Smoked Bacon with Red Russian Kale

Dad died when I was three years old, from adult-onset diabetes. Drinking well over six cans of soda a day will do that to just about anybody.

As a result, Mom had a knee-jerk reaction and essentially banned sugar from my childhood. Cake, ice cream, candy? All those were forbidden fruit that I didn’t have much of, until I became a teenager. Although I rebelled when I got older, now that I think about it, my deprivation saved my life. We see and hear so much these days about childhood obesity that we never stop to think about its root causes or prevention. Imagine the good that might occur if parents treated their children better.

Even now at forty-two, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. You’ll rarely find any junk food in my house — the most may be an occasional tub of Haagen-Dasz ice cream. Fruit, either fresh or dried, are common snacks. I almost never drink soda at home, and in fact, will typically reach for a glass of water when I’m dining out. Old habits die hard.

Recently, Michael Pollan and Michael Moss (he’s the guy who coined the term ‘pink slime’) wrote an article that was published in the New York Times on the decline of cooking in America, and what we can do to resolve the situation. There was a period in the not-so-distant past when most people in this country possessed basic life skills, when cooking was not thought of as a chore, but as something worth knowing. These days, we are weighed down by the need to do something productive with our day, that cooking is now relegated to a leisure activity that many people don’t bother with. Food is seen as a necessity or as sustenance, as a thing you consume, not as something to be enjoyed for its own sake. There is something wrong with that picture, don’t you think?

My hobby is cooking. My life revolves around food. Amongst my friends, I am known for cooking multi-course meals from scratch when I come home from work, at least three or four days a week. Perhaps this is a luxury to some, but THIS is how I relax. When I’m in the kitchen, I am able to indulge my creativity in ways that prove to be nearly as satisfying as sex.

Life is a celebration of events as wondrous as birth, as miraculous as the seasons and the passage of time. Food is precious, and a beautiful gift you can give to yourself every single day. When you perceive food in this way, when you see the transformative joy that cooking may bring into your life, then perhaps your outlook may change. All you need to do is to take that first step. It all begins with you.

Many of the recipes you will find on Simple Kitchen Seasons are sized for one to two people. The vast majority of dishes take 30 minutes to an hour to prepare, including prep time. Most are vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly. Quite a few are vegan. Some are gluten-free. All feature ingredients found at farmers’ markets in New York City (or perhaps a market in your locale). Won’t you join me on this most delicious and worthwhile of journeys? What better way to live life, than to transform it by the joy of cooking and the beauty of food?

Smoked bacon, Red Russian kale

Smoked Bacon with Red Russian Kale

The bacon featured in the picture above is heritage pork, made from pigs raised at Flying Pigs Farm in upstate New York. If you’d like to make this vegetarian, omit the bacon and increase the amount of mushrooms.

2 strips smoked bacon
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 head Red Russian kale, trimmed and coarsely chopped
sea salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper, to taste

Fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the bacon has crisped up, remove with a slotted spoon and place the bacon onto paper towel-lined plates. Add the garlic to the pan. Sauté the garlic in the bacon drippings for 1 minute, or until the garlic begins to turn a pale gold. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are golden brown, approximately 15 minutes. Add the kale directly to the pan. Let the kale wilt a few minutes, tossing occasionally. Return the bacon to the skillet and cook for 1-2 additional minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, then serve at once.

This recipe is sized for one person.

Time: About 35 minutes, including prep.



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9 thoughts

  1. I think your philosophy on food is refreshing. Why should we shovel in junk mindlessly for the sake of sustenance? Food is more than that: it’s about eating in harmony with our desires. How satisfying is it when you eat something that you’ve been wanting: fresh veggies after a week of microwave meals, or a sudden hankering for buckwheat noodles? Whatever it is, there’s more to eating than sustenance–it’s like nourishing your body and your soul, and eating well.

    Thank you for treating food with the respect it deserves.

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  2. Very well-written. I completely agree with you about cooking being a real joy. I work full time and come home and make 2 course meals then wash the dishes. It’s the best, most relaxing part of my routine and something I have learned from. It’s so strange to me that we’ve come so far away from cooking as basic life skill.

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    • I think people have been taught to think of “cooking” as something complicated, or that it necessarily means “fancy”. Shows like Top Chef and Chopped don’t help.

      Once you’ve assimilated the notion that “cooking” is something best left to a professional, that makes it easier to go for fast food, or processed/chemically-laden crap food. The onslaught on your senses with respect to fat, salt and sugar helps further that goal.

      I hope that this dystopian present we find ourselves in will not become our future.

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  3. When I met my husband, he made one of the same three or four dishes every night of the week, except when he had takeout or went without eating for the sake of beer. He grew up in a house where the cooking was not exciting – or even tasty – and, although things were made from scratch, it never instilled in him the joy that food can bring. When we started seeing each other and I cooked for him, or suggested we go out to eat at what he would term expensive restaurants, because I wanted to experience new foods, new flavors and for him to realize what a great thing food was, his eyes were opened and now he’s a complete foodie.

    There are so many problems with the way we look at food these days, not least of which the claim that we’re all ‘too busy’ to cook at home. So many people claim to love food, but what they really love is eating. I’ve learned over the last few years that loving food is making the most of it when you eat, whether that is spending hours in the kitchen preparing a three course meal, going out of your way to trying new foods, using local produce or stretching your budget from time to time to have a really good meal somewhere else. It is people like us, with a passion for food – and there are a LOT of us – that need to pass this passion on to other people in our lives in the hopes that they’ll then pass it on, and so on and so on.

    Great post and keep up the good work!

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    • I think the challenge is to make “cooking” seem approachable and not something that feels like a lecture.

      I’ll have more to say about that in a future post.

      Thanks for the support. 🙂

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