Sometime in my first year of law school I had the opportunity to work at a place called The Wiener Factory. It was located just west of Kester on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. Owned by a former stock broker turned English teacher, it was one of the truly iconic places in the San Fernando Valley to get a hot dog or other type of sausage (knackwurst, polish). The dogs all had natural casings, so they snapped when you bit into one. We also used egg bread buns that were steamed prior to placing a dog in them and the mustard was Gulden’s, slightly thinned with a bit of pickle juice. We did not served French Fries; instead we served hot German potato salad and coleslaw.
I worked for the original owner, whose name I can only remember as Gene. He had a way with words, as evidenced by the walls, which were covered with graffiti. The entire inside of the place was filled with different pithy sayings and slogans, many of which he had invented himself (I think; who knows?). The only two I can remember are “Please tell us how long you want us to hold the onions” and “We may be contumacious, but we’re never revocatory.” They were all amusing. However, were you to step out in the back where the bathrooms were located, it was a different story. There, the graffiti was raunchy and risqué, bordering on the profane. It was not something you were likely to encounter very often in your life. It was, after all, the early seventies.
We served them with mustard, relish, and onions, mustard and sauerkraut (one of my all-time favorites), mustard, chili, cheese, and onions, and two that were oddballs at the time – red cabbage and cheese and coleslaw and cheese. Lately, I have been purchasing Hoffy all-beef, natural casing wieners and they are reminiscent of the Vienna dogs we served back then and that I used to buy in 10-pound bags when I was working with my father in the wholesale beat business.
This morning I got nostalgic. I had been eating kraut dogs intermittently for some time, but the thought of a coleslaw and cheese dog has been invading my consciousness with increasing frequency. Since I had to make a stop at Vons to pick up some items for a dinner we’re making for some friends tonight, I checked out what was available coleslaw-wise. There was some at the service deli, but it was early and they weren’t quite up and running and I didn’t feel like waiting. However, I was able to find a tub of it in one of the stand alone deli cases where they provide salads, cold cuts, cheeses, and other items one might want.
I don’t have any egg buns, but I do have hot dog buns and I also have some Gulden’s mustard and some cheddar cheese slices. So I used a paring knife to further slice the cheese into bits (impossible to grate a slice of cheese). I nuked the dog, then the bun with the dog in it and the cheese on top (I had already drawn a thick thread of mustard at the bottom of the bun) and, finally, topped it off with a generous helping of coleslaw.
Of course it wasn’t exactly as I remembered (is anything?) but it was close enough … and it was heavenly. I’m going to do it again. Tonight, though, is reserved for Italian Wedding Soup that Linda made for our friends. We’re taking a big pot of it over to their place and serving it with pepperoncinis, stuffed olives, and fresh garlic bread.
This blog is hosted by WordPress.com. I love it. It’s easy to maintain an organized, continuous presence on the web (assuming I post fairly frequently) and I have found it to be a continuously improving Content Management System as well, i.e. more than just a blog for me. This year the folks at WordPress launched a sort of challenge to those who use their services. It was to blog every day, if possible, or at least every week. I chose to accept the latter challenge, though I have declined to use the subjects they suggest every day.
However, today they suggested writing something about bacon and I just couldn’t resist. Having been raised in the world of smoked and luncheon meats (bologna, ham, hot dogs, head cheese!, liverwurst, and bacon – to name a few) I have a long-standing love/hate relationship with them. I am intimately familiar with almost all of them (head cheese was never a favorite of mine, but I’ve sold and delivered a fair amount), and I am pretty familiar with the health consequences of eating them, though there are lots of conflicting viewpoints; some with merit.
That said, I spent the summer between my first and second years of Law School (1974) working at a butcher shop in Gardena, California. We had a large, automated bacon-slicing machine and kept several hundred slabs of bacon around, which we sliced fresh each day. On Saturday, I would keep my eye on the case the sliced stuff was in and, when I noticed we had revealed a particularly lean part of the tray we laid out, I would snag a pound to take home for next day’s breakfast. My girlfriend at the time was from Vermont and we always had blueberry pancakes made on a Vermont Soapstone, drizzled with the best Vermont Fancy Maple Syrup. The bacon was thick-cut and the rind (skin) was left on, making each piece crunchy. These were incredible breakfasts, the memory of which has stuck with me all these years.
Now what does the title I’ve used have to do with anything remotely involved with bacon? There is a dessert found in many Mexican as well as Central and South American cuisines. It’s called Flan and, if you have not experienced it, think custard and Crème caramel for somewhat of an analogy. There are similarities. Like many dishes, there are numerous variants and the skill of the person baking it can change a delightful experience into a ho hum downing of a reasonably tasty sponge. Texture is quite important with this dish, IMO.
The type of Flan that stands out in my mind, however, is the Cuban version. It’s called Tocino del Cielo and it is – I guess – at least twice as rich as the kind I favor the most. For my tastes, it’s a little bit too rich. Nevertheless, it is clearly savored by quite a few people. Now to the title. I have always translated the name of this Cuban Flan in two different but related ways. The first is Sky Bacon or, literally, Bacon of the sky. My favorite translation, though, is Heavenly Bacon. Given that bacon is probably the richest meat you can purchase and cook without any preparation, I think attaching the word to an incredibly rich dessert makes some sense and, even though I find it a bit overbearing, adding heavenly kind of makes sense as well.
Six Degrees Probably Won't Cook This Dude
Do you like bacon, or do you think it will kill you to eat it? If the latter, do you eat it anyway?
Right after (and I do mean “right” after) I had shown some friends the “Crazy Double Rainbow Guy” YouTube video, it started to rain a bit. This, in and of itself, was quite unusual here in Southern California. July is not known for a month in which you can expect any kind of precipitation. As I was grilling some hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids and our adult guests (it was my oldest daughter’s 9th birthday party), I looked up and saw a somewhat faint, yet quite distinct, double rainbow.
It was neither as full, nor as bright, as the one that had inspired such ecstasy in the crazy guy, but there it was . . . as was my Flip videocam. I had put on an apron (something I seldom do) and stashed the camera in one of the pockets. I managed to record a bit of my crazy-ass double rainbow and a few comments from my perspective as well. I offer them here not as any especially entertaining video, but rather as a way to memorialize the event, which I considered quite serendipitous and synchronicitous (if I may be so bold as to make up my own words :)) Here’s the link. Hope anyone who sees it (undoubtedly not many will) finds it at least a bit entertaining.
I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining.
Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence.
I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.