It wasn’t really a surprise, at least not an intentional one. Whatever it was, or was going to become, looked as if it would be a surprise to me as well. I had no idea.
The girls were out doing something – likely shopping – on a Sunday afternoon. Actually they had left in the afternoon, it was well into the evening now and midway through the second quarter of the Giants-Eagles game. It was just the boy and me.
He was on his laptop in the study and I was in the kitchen rummaging through the refrigerator hoping to rustle up supper. There was a lot of fruit in the fridge, but he wouldn’t stand for a glass of juice. I passed over the half-filled Chinese carryout boxes and a complete barbeque meal – the remnants of an aborted tailgate. Nothing was giving me any motivation.
Then I saw it. Just past the baked beans and next to the General Tso’s Chicken – a package of Allan Benton’s bacon. When Benton, the prince of all things porcine and the greatest smoker/curer of bacon and ham in the Western hemisphere, stayed at our house last year, he brought an ice chest full of goodies with him from Tennessee. The sausage was long gone and most of the bacon, too. This was the last package.
A few days earlier I pulled that final pound of bacon from the freezer in anticipation of feeding both kids and their spend-the-night guests a chocolate-chip pancake breakfast. In the end, the kids slept late and a dozen doughnuts stood in for my grandmother’s pancake recipe.
One shelf above Mr. Benton’s smoked swine were half a dozen fresh eggs my brother brought down from his farm in the Delta that morning. Supper was beginning to take shape, but it wasn’t going to look like a typical supper, at least not one to which my son had become accustomed.
In the cheese drawer was a quarter of a wedge of Mississippi State Edam cheese and in the pantry a half a loaf of sliced ciabatta bread from the local Breadsmith.
“What are we having?” the boy yelled from the study, obviously not concerned enough to look away from his computer game for too long.
I cut two potatoes into a large dice while I fried Allan’s bacon in my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. Once the bacon was cooked and crisp (since it is cured, Benton’s bacon should always be removed from the skillet when it looks halfway cooked), I removed the strips from the skillet and added the potatoes to cook in the bacon grease. The aroma of Benton’s bacon filled the house.
“Are we having bacon for supper?” the boy yelled.
“Soon,” I said.
While the potatoes were cooking, I grated the Mississippi State cheese and toasted the wheat bread. Next, I gently beat the eggs and added a small amount of water and milk while a pat of butter began to melt in a non-stick omelet skillet. I prepared the eggs just as Julia Child had told me to over a shared breakfast in the mid-1990s.
Minutes later I composed a scrambled egg, bacon and cheese sandwich with a side of hash browns.
“Supper’s ready,” I yelled.
The boy and I sat down at the kitchen counter in front of the television, intentionally breaking one of the cardinal rules in our home by leaving the set on. Michael Vick was scrambling out of the pocket and we were eating breakfast for supper.
“Dad, this is the best sandwich ever.”
I couldn’t take too much credit. The bacon came from the master in Tennessee; the cheese from the dairy on campus in Starkville; my brother harvested the eggs straight from his chicken coop north of Yazoo City; they were cooked as Mrs. Child instructed; and the bread came from the ovens of Breadsmith. But he was right. This was the best scrambled-egg sandwich, ever. Period. End of story. No question.
“I like this breakfast for supper thing,” he said.
We sat, watched Sunday Night Football and ate in silence. I began to think back to Sunday evening dinners in my childhood home. We occasionally ate breakfast for supper. I don’t remember if we ever had scrambled egg sandwiches, but we ate breakfast quite often on Sunday evenings while flipping the channels between Ed Sullivan, Walt Disney and Hoss Cartwright.
“Lets do this every Sunday,” he said as the Eagles made a field goal.
Bacon is such an inspiration.
Robert St. John is a restaurateur, chef and author of numerous books.