Had dinner with my family and my parents Friday evening. We had a cookout in Mom and Pop’s backyard. But it wasn’t something you’ve probably ever come across. And if it would’ve been, I’ll invite you to the next one.
My Dad is Hungarian Slovak. When I was young, and a lot of his siblings were still close by, or in town visiting, they’d have a cookout at my Grandparents house. My Dad had 7 brothers and sisters, all with spouses, and most with kids, at least two apiece. So get-togethers were huge and cramped, considering my Grandparents lived in a tiny house: one small living room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a small bathroom with a clawfoot tub. No basement.
Once or twice a summer, we’d have what they called a bacon roast. This is how it worked. One large fire, lots of whittled sticks or saplings, a bag of small onions and slab bacon. You’d slide a cube (4x3x1 inches) of the bacon onto one of the pointed sticks, and then a small onion above that, and stick it into the fire. As the fat started dripping off the bacon, you’d blot it onto a slice of rye bread. As the bacon and the onion cooked, you cut thin slices of each onto the greasy rye bread and eat that as you cooked more. Good Lord, you’d have thought you died and went to heaven. Chase it with an ice cold beer, and you knew those Pearly Gates were on the other side of the tree.
For those that didn’t like bacon, there was plenty of wienies to cook, and dishes of baked beans, bags of chips and a variety of salads. And always, as it got dark, there were bags and bags of marshmallows to roast. The adults would talk and catch up, and the kids would play tag, kickball, catch or just about anything.
My Grandparents passed when I was 12. We didn’t have too many more roasts after that, as the old homestead was sold, and there were plenty of kids to raise, and work that got in the way.
Flash forward 2 decades and change. Every year for the past 10 or so, my brother and I would try to coordinate a roast over at my Parents’ house. Weather, work or something would always prevent it. Being off last Friday evening, I suggested to my folks that we do a bacon roast. Pop’s eyes lit up and he smiled. We made arrangements, and I promised to call my brother. As I walked home, I called. Brother was having friends over. No sweat, just wanted to see if you wanted to hook up. (I couldn’t tell him we were planning a bacon roast, he’d hate my guts!)
Pop and I went out into the woods to cut saplings and branches for the roasting sticks Friday morning, and then back to his house to whittle them down. I went by my house and got a load of wood for the fire. Kids out of school, wife home from the college and down to Mom and Pop’s we went.
Pop had the fire going in this small fire pit, and Mom had all the food laid out on a table. I showed my son how to set up his stick, and we followed my Dad to the fire. My wife and daughter followed shortly after due to a sleepover my daughter was going to. Didn’t take long and my son was cutting onion and bacon off of his stick and chowing down. My daughter and Mom were roasting hot dogs, and my Mrs. had her own bacon and onion going.
As I was finishing my second piece of bacon, I leaned back in the chair and took a swig of beer. With my eyes closed, I must’ve had a smile on my face because my wife commented on it. “Yea,” I said, “this is awesome.” I looked at my kids and said,”I’ll take this over a big, juicy steak ANY day of the week.” My youngest looked at me (and mind you, I can cook a pretty mean steak), raised an eyebrow and said, “Yea, right.” My Dad looked at her, and said,”That goes for me, too. Beats the heck out of a steak.”
As we cleaned up, Pop and I made arrangements to leave the leftover wood there, and I’d bring down more the next time. (When my brother finds out we had one, we’ll have to schedule another so he and his family can make it.) Walking back toward the house, he said one or two more roasts, and my son will be another pro.
“And hopefully, another generation to keep the bacon roast tradition alive,” I wished.
“That would be nice,” he said.
Yes, that would be nice.