Category Archives: pork

In Which I Underestimated McRib’s Cultural Relevance…

I thought liking the McRib in 1994 was my embarrassing childhood secret, but everyone on earth seems to be on the McRib bandwagon now.

McDonald’s has a “Legends of McRib” ad campaign in which, if I understand correctly, you can make up a back story for the McRib and potentially win a trip to Germany. Which makes perfect sense! (And part of me is actually tempted to enter. What the heck? That’s what less-than-full-time-employment is for, right?)

Speaking of which: Gothamist mentioned it in an ad for a job I want so badly I might actually die. (ZOMG, Gothamist, if I have to break out into Abba’s Take a Chance on Me like they do at the end of Mamma Mia!, I will.)

Former New York Times reporter and forever-cooler-than-you-because-her-middle-name-is-a-number writer Jenny 8. Lee said it is one of her five favorite foods.

Even Stephen Colbert had a McRib monologue.

Re: Colbert’s point on bones, presumably (or quite obviously) a satiric jab at mass food production: Yes, as noted before, it’s a little weird if you think about why it doesn’t have bones. But, at the same time, even nice places have boneless ribs! Case in point: Brooklyn BBQ/whiskey joint Char No. 4 has spare ribs on its menu that, as T would say, are “banging.” (In other words, I liked them.) Although, then again, they were not actually on the menu when I dined there (the dish was a nightly special) and so, together, the McRib and Char No. 4’s spare ribs may prove that boneless ribs the world over are a fleeting phenomenon…

Although, sadly, I was not as nuts about Char No. 4’s bacon-jalapeno cornbread as I thought I would be. The flaw was perhaps with the cornbread itself: Too dry. Although more bacon and/or jalapenos would have helped. (It did, however, inspire me to add bacon and/or jalapenos to *my* cornbread next time…

Image via McDonald’s. (Thanks.)

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Filed under Brooklyn, entrees, pork

Mad Classics…and Tips for Feeding Trashy, Homesick Interlopers.

(Thanks, LehighValleyLive.com! I found this by Googling "Jersey Shore food.")

In honor of last week’s Mad Men premiere and the much anticipated launch of Jersey Shore’s second season, I thought I’d take a moment to ponder which particular foodstuffs would go best with each show.

I’ll start with the much-lauded Mad Men.

I was lucky that the Next Food Network Star included modern twists on ’60s favorites the week *before* last, making it very easy for me to (eww…gross!) regurgitate them this week.

I’m not actually very good at cooking without a recipe (It’s the baker in me?) — Reason #2 I will probably never be on the show. Instead, I found some recently updated versions of these classics, thanks to Epicurious and the Food Network (mostly).

Tuna Casserole

  • Tuna Noodle Casserole — I actually made this recipe once when I was hankering for comfort food. It seemed the most interesting spin with the mushrooms and the sherry and whatnot. It was good…but I haven’t made it since (and I’ve had half a bag of egg noodles in my cupboard, patiently waiting for the day I feel nostalgic enough to try it again…).
  • In general, I am wary of Rachael Ray recipes — I feel like they’re too bland for the required effort and if you really want something “easy,” you might as well really go hog wild and just microwave something (or order in). But…her Retro-Metro Fancy Tuna Casserole sounds okay. And I wonder what using actual tuna steaks would do to a tired-out casserole recipe. Jazz it up? Or would the steaks be lost in the faux-mushroom-soup sauce? That’s basically what Brianna did in that particular episode…but, then again, — spoiler alert — she got the ol’ heave-ho.
  • I feel basically the same way about Martha’s recipes, but her Mediterranean Tuna Casserole sounds like it has potential. I don’t know what makes it Mediterranean though — seems like you’d need to add capers and/or olives or something.

Pigs in a Blanket

First off, I am astounded by the variety of names in the Wikipedia entry. Who knew?

Lobster Thermidor

I confess I didn’t actually know what lobster thermidor was before that fateful Food Network Star episode. I mean, I’d heard of it…but I didn’t know anything about what actually went into it. And…now that I do, I gotta say it sounds pretty gross — egg yolks and cognac?? — and I’m not sure why Tom picked it.

  • I’m also not sure if it’s a recipe that has stood the test of time. Gourmet only has one recipe for it…and it’s from 1940.
  • Emeril has his own version — and it got really good reviews…(although I had to Google “bouquet garni,” so I feel like perhaps I am too ignorant to make it).
  • And…believe it or not, Oprah has a recipe, too…although it’s only because she, too, jumped on the Julia Child bandwagon last year. (Although I guess I have to give her props for not reprinting the Boeuf Bourguignon recipe that was absolutely everywhere…)

Deviled Eggs

I won’t spend too much time here as I have made no secret about my hatred for eggs…and I would never in a million years devil them.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I actually remember eating this as a kid — I think my grandmother made it. Which makes sense. I don’t think there’s much modern or new about these recipes though — just plain cake. Which is maybe as it should be?

Okay…got that out of your system? Ready for pickles and Ron-Ron Juice?

I am officially thrilled that Snooki discovered fried pickles while driving through Savannah, Georgia en route to Miami in Episode 1. (I’m a little sad that they let one guy represent all of Georgia and dismissed him as a giant hick, but…that’s a post for another day.)

You may recall I once wrote a heavily edited story about fried pickles that made me sound like a complete ditz. I won’t link to it here as I was completely aghast by what the editor did in trying to assume my voice, but…let’s leave it at this: fried pickles are kind of amazing. (Snooki said it was a life-changing experience that put pickles on a whole other level! She’s not far off.)

Other than their family dinner nights, I imagine the cast of Jersey Shore has better things to do than find good food. (Didn’t J-Woww buy ham at a late-night grocery store and eat it in the confessional room to avoid cheating on her boyfriend once?) So…it’s kind of a short list. And then there’s the whole issue that only one of them is actually from Jersey anyway…so it really should be a post about New York and Rhode Island food?

But…my new ball and chain is from Jersey…so, in his honor, I’ll share all that I know about Jersey food — most of which I have learned from him — should Sami want to seek solace in empty calories or something as she embraces singlehood in MIA.

1. Diners. Jersey is famous for diners. So…typical diner food.

2. Taylor ham. I tried to call this “pork roll” and was corrected. He also thinks it’s fascinating that, like Kleenex, Taylor is a brand name that has come to represent the product itself. And you have to eat it in some sort of sandwich form?

3. Gravy fries. (There’s a bar near me that calls them “Disco fries.” I think this is a substantially more fun name.)

4. Clams? Or is that just my warped memory of Sam Sifton’s piece?

And…there you have it.

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Filed under Brooklyn, eggs, entrees, fish, Food Network, hot dogs, Martha, pickles, pork, Uncategorized

Julie and Meat/Infidelity

I had hoped to actually post this before Cleaving’s December 1 publication date as I have friends in high places (…sorta…) and got an early copy of Julie Powell’s second book…and wanted to rub it in your collective faces a little bit. (But in the nicest way possible.)

But, alas, it is now December 5, and for all you know, I could have spent the last four days feverishly reading it and composing dark lies.

But *that*, I suppose, is sort of beside the point.

I had *heard* Cleaving got bad reviews…and I understand why. I hadn’t actually read any of the critics until I sat down to write *this.* But as I was reading the book, I definitely thought, “People are not going to like this…”

And because of the kinship I felt with Julie in Julie and Julia (and that I still felt — albeit to a lesser degree — in Cleaving), I’m going to go out on a limb and play a little devil’s advocate here. Which is not to say I liked the entire book. I initially thought it was hard to get into — the text really just goes back and forth between Knives/Meat and Marriage Falling Apart/Affair over and over again. Neither topic is really pleasant to encounter…(especially for those of us who saw Chris Messina valiantly play the role of Eric in this summer’s movie…)

But first I’ll tackle the meat: I’m hardly a vegetarian (those vegan blog posts last year were really just a buddy at HuffPo hooking an unemployed girl up…), but, put lightly, some of those butchering passages were really hard to read. (It was sort of like when I was watching something on TV with my parents about bison that mysteriously died in a national park..and it turned out that they were already sick…and because of the cold weather, they got trapped in some sort of gassy something-or-rather out on the plains…so, it was unfortunate, but they would have died anyway. And the national parks guys proved this by cracking open one of the bones and showing this really gooey bone marrow…and my mother and I saw it and immediately exclaimed, “EWW!” and my dad just said, “What? It’s bone marrow.”) So…Point #1: I may eat steak, but that doesn’t make it easy to read about how a cow *becomes* steak. Which maybe means I *should* be a vegetarian…but that’s a topic for another post.

Point #2: After such phenomenal success with her first book, I sort of have to give Powell props for not following a similar pattern and writing the same thing again, but with Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two. I would imagine the temptation would totally be there with something that has already been established as a successful model…*especially* when that model has been turned into a Nora Ephron movie and you KNOW that plenty of people will buy the second book on name recognition alone.

I think London’s Sunday Times put it best, actually, in this review that asked how Powell could possibly top herself after Julie and Julia…and then answers itself: “The answer is, of course, that she couldn’t. But she has had a jolly good stab at it — literally.”

I like that — “a jolly good stab.” We should all be so lucky…

But…it *is* gross. And disconcerting. And, as noted, I basically agreed with everyone who didn’t like it…until D — the man with whom she is having the torrid affair that threatens her marriage — disappears. That was the moment Julie became a sympathetic character to me…and I started to identify with her more and more…and even recognized some of my own behavioral patterns in the things she does for him…even though she knows she’ll never hear from him. This may officially make me a crazy person, but…1. Who among you didn’t think that anyway? And…2. I totally understand that compulsion…and that desire to maintain a connection with someone no longer in your life. Small case in point: There is perhaps no one (aside from myself) who loved my cat more than the Bartender. And so, for example, when I finally got the cat fixed and the vet told me that he was the most well-endowed feline she had ever neutered, I *knew* the Bartender would appreciate the story…perhaps more than anyone else. And so I emailed him about it…even though I knew he wouldn’t respond. I guess part of me is stubborn enough and/or hopeful enough that somewhere out there, he read my message and it made him happy and he remembered that we had good times together. (But when I read Christine Muhlke’s review in the NYT, I felt really bad about myself. I can’t help but feel she’s calling me pathetic, too: “Powell’s not kidding about the ‘obsession’ part: she pathetically texts and e-mails into the ether for almost a year, then fleshes her longing into a book that doesn’t spare the reader a single full-frontal flashback.” [For the record though, I spared y’all plenty of full-frontal flashbacks. So count your blessings.])

However, when I told my friend J that I sort of got Julie’s sadness about D, she said, “But you don’t have a husband!!” which is a fair point. And, Julie, as much as I’d like to defend you (you’re the one, after all, who gave me hope that it *is* possible to be at a point in life in which you feel absolutely nothing is going right, but you can still suck it up and make positive changes and turn everything around…), I gotta say that it *is* hard to have real, total, complete sympathy for you knowing that you have Eric at home. And, sure, he goes out and has his own affair, too…but…I found myself asking, “Why not just get a divorce?” repeatedly. And, sure, he’s been a part of your life for a super-long time and you know each other so well that you’re basically the same person and you always know what the other one is thinking…which is why you can’t hide the affair from him in the first place, but also why you can’t bear to part with him, and…well…I don’t know. It just sort of gets to a point where it seems like a tough decision needs to be made…but nobody is willing to make it and it kinda feels like you guys are making your own beds. Either get divorced or don’t, but, for the love of god, stop complaining about the uncertainty. (Which, ultimately, she does.) (And all of this, “But I love/know him more than I love/know myself…”-business sort of makes me think of the fourth book in the Twilight series and that half-vampire baby that resulted from Bella and Edward’s union. UGH. But, again, another post for another day.)

Point #3 is that when you write something like this, you have to be honest. (Or at least that’s what Dale Maharidge taught me…) And, sure, some of Cleaving is a little saucy and/or, you know, what kids these days (or kids from days of yore) might call TMI…but, at the same time, I also think it’s kind of brave. She wrote about a topic that clearly does not paint her in a positive light…but she doesn’t gloss over any of it. She sort of offers herself up — flaws and all. And that takes guts. And to touch on Point #2 again briefly, all the saucy stuff takes her further out of her Julie and Julia Comfort Zone…and I gotta give her props for being brave enough to do that, too. (But, then again, I don’t know how much of it was actually flexing writing muscles and how much of it was, “See?? I can write naughty words! And lots of ’em!”)

I also think confidence plays a big role in all of this…and it is where, again, I feel a certain kinship with Ms. Powell. I was just at a little J-school classmate reunion-y thing, in fact, when I was talking about making slow progress on my book and one of my classmates grabbed me by the arms and shook me a little and said, “You’re so talented! Do you know that? You have to know that and acknowledge it and understand that someday you’re going to do great things!” and it was sort of like, “Yes! Sure. Okay!”

I like the way the NYT put the confidence issue best: Muhlke writes that D’s enduring power over Julie exists, in part, because his presence in her life “instills the confidence that being played by Amy Adams in the movie apparently did not.” And…I don’t know. But I get that, too. And, heck, I can only assume money is no object for her now and I don’t really see anything wrong with looking around and saying, “Hey! I have a lot of freedom!” and then trying butchering on for size and going to Argentina, Ukraine and Tanzania…in order to clear her head or spark something within her or simply to delay the inevitable. Obviously she’s still a person trying to figure out who she is and what makes her tick…and I’m not sure we should all be so quick to judge. She has an amazing opportunity sans financial pressures to actually figure out all that stuff on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…that a lot of people never get to do. I have no idea what I’d do with myself if I didn’t have to worry about paying rent or bills or anything (aside from blogging for all of you, natch). While visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, I went to a thrift shop with my mother and found a giant silver clock that was lined with velvet and contained a hologram of the Last Supper and some fake flowers. And it was just the most amazing clock ever…but there was a slight imperfection in the velvet lining…so I bought some additional fake flowers and glued them on the inside and then I decided I might as well touch up the silver paint while I was at it, too…and I pretty much had the time of my life. So…perhaps I would fix up old clocks. But would I really be fulfilled by that forever and ever? I have no idea. (See? Creating a fulfilling life for oneself is a toughie.)

Bottom line: I think there’s a lot of be said about pursuing your passion no matter what. And I hate to get up on a feminist soapbox, but…I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable to point out that women face this tinge of selfishness when they want to do something purely for themselves that men never do. A man can pursue whatever career/passions he wants and he can still be a model family man. But a woman who puts her career and/or other passions at the forefront at the expense of family and/or children isn’t such a sympathetic figure. And that’s not really fair. (I am tempted to ask the “What if Julie was a man?”-question and bring up powerful men and *their* affairs and follow *that* thread for awhile…but I think Access Hollywood quite thoroughly beat me to that punch last week.)

And, I mean, I totally understand Julie’s excitement in having her own apartment. (Did Virginia Woolf not write that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”?) I’m really not good at sharing spaces. In fact, I think my own apartment may be the ONE thing I’ve done right in my life to date. So…yet another thing that makes me get Julie. If only Eric didn’t exist at all, she might be one of my favorite people ever…(or perhaps I should say, “The idea of her…” I just Googled and found an interivew on YumSugar and realized that she *is*, in fact, a real person and thought, “Yikes! What if she reads this?” Which she won’t…but, still…)

My final plus: It’s hard to travel on your own. Heck, I have trouble eating or going to movies by myself. (That’s one of the good things about working from home — I can go see movies in the middle of the day in the middle of the week and absolutely no one is in the theater…) So — even though I agree with the reviewers that her post-apprenticeship jaunts around the world *do* seem to have been tacked on without a firm idea about how they contribute to the book as a whole — I also think it’s really great she was brave enough to fly all over the world on her own.

The NYT felt otherwise — “She travels to Argentina, Ukraine and Tanzania, a 100-page exercise in self-indulgent writing, in which she dwells on how attractive the locals find her and how much Malbec, Cognac or goat’s blood she can drink…” — but, I mean, c’mon. What is memoir (or foodoir) if not an exercise in self-indulgence?

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Good Eats: Or, New York with Bobby, Junior, Florence, Mario and Tina.

So…my mother was here last week, which means I got to indulge in a New York lifestyle drastically different from the norm. To wit: I got up and dressed every single day and didn’t once look for a job or do any copywriting or tinker with my book proposal. Instead, I went to restaurants under the purview of celebrity chefs and saw shows on Broadway. I would imagine I would eventually run out of shows and/or get bored if this was my regular life, but…from here, the grass looks pretty green.

Our first stop was Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. I’ve probably walked by this place a million times, but I’ve never been inside. However, I’ve been meaning to ever since I was at work (or in a class) once and my mom was exploring the city on her own and stumbled upon it and was super-excited and ended up doing a big, brave thing and eating there on her own. So…after six years, I finally ate there. I was really happy with my chile relleno — stuffed with eggplant and rolled in cornmeal! — but my mom was a little disappointed with her sweet potato ravioli…which was a shame as it is the one dish that jumped out on the menu to me, too. I’ve sort of had a complex about chile rellenos since eating at a Mexican restaurant in Wisconsin that served an extremely eggy one. As we all know, I HATE EGGS. So…it freaked me out and sort of put me off chile rellenos for a while. But my mother quoted somebody — possibly Bobby Flay — who said that you really shouldn’t be able to taste the egg in a good chile relleno…and she/he was right. (I also really enjoyed the barbed-wire tiles in the bathroom. Nice touch, BF.)

That night we went to the Grand Central Oyster House…which is another one of those places I have heard about for ages but have never actually tried. I don’t honestly remember where all of the oysters came from — although I’m pretty sure two were from the East coast and two were from the West. Either way, it came with mignonette…which is my favorite part about oysters. I had it for the first time at Elliott’s Oyster House in Seattle years ago…and that was it. I was sold. I also had scallops (which I am told my father liked…which is worth mentioning solely because the whole reason my mom came out to NY was to walk with me in the Light the Night Walk in his memory/honor and so I could perhaps exorcise a demon or two) and my mom got a white fish that came with chunks of bacon on top. Both, again, were very, very good…and we were early because we had tickets to Jersey Boys (still hadn’t seen it!) and I imagine it gets pretty cozy in there as the night goes on, but it seems like it would be fun to meet up there for drinks and oysters after work someday. (Also? There is a red lip-shaped couch in the bathroom.) After the show, we hit up Junior’s for cheesecake…and my mom was very excited to see an autographed photo from Bobby Flay. So…it was like the whole day came full circle.

The next day we got lunch at Bagels by the Park and headed out for the God of Carnage matinee. (Loved it! So good! And so funny! Despite the sort of Heart-of-Darkness point of it all…) We had some time to kill afterward, so we hit up the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Times Square (it was either that or Madame Tussaud’s…and the guy at the door gave us $5 off each ticket)…and I guess we should have known better as it was pretty much a huge letdown. Or, rather, there was a lot of uncomfortable stuff: people with really unfortunate physical abnormalities; a room that traps you inside; torture devices; and weird medical situations. There was one breast implant display with a pair of boobs that inflated at the push of a button…otherwise, a big miss. Then I tried to take Ma to the Rainbow Room, but it’s apparently closed for awhile? (Kind of ironic that the Web site says, “Then. Now. Forever,” eh?) And so we opted instead for the revolving lounge atop the Marriott Marquis…and wouldn’t you know it? Florence Henderson was there. Small world. So…we had a drink there and tried to determine which building was which and whether Florence did anything besides the Brady Bunch and Wesson Oil (I have a “Christmas Carols” refrigerator magnet that includes Ms. Henderson, Carol Burnett, Carol Channing and Carroll O’Connor).

THEN we went to Mario Batali’s Spotted Pig as my mom really, really, REALLY likes Mario Batali. We had to wait at the bar for a bit, but it wasn’t a big deal as two seats opened up right away…almost like fate! We had oysters *again* and my mom was thinking about getting pork belly, but our server told us it was pretty fatty…so she ended up with a fish again and I got chorizo-stuffed quail with goat cheese pudding. Pretty amazing. Although the kitchen was churning out burger/fries like they were going out of style. And the guy at the table next to us could not have been any more smarmy and sort of reminded me why I’ve vowed to be the Lone Wolf for awhile. (We also finished things off with a stop by Magnolia Bakery so my mother could have one of the cupcakes made famous by you-know-what.)

On our last full day, we had a late lunch at Chevy’s and dinner after the walk (So cold! But Tina Fey was there!) at an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood that Guilia Melucci wrote about in “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.” We had tried to get in to Buttermilk Channel, which used to be a place called Cafe Scaramouche where I had brunch sort of on a regular basis with my friend Bob and ordered pancakes with caramelized orange peel that he called “pancakes in drag.” But it’s apparently quite a hot spot as the wait was an hour and we were cold, starving walkers, so we sought out the quiet Italian joint.

And then that was it. Mom went back to Tucson and I went back to reality. Still have a little linguine left over…but then it really is back to my own cookin’. Good thing I’m still really excited about my Trader-Joe’s-in-the-middle-of-the-day epiphany…

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Filed under books, Brooklyn, cheesecake, cupcake, eggs, fish, Food Network, pork

Søttende/Syttende Mai

Future Miss NorwaysSo…this past weekend, there was a parade in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn celebrating Norway Day, which I have read commemorates the signing of the Constitution of Norway (…and which established the nation as an independent entity). Norway also apparently just won the Eurovision song contest — so I guess it was a good weekend to be Norwegian.

I went to the parade with a J-school colleague (and Bay Ridge native) who also has Norwegian roots. (Although I should note it’s not entirely clear *how* Norwegian I actually am. My paternal grandmother was said to be 100% Norwegian…but as her mother got knocked up on the ship over from Norway, she never knew her actual father. Her mom said he was a Norwegian sailor, but because she never had the extremely fair complexion that the rest of us are known for, my aunt suspects her mother’s father was actually from somewhere in the Mediterranean. So…long story short, I’m anywhere from 1/8 to 1/4 Norwegian. Which still makes me a legit parade-goer, I hope.)

When I lived in Alaska, I met a woman from Norway who had met her Alaskan husband while studying at the University of Sussex — which, as you’ll recall, is my alma mater. She told me that it is very popular for Americans to go back to Norway, searching for long-lost relatives. And as my paternal great-grandmother was one of, like, a dozen children, it’s entirely possible that I still have family there.

It really would be great to go to Oslo someday, but in the meantime, I’ll have to settle for Bay Ridge. It was a very happy parade — my friend bought Norwegian flags and it was kind of cute how everyone in the parade got excited when they saw *our* flags and waved *their* flags. (And then Creepy Pants on the Subway tried to use my new flag as an excuse to talk.)

After the parade, we headed to a Norwegian deli that was serving a special May 17 menu that included hot dogs (which sounds authentic! At least for kids!) as well as a stew and what my friend referred to as the Norwegian equivalent of White Castle (some sort of patty on bread with tomato and lettuce) and a potato dumpling thing with some kind of meat in it (pork? Beef? Could have been either). I wish I could remember the names…the potato dumpling was especially a kind of stick-to-your-ribs-type dish…which my friend mused must be because it’s so darn cold up there that you need calorie-heavy food to fuel your whatevers. And I tried to think of some sort of Alaskan equivalent…but failed. (I had a roommate at Sussex who was from Finland…and from  her, I learned that the Finns don’t like the Swedes [in part because everyone always asks them if they are Swedish] and that Finland looks a lot like Alaska.)

And, speaking of hot dogs…I hate myself for admitting this on a number of levels, but after watching Jillian’s debut as the Bachelorette, I’m sorta jonesing for hot dogs now. (It could also be because I ran into some folks from the Luxury Spot in Williamsburg this weekend and we all went to a nearby watering hole and there was free BBQ that included veggie dogs…which sort of whet my hot dog whistle, I guess.)

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Filed under Alaska, Brooklyn, holidays, hot dogs, pork

Great. Claire. Cook.

I’m fact-checking a story about a Scandinavian restaurant in Hong Kong. It has a Danish proverb on its Web site: “Food tastes better when you eat it with your own spoon.”

I visited a friend in Copenhagen in the early part of the decade…and we stayed with her friend, Eric…and he spoke frequently of Danish pork during the trip. So…for a long time, I thought pig products were a big Danish export.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I made a comment related to what I presumed to be true of the Danes’ economy when my friend said, “I don’t think pork is as much of a Danish thing as it is an Eric thing.”

Oh.

But then I met the Danish National Ballroom Dancing Champion of 1986 at a mutual fund conference in Miami…and *he* told me that bacon is actually really popular there. So. We were sort of both right.

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