Carbonara Redux En Toto (And, Mayhap, Another Latinism in the ’80s Kitchen)

by Jason Peters on May 22, 2012 · 4 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Culture, High & Low


Rock Island, IL

Point, click, hit “submit” and—O, brave new world!—the grades are in. Whew.

I’ve submitted to the system, it is true, and thereby fallen a few points in self-esteem, but now the system—“the head, the tail, the whole damn thing,” as Quint once said—can pucker up, bend at the waist, and plant its two unsavory lips anywhere along my vertical smile, for I myself am bent, mooning, and ready for June, July, and August: my mistresses-in-waiting.

World (or, rather, “Place,” for I live somewhere, not everywhere): get ready for the bar-jesting culinaro-maniac. He’s been set loose!

Home in my driveway, tailgate of the pick-up down and serving as a workbench, I inspect one the children’s bikes that needs fixing. What’s this on my right hand? Could it be a local beer? It is! Forget Coke. Things go better with a 483 Pale Ale. This bike will be right as rain before you know it.

But soft you now! There are mouths to feed. Into the empty domicile I go, wash my greasy hands, and pull out a pound of bacon. Why?

Because the parsley is in, of course.

Lick finger and hold it up to the breeze to get the general drift of things. Downdraft from the ceiling fan says: it’s going to Carbonara.

Check the fridge. Doh! No half-and-half or whipping cream, and damned if I didn’t buy a house, within walking distance of campus, that doesn’t have enough room out back for a milk cow. Damnation! You’d think to look at me I were a PoMoCon or something.

Search for wallet. Wallet, as usual, nowhere to be found, not even in the unlocked and wide-open pick-up truck, where, for days on end, along with the keys (securely dangling from the ignition), it usually rests.

Must’ve left it at the office.

Summon the two older children. “Look under the cushions. I need two bucks.”

The game works: they disperse. I promise two more bucks to the one who walks to the store to get me some heavy cream.

They find two bucks’ worth of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Off they go! I’m a genius, if a poor one.

But wait! It’s as quiet as a morgue in here, quieter than libraries back before they became Information Retrieval Centers. This kitchen needs tunes.

Into the tray goes Toto Past to Present 1977-1990. Let that troubled and storied band serenade the studio session in the kitchen. I’ll sing harmony and play air guitar. Jeff Porcaro, RIP.

I think about growing a mullet this summer.

Some folk’ll brown the bacon and then crumble it up. Not this pig. I slice it into little bits on a cutting board and send it into a sauce pan. Medium heat brings the room into a state of solemn and yet joyous baconation. I bless the pigs down in Africa—and here in Illinois too.

Behold how the bacon changes, slowly, from trichinosis to food. Wanting every bit of it is not a crime.

To the sink to wash enough lettuce for four salads. This is excellent lettuce raised by a former student who is paying off his inordinate college debts by doing something good and useful: growing food. He’s the “One Acre” farmer. You readers in Davenport, Iowa, do yourselves and Andy a favor: patronize his stand at the Saturday market down by the ball park. He’ll keep you and yours in good vegetables.

Wash, spin, and distribute the lettuce into four bowls. Oh, would that the goddess excellently bright were here. But, alas, she’s at work, keeping corn-fed Iowans alive and me in gambling and heroin money. Did I say that aloud or just think it? No matter. She’s not here, and I am greatly diminished. No one to bump into in the kitchen. So diminished, I pull out a can of “Modus Hoperandi,” an IPA that will change your life. Plus it’s local (if you live in Durango, CO). What a great find. It’s no shimmering goddess in a white cotton summer dress, but it will do in a pinch.

Move the bits of pig around.

Gonna take a lot to drag me away from you.
There’s nothing that a hundred cows or more could ever do.

But is it frying too fast?

Hold the line
Pig isn’t always on time.

I turn the heat down a bit and crack three eggs into a cup. Some carbonarying folk will tell you to use only the yolks. I like the whole egg—not only the part that’s putatively bad for you. I whisk the eggs and lay them by.

I hear the thud of a basketball. The older boy’s out shooting around. I step outside and give him a move to work on. It’s a great one if you’ve got the feet to pull it off: left side, dribbling right handed toward the top of the key, then a sudden change of direction with a behind the back dribble. Don’t turn your back to the basket, I tell him. Sell it. Just look your defender in the eye, take him to his left, and leave him to collect his jockstrap.

Wait! Parsley! Out back to the parsley. Ah, fresh herbs. It’s summer at long last. Cut a few sprigs and bring them in for chopping. Chop them and lay them by.

After Gorgy Porgy I sing out, in advance of the track, “Some people live their dreams.” Damn! I miss by a quarter pitch. Who gave me these imperfect ears anyway?

Stir the bacon bits. They’re ready. Scoop them with a slotted spatula onto some paper towel, where they’ll remain until they’re needed.

I’m not so systematic
It’s just that I’m an addict
For you, Bacon.

Drain the pan (reserve some bacon grease so there’s something to swallow the statin with later on) and fill it with water. No need for oil. The residue of bacon grease will answer. Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta. Seven or eight minutes until straining time. As soon as forever is through / I’ll be bacon too.

At length the timer sounds and I strain the pasta. After about a minute I add the eggs and stir. If you add them too soon, they’ll scramble; if you add them too late, they won’t cook. True enough, as Toto says, love isn’t always on time, but when it comes to carbonara your eggs had better be. Add the cream and stir. Add the bacon and stir. Add the parsley and stir.

You know I love you, 99 (my cholesterol–divided by three)!

The table is set, the milk (and red wine) poured. Call the children. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again. Call them again.

At long last we’re assembled. The youngest wants to pronounce the blessing. The oldest takes this opportunity to ask him why he was sent to the principal’s office today. It turns out (I learn after considerable prodding) that he said to his teacher, “You’re not the boss of me!”

I should be alarmed and outraged but I’m laughing my fool head off.

And then the boy inhales a plate of carbonara before I’m done serving everyone. He’ll polish off three plates ere the dinner’s done. And I know exactly why. There’s nothing like bacon and eggs. Wanting every part of it is not a crime.

Forget Pamela. Don’t anything break (or stop) this heart of mine.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Russell Arben Fox May 23, 2012 at 6:42 am

But what do you cook to REO Speedwagon?

avatar James Matthew Wilson May 23, 2012 at 10:22 am

This is how “Rabbit, Run” should have opened.

avatar David Dickens May 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm

When I see that album cover, I always think of my Dungeons and Dragons dice collection.

avatar Lime Remark June 11, 2012 at 10:18 pm

My favorite dish, hands down. Indeed it is no sin to want every part of it.

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