I Finally Tried Pimento Cheese: It’s Great!

Crackers topped with pimento cheese. : David Leite

There’s nothing remotely Southern about me. I can’t name the capital of Virginia. I have no idea whether Lee or Grant led the Confederate troops into battle (although I do know who won the war). And for the life of me, I simply don’t get the concept of boiled peanuts. For years my only primer to Southern society and mores was Gone With the Wind, Steel Magnolias, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I have, when in a mischievous mood, borrowed from Scarlett O’Hara, that great screen goddess, when entertaining. See, our house in Roxbury has four big columns in front. It looks more like a home from the lower half of the Mason-Dixon Line than anything remotely in keeping with Connecticut’s clapboard colonial sameness. When we’re expecting guests with resilient senses of humor and hearty constitutions, I don my big floppy gardening hat, sit coyly on the front stairs, doing my best Scarlett to no one in particular. Vivien Leigh won an Oscar for her captivating ways. I’m usually awarded a chorus line of shaking heads and pitiful looks as everyone steps over me on their way inside.

Bottom line, nary was there ever a gay man more in need of schooling in True Southern hospitality.

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The Goose of Christmas Past

The Goose of Christmas Past

Originally published December 24, 2003. 

I’ve been a haunted man for 13 years, and I place the blame squarely on Tiny Tim’s crooked little shoulders. It was December 1990, and I had just finished rereading A Christmas Carol. Inspired by Tiny’s exultant prayer, “God bless us every one,” I decided that I, too, would have a proper Christmas dinner. The next day I marched into my local butcher shop in Brooklyn and ordered a goose. Luigi, a short, rotund man who had to stand on a milk crate to talk to his customers, leaned over the meat case and cocked an eyebrow: “Have you ever made a goose before?”

“Puh-lease,” I replied, even though the only experience I had cooking fowl was microwaving Swanson turkey dinners. “Plenty of times.”

“What size do you want?” he asked, obviously trying to entrap me. But I outwitted him.

“Oh, the usual.”

When I returned several days later to collect my bird, Luigi instructed me in the ways of goose cookery. While he babbled on about something to do with pricking the skin and draining the fat, I imagined myself parading into the dining room with a bird so splendiferous, my guests couldn’t help but break into a chorus of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Read more “The Goose of Christmas Past” »

Homemade Maple-Espresso Bacon

Homemade maple-espresso bacon on a cutting board on a stone slab

Honestly, I’m at a loss for words–hard for me, the kid who was nicknamed “Chatty Cathy” through all 12 years of school. How can I begin to tell you how phenomenally easy it is to make your own homemade bacon? Or how incalculably better it is than that flaccid, wet, store-bought mush they have the nerve to manufacture and market? Homemade bacon is as different from Oscar Mayer as Grace Kelly is from Kim Kardashian. There’s true smoked flavor, and in this particular recipe, there are sweet maple high notes and a hint of earthiness from the espresso. And the texture. Homemade bacon has an exquisite chew–even thin slices. That means you don’t have to cut a honking 1/4-inch-thick piece just to sink your teeth into it. Of course, if you’re a Baconite—a true bacon lover—you know there’s no end to what you can do with it. Like bacon and egg sandwiches (below), my breakfast every morning for a week. And there are the baked goods–bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano bread, anyone?–the stews, soups, casseroles, desserts, candies. The list never ends. And every day, Baconites all over the world come up with more and more ways to use this food of the gods.

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