“World Peace and Bacon Grease”

April 4, 2008 | By | Comments (50)

Iron_skillet_coffee_can

I was recently in Charleston, South Carolina, where, one evening, I had the pleasure of sharing conversation and some Basil Hayden’s bourbon with Randolph Stafford, a Charleston-based chef with Iverson Catering—and a veritable pork aficionado. As the evening came to an end, he cocked his head, pushed up his glasses, and wished me in his slow Virginia drawl “World Peace and Bacon Grease.”

Now, I’m from the South. But until recently, I’d spent the past seven-plus years in Manhattan, where bacon grease is just an oily souvenir of something you ate that you’ll probably pay for later. Randolph’s words hung like a sweet (smoky?) reminder that I’m home again.

When I was growing up, there was always an old coffee can tucked neatly into the back of the refrigerator. As any good Southerner knows, that can didn’t have an ounce of coffee in it—it was full of drippings and bacon grease. And though my brothers and I regularly got into things we shouldn’t have, we knew not to mess with the can. (Try congealed bacon grease once, and you’ll see what I mean.) A heaping scoop of those drippings went into everything from butter beans to boiled okra to pretty much any other vegetable that Momma wanted to cook Southern-style (i.e. boiled to within an inch of its life). Daddy even used bacon grease to make homemade popcorn on movie nights. And my favorite cornbread still comes from a cast-iron skillet that’s been preheated and coated with a dollop of bacon grease—the crisp smoky edges that result are worth fighting over.

Admittedly, I kept my Southern ways and carved out space for a bacon grease can in the fridge I shared with roommates in New York. But I always felt like I was a stone’s throw away from being turned over to the health inspectors by my roommates. Let’s just say it’s nice to be back in a neck of the woods where not only is bacon grease a celebrated fact of life, but where it’s an acceptable way to bid farewell to friends.

“World Peace and Bacon Grease.” I think he’s onto something.

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    I’m from the South. But until recently, I’d spent the past seven-plus years in Manhattan, where bacon grease is just an oily souvenir of something you ate that you’ll probably pay for later. Randolph’s words hung like a sweet (smoky?) reminder that I’m home again.

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  29. Sissy Willis

    Delightful post! ‘Hope Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t find out . . .
    My cat Baby Cakes tried congealed bacon grease once when I was experimenting with homemade lard for baked beans and pie crusts (I order freshly rendered leaf lard online now from Dietrich’s Meats in Pennsylvania). Like you and your brother, Baby “saw what you meant.” Check out his look of disgust in the photo topping this blogpost:
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  30. Gail

    I love the picture! My mama kept bacon grease and drippings in a can by the stove and yes, it went into most everything cooked! The good ole days.
    Fun to read Jennifer!

    April 12, 2008 at 10:55 am
  31. Jo Ann Tinsley-Rounsaville

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    April 9, 2008 at 8:34 pm
  32. Patrice

    It’s great to have you back home. Your Grandmother Muse is soooo proud of you….We all know about the bacon grease can at the back of the fridge, at least all of us who are home grown.

    April 9, 2008 at 12:58 pm
  33. maf

    While traveling in Germany, we found on many tables a small crock of bacon grease with tiny crumbles of crisp bacon
    mixed in which is used to spread on bread, as you would butter. Delicious, but a very guilty conscience.

    April 9, 2008 at 10:27 am
  34. simone rathle

    even though I am from the south as we gals know I still ask my husband that grease cannot stay there forever. He says didn’t your mom teach you anything. Now you have all over again. So well written. Ciao Simone

    April 8, 2008 at 8:55 pm
  35. Allen Hardy

    Who d. Who. from Big Al in Phily town. Nancy always used a big mouth mason jar so you could see if it was full 4 u added sum moe. Good to c u girl.

    April 8, 2008 at 1:53 pm
  36. Uncle John

    Nice read Jen, don’t forget that bacon grease “seasoned” that big cast iron skillet as well as the corn bread in it. Look forward to reading more from you…Uncle John

    April 8, 2008 at 6:58 am
  37. Jennifer’s Ti Ti

    Jen Jen, it’s so wonderful to read your communications and know that you are back south. Your grandmother, Julia, used hers so often with a nice size family and visitors, that she kept hers on the side of the stove or the kitchen cabinet to use so very frequently. I did the same as long as all of my family was still at home, but now I keep mine in the fridge because there are only the two of us to cook for now, me and your granddaddy and we aren’t home enough to cook as we once did. Continue your so very interesting writing and keep me informed on when and where it will be. You know us old folks need all the help that we can get. Besides this gives me great bragging rights. By the way, when am I going to receive my art work that you are to paint for me?
    Love, Ti Ti

    April 7, 2008 at 5:20 pm
  38. Bryan Hunter

    And Melany, my deepest apologies for misspelling your name above. And I fancy myself an editor.

    April 7, 2008 at 10:25 am
  39. Bryan Hunter

    Great post, and Melanie, if I didn’t know you better, I might have taken your tofu suggestion seriously, but as I do, I simply laughed.
    I recently heard a report about some clumsy fellow who chopped off the end of one finger. He, with the help of a doctor whose name I can’t spell, much less pronounce, rubbed some compound made of pig bladder on the stump end and, low and behold, resprouted the tip of his finger–nail and all (it’s documented in the Fall ’06 Pitt medical journal “Make Like a Salamander,” p 26 http://pittmed.health.pitt.edu/Fall_2006/fall_2006.pdf).
    But this is nothing new for us Southerners who have been extolling the virtue of pork for centuries, even when folks from other meddlesome regions derided us for doing so (except remember when pork rinds were fashionable for 2 1/2 minutes in Los Angles–or so I heard?). I even start feeling po’ly unless I sink my teeth into a plate of good BBQ once a month. And Jennifer, I’ll consume Bourbon and talk pork–or vice versa, or both all at the same time–with you and Cousin Randolph anytime.

    April 7, 2008 at 10:22 am
  40. Nancy Moody

    Your article brought back so many great memories of cooking with my Mamaw Evon!! Yakiko! (Thank you!)

    April 7, 2008 at 10:08 am
  41. shirley stevens

    I enjoyed your article so much and it certainly brought back memories!

    April 7, 2008 at 9:39 am
  42. Bill Tovell

    Keep up the coverage of South Carolina!!!

    April 7, 2008 at 7:51 am
  43. Paul

    Love it.

    April 7, 2008 at 7:19 am
  44. Diddy

    Great read. However, we Southerners cheat. God gave us an extra heart valve to handle bacon grease!

    April 5, 2008 at 5:06 pm
  45. KM

    …That’s what the ever present coffee can in the back of your frig was!!! As an honorary Southerner, I can say with certainty that everything does taste better with a little bacon grease!

    April 5, 2008 at 1:00 pm
  46. Momma

    I know that Yuban can! And now that we are “healthy” and “organic” we have to really hide the can and only use 1/2 a scoop……

    April 5, 2008 at 10:43 am
  47. Melany Mullens

    Edna Lewis would be proud of such a beautiful Southern tribute (I wonder if she liked brown water too?)!
    I’m hoping you and Randolph will help me with the Southern culinary revolution -WORLD PEACE AND TOFU GREASE!

    April 5, 2008 at 10:16 am
  48. Hannah Wallace

    Little did I know that you had a bacon grease fetish. THat cornbread sounds amazing, I must say. And isn’t bacon grease, by Michael Pollan’s standards, good for us because it’s real and not industrialized? I think so. ;-)

    April 5, 2008 at 8:25 am
  49. david landsel

    the south is lucky to have you back! drive down to gulf shores and order up some royal reds for me sometime…

    April 4, 2008 at 5:23 pm
  50. Clark S Mitchell

    SO CUTE!!!! Miss you up here.

    April 4, 2008 at 5:09 pm

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