Along with being a fitness expert, my daughter Katie has become a talented chef who is creating healthier versions of favorite family recipes. Recently, she tried a new recipe—Brussels Sprouts with Goat Cheese and Bacon, and was pleasantly surprised that she liked Brussels sprouts. The recipe sounded delicious so I purchased the ingredients and, after a workout with my daughter, I invited her home for dinner hoping she would teach me how to make this dish.
The first step started with bacon, which my daughter told me to cook in a skillet.
"How much do I need," I asked?
"However much you want," she said. Having this much freedom in a recipe seemed a bit unusual, but I did as I was told. I placed four pieces of bacon in a skillet and turned on the gas.
"M-o-m, you should turn down the heat on the skillet," my daughter instructed so I lowered the heat.
As the bacon slowly cooked, my daughter sliced up some Brussels sprouts and mushrooms. Soon, she ambled over to the stove and eyed the bacon. With growing authority, she said, "M-o-m, you really should buy leaner bacon." She must have noticed a puddle of grease in the skillet, which I thought was the whole point of cooking the bacon first. The bacon fat added extra flavor to the Brussels sprouts and mushrooms. Innocently, I confessed that I didn't know there was lean bacon.
"M-o-m, the darker it is, the more lean it is," she asserted. I had no idea I was supposed to look at the color of the bacon when I choose it. Having only recently begun to eat bacon, it appeared that my education was sorely lacking.
The reason for my knowledge deficit was that I was raised in a religious culture that eschewed meat of any kind, including fish. Now freed from the bounds of this religion, and faced with more social situations that challenged my pallet and limited dietary preferences, I decided to try eating meat. The primary impetus for my dietary change was purely social—I didn't want to gag in public if meat was all there was on the menu. Generally, gagging at mealtime is considered rude, and should be avoided.
So the first meat I tasted was chicken. Then I advanced to turkey, which certainly increased my options at Thanksgiving. Smothered with homemade cranberry relish, it wasn’t bad, meaning that it didn’t trigger my gag reflex, and it helped to alleviate my insomnia. Eventually I worked up my courage and ate a whole fish while in Israel which required significant instruction to know which parts to eat (white meat) and which to discard (eyeballs). I survived the ordeal and even have a photo documenting this milestone in my journey.
However, when it came to eating red meat or pork, I had no interest. After all, these are unclean animals, biblically speaking, not that I am Jewish, but it just makes sense to avoid animals which God took off the menu. Besides pigs and cows carry diseases that I would prefer not to acquire, such as trichinosis and mad cow disease.
At this point, I was perfectly content with the limits of my carnivorous diet but I had these friends who kept raving about bacon. Even my Jewish friend ate bacon. Biblically speaking, that makes him unclean, but since he is follower of Jesus, who declared all foods clean, I guess he can eat whatever he wants. Prior to meeting this Jew, I had no interest in eating bacon but when a Jew eats bacon and violates kashrut, it must be very good.
So one day, with all this mounting dietary peer pressure, I decided to give bacon a try. As it happened, I even had bacon on hand, thanks to my mother-in-law, who doesn't eat bacon, but had brought some over at the request of my daughter. I don't know if it was lean or not.
Having never prepared bacon before, I had to humble myself and ask for help. Gratefully, my friend Heidi, a bacon enthusiast, was willing to teach me. She raved about the oven method and gave me detailed instructions--turn on the oven to 400 degrees, line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, place a rack on the pan and lay the bacon on the rack. “Cook it until it is done,” she said. I had no idea what done looked like, so, thanks to technology, I texted a picture every five minutes so she could tell me when the bacon was ready. Finally, after 30 minutes, the bacon reached sizzling perfection and I removed it from the oven. Once cooled, I had my first bite of warm, crispy, salty deliciousness. "And she gave some to her husband, who was standing there." Ooops, wrong story, but I did offer him some but he refused, saying, "I don't need to eat that." So I ate it all.
And it was very good. I am really glad that Jesus declared all foods clean, so I can eat bacon.
GENEVA CHINNOCK is a writer and author of Becoming His Beloved: Journey into the Father’s Affection and is affectionately called the Book Midwife by her friends. She blogs semi-regularly at TreasuredbyGod.com. When she isn’t writing, she works as a nurse, eats bacon and attends live theater. She lives in Southern California with her husband.