I would like to say that there is some common ground between the picture to the left and the title, but alas! there is absolutely no bacon pictured in Juan Sanchez Cotán's Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber. QCM and C was probably a study for Still Life with Game Birds -- an almost identical painting except that the large empty space to the right is crammed with dead birds rendered with almost mystic clarity. I have nothing against dead birds, I like cooking them, and I like some paintings of them*, but here I like the way the arc of fruits and vegetables defines the negative space. The sheer improbability of the hanging quince and cabbage (a common food preservation technique in 16th century Spain) against that flat blackness, invites contemplation of the transience and almost grotesque splendor of life -- these beautifully painted fruit already have beautifully painted signs of decay. Or at least it does with me, but I have taken too many art history classes to really be considered a sensible observer.
But this is not what this post is about. This post is about community, and hunger, and people bringing me bacon.
I said good-bye to my parents on Monday, and embarked on a week of banging my head on design problems that would not behave (many of these involved vegetables in clothing -- no, I don't really want to discuss it). Tuesday I called up my friend Jess hoping to gain a new perspective by hanging out at her place and doodling. I figured that it probably represented an improvement over what I was doing just then, namely walking in the cold rain in Volunteer Park. (I was taking the long way to the library.)
She was not available for hanging out and doodling because she had choir practice at 6:30, but she said, "I could come by and you could feed me." Jess knows me. Has known me for upwards of a decade and she knows that of all the things I can do that fill me was warm and bubbly personal satisfaction, feeding other people tops the list.
Not Tuesday, Tuesday I wanted to be somewhere other than my tiny apartment, where the walls -- despite some fixed staring on my part -- did not magically display The Answers. I'm sure Jess' apartment walls have The Answers at least some of the time. I was able to stifle my inward groan at the destruction of my plans for The Answer seeking, because I knew that I really do love feeding people.
I hadn't gone grocery shopping, and none of my leftovers were friendly to someone who can't do chiles. That left buckwheat pancakes, because I have buckwheat pancake mix in the house**. Jess made noises about maybe bringing some bacon and fruit. I dropped off my library books. I came home and cleared off the kitchen table, which had somehow gotten obscured again by a pile of post cards, books, and the drawing tools that seem to appear spontaneously when I'm not looking. I did the dishes. I made pancake batter. Jess meanwhile got stuck in traffic on I-5. I kept tidying and got the kitchen chairs cleared off. I worried. I tried not to grumble about inviting a guest over when I have nothing spectacular to cook and attitude problems.
Eventually traffic parted and allowed Jess to come to the hallowed corner of Cap Hill that is Chez Sarah. She admired my drawing table and the fleeting tidiness of the apartment. I made pancakes and fried bacon. People, I am here to tell you that frying bacon takes forever, especially when the recipient of the bacon is in a hurry.
We exchanged news of the small excitements of our weeks. I made tea, lapsang souchong*** to be precise. We ate pancakes with homemade raspberry jam, yogurt, and maple syrup. It was not a fancy meal. It was not expensive. But it was a kindness in the middle of a rough week.
Too soon, Jess had to run off to choir practice, and I faced the washing up with a braver heart. I had thought to write a little bit about community and the virtues of the practice of hospitality. But in this context it seems obvious, and this post has rambled on more than it probably needs to. So I leave you with this thought: You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get bacon.
*I will not go so far as to say that some of my best friends are dead birds.
** When the end of the world comes I will probably greet it with buckwheat pancakes. They are infinitely comforting when all other attempts to make sense of the universe have failed.
***Redolent of pine smoke, it is the thing to drink during fall and winter, when you do not have the option of sitting in a rocking chair with your feet up on the fender of a wood stove. I do not have a wood stove. I do have a quarter pound of lapsang in my tea cupboard.