Saturday, July 04, 2009

Mark Twain on bacon

Debbie and I visited the Taylor Creek Visitor Center before dinner last Thursday. It was our day off and we were looking to relax and take in a few sights in the Lake Tahoe Basin. I always enjoy visiting the U.S. Forest Service centers because they carry a wide selection of historical books, wildlife guides and maps.

I picked up The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain: A Book of Quotes (Paul Negri, ed., Dover Publications: Mineola, N.Y., 1999), a collection of Twain’s sayings. Many were taken from his books, speeches and letters written over a writing career that spanned some five decades.

One quote that caught my attention was borrowed from Twain’s 1872 publication of Roughing It. Twain said, "Nothing helps scenery like bacon and eggs."

The full quote from Roughing It contains a bit more information. Although the line from this later version used "ham," I suspect he spoke of bacon, a common staple in the west.
And it was comfort in those succeeding days to sit up and contemplate the majestic panorama of mountains and valleys spread out below us and eat ham and hard boiled eggs while our spiritual natures revelled alternately in rainbows, thunderstorms, and peerless sunsets. Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs (page 63).
Bacon and eggs are among my favorite breakfast foods in camp. Twain is right--the salty goodness of bacon helps any setting.

Bacon is one of those foods that go with most anything. The smoky goodness of cured pork belly compliments a wide range of foods, even butter.

Yes, I said butter. As Debbie and I approached Loon Lake last Thursday, she asked me if I wanted to split the remaining piece of bacon from our breakfast at Ernie’s Coffee Shop. Never one to refuse bacon, I accepted.

My palette received a pleasant surprise when I bit into my half. It seems that Debbie had also saved the cup of whipped butter from her French toast. The bacon marinated in the butter as it melted in the afternoon sun.

If you agree that bacon and eggs improve your surroundings as Twain proposed, bacon and butter make the wilderness seem like the Garden of Eden.

The combination of two prized culinary fats made for a pleasurable end to a day of rest and relaxation. Here we were driving up to the boat landing for our ride back to camp, enjoying the lodgepole forest in the setting sun, munching on bacon and butter.

It’s a near perfect combination in the culinary scheme of things. I’m sure Twain would agree, bacon and butter make everything better, even scenery.

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