On a mid-January day this past winter, I stood over the stove staring down at the small pan in the pre-dawn sixth hour. The temperature, according to my roommate Alexa, was an uncivilized 14 degrees. The pan was crackling a bit, the result of the two small strips of the pig’s ultimate guilty-pleasure gift to humanity, bacon, a consumable which brings into play all five of the carnivore’s senses on its journey from frying pan to palate.
I was about to do something that would make every cardio doc in the world cringe. Rather than removing the now-cooked bacon and washing the pan out before cracking and depositing the egg that I intended to pair with those two strips in my attempts to put a brighter face on that bone-chillingly gray workday morning, I simply left those sizzling strips in the pan and dropped that egg right in those shimmering bacon renderings.
I know … I know, nutritionally, I should have evolved well beyond having such an impulse and should have been able easily to dismiss all those images of eggs bubbling in bacon grease in those frying pans of my youth in the late 1950s and early 1960s. However, on that frigid January morning when there seemed to be no apparent end to the polar express in sight, I just couldn’t help myself.
I’ll justify that morning’s homage to my childhood thusly. The Greenland shark, a denizen of the deep that resides far beneath the waves of the Arctic and North Atlantic, can live to be older than 500 years. Compare that to the couple of eye blinks that we’re here, and that means I have a whole lot less time to check things off my guilty-pleasure list than Old Greenie!
Now, I did try to balance things a bit on that morning by adding a cup of fruit. The fact is, without a scintilla of guilt, I greedily consumed my guilty pleasure before heading out into the cold and dark, bound for Columbus to work two of my large-building accounts.
As I drove, I gave some thought to other one-time pleasures that have largely disappeared over time. As for a working definition of what guilty pleasures are, let’s just say they are the things we sometimes do that override our common sense when we really need a dopamine fix. Scientists tell us that’s the chemical the brain releases when we consume something really tasty.
Hearkening back to my childhood as I deposited my miles behind me on S.R. 117 and S.R. 33, I thought of other dopamine-releasing gustatory delights. One I remember that was mom-recommended as a between-meal pick-me-up for this hyperkinetic grade-schooler and the boys in his ‘hood was a particular type of sandwich.
The sandwich, of course, started with two pieces (per kid) of white bread pulled out of that white plastic sleeve with the red capital letters spelling WONDER just below the blue, yellow and red circles. The slices were then slathered with real butter before being liberally sprinkled with white sugar and slapped together, forming a no-doubt nutritionally unholy union.
Another dish famous around the Grindrod house was one my beloved mother called a nest egg. What it consisted of was a big mound of mashed potatoes. After the mound was deposited on each plate, a nice circular depression was made with the back side of a large spoon. Then came the piece de resistance, a big ladle full of hamburger gravy poured in the middle. My, how that hamburger gravy would shimmer in the light above the dining room table because no cook worth her apron strings drained that crumbled hamburger in the frying pan before the flour was added so the substance could morph from slurry to gravy.
While I have such fond memories of my childhood fun with food, I’ve limited my guilty pleasure only to that occasional egg cooking in bacon grease. In a lifetime that’s so very brief, perhaps we shouldn’t feel too bad about allowing ourselves the occasional nutritional guilty pleasure. After all, even dopes like me need a little extra jolt of dopamine now and again!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]