids seem to feel just as strongly about this food item as I do. Never aiming to simplify things, one insists on eating it one notch before burnt while the other begs me to serve it straight out of the package (I never do). The obsession is apparently a generational thing. Growing up I heard stories about my father’s rebellious and adventurous ways, one of which included traipsing into his father’s Kosher home carrying a big old slab of pork belly. ;Just because.; My father’s pork insurgence blossomed into one of serious bacon devotion that nourished my childhood Sunday mornings with father’s perfectly fried pieces of bacon.Another reason I will never part from bacon is because of its versatility. It serves as a great last-minute meal maker, when the fridge seems to have been abandoned with shriveled up veggies in desperate need of Botox and all your protein has gone AWOL, bacon steps in as a great showstopper for dinner. Fry some minced pieces with hot pepper flakes and tomatoes (fresh or canned) and you’ve got a uniquely smoky pasta sauce. Salads also become tastier with bacon in the mix: throw chopped up bits into a salad of baby spinach, caramelized onions, walnuts and blue cheese and you’ve got a sinfully rich showstopper. Feel too guilty to make a salad such a calorie buster? Then switch gears and serve spring greens, slivered almonds and fresh pear julienne with just a hint of chopped bacon. You don’t need a lot for its smokiness to match up wonderfully with the delicate, sweet nature of the pear and the satisfying crunch of slivered almonds. The hard-core bacon cook knows there is one traditional French dish that plays pure tribute to bacon: Quiche Lorraine. With this classic there are no if’s or but’s about it: this dish is all about the bacon. Give yourself the extra half hour to prepare the crust from scratch: the results are beyond compare and you will kiss the supermarket pie shells goodbye! Of course, prepare yourself: making this dish is not for the calorie conscious, but then, if you are a bacon groupie, that’s usually not your drive. In any event, throw yourself a fresh green salad on the side, do a couple more minutes on your treadmill (or at least take the dirty clothes of it), and enjoy yourself. This is one dish worth pigging out on. Quiche LorraineFor Dough:Pate Brisée (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)Makes 2 9-inch pie crusts2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour1 teaspoon white sugar1 teaspoon salt1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)1/4 iced waterFor the filling:6 ounces thick bacon, cut into 1″ pieces2 scallion greens sliced4 large eggs, lightly beaten3/4 cup whole milk3/4 cup heavy cream1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepperpinch of nutmeg (freshly grated always better)Make the crust:Preheat oven to 350FIn a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut cold butter into 1″ cubes and add to flour mixture. Use your fingers and pinch pieces of butter into the dough so that it incorporates. Work quickly so as not to melt the butter. Mixture should resemble roughly like thick cornmeal. Don’t worry if there are globs of butter, it doesn’t have to be perfectly mixed in!Just when you thought your hands were sticky enough, add the shortening and keep pinching. Drizzle the water in two parts and fully incorporate. Your dough should be able to be smushed into a ball.Divide dough into 2 smushed balls and wrap each tightly in Saran Wrap. Pop in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. Dough can be saved in freezer for up to six months (just thaw completely before rolling out).To roll dough out:Use a rolling pin and a lightly floured surface and roll dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle flour on the both sides of the dough as well as the pin to avoid sticking. When the dough is rolled out, gently fold it around your pin and place it on your pie. Patch any tears that may occur by pinching the dough together with your fingers. (It is quite resilient!) The sides of the dough should go slightly over the pie pan. Push down the rim of the crust with a fork (just to make it look pretty).Cover the inside of the dough with aluminum foil and place some raw rice or beans (or you can plop another pie crust) on top. Bake for 15 minutes.Remove the aluminum foil and brush the inside of the crust with the egg white. Bake another five minutes (this seals the dough for your filling). Your crust is now ready for its filling Remove dough from freezer Make the Filling:Combine all the ingredients except for the green onions.Place green onions on the bottom of the shell and pour mixture in.until it reaches the rim of the crust (you may not need all the filling, depending on the size of your eggs). Bake for 35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serves 6 – 8;;