Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bacon and Benches.

The internet hath asked for the recipe for caramelized bacon and the internet giveth.  I found the recipe in The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser, which has become my cooking Bible.  It's very simple.  Take a one-pound box of brown sugar, dump it into a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup water.  Take a pound of (ideally best-quality, thick-sliced) bacon and dredge each piece in the sugar.  Place the bacon pieces in a large, rimmed, parchment-lined baking pan.  Bake at 400 for 8-13 minutes per side.  Allow to cool and cut into little pieces.

A while back, I wrote a piece bitching about why Charlottesville's Downtown Mall is not a welcoming place to people who don't intend to spend any money.  There were some supportive comments, but also some rumblings that I was whiny, cheap, and un-funloving.  Really?  Is it so improbable that the need to sit down in public is not always coupled with a desire to purchase a beverage or a meal? The one scenario that keeps coming to mind is a mother with a nursing infant.  What are you supposed to do if you're downtown and your baby needs to be fed?  (To anyone who says "bottle" a big hand is going to come out of your computer and smack you in the head.)  Of course, the last place you would ever park yourself to publicly nurse a baby would be in front of a crowd of rowdy homeless people.  On the other hand, should your only other choice be to take a screaming baby into a restaurant and order something?  Or flee to your car?  Or walk all the way home with a hungry, crying baby?  Or what if you are elderly?  What if you are recovering from illness or surgery and you just need to rest your legs for five effing minutes?

Now the issue has hit the local news, as the city removes more benches from the mall, for the specific purpose of booting a crowd of rowdy homeless people.  I totally get it that these people are annoying on the Mall.  I am on the Downtown Mall a lot--usually passing through on my walk home from work. I put on my don't-fuck-with-me face and breeze past the panhandlers and they don't bother me, but I can see how some people would find them intimidating.  On the other hand, they are people.  Human beings.  It seems a bit, I don't know, medieval, to snatch away amenities to keep "that sort" away from the mall.  What's next?  A designated homeless-only area?

The thing is, there has never been a time or a culture that didn't have public beggars.  You can't make them disappear by removing benches from a public place.  There are no public benches along the stretch of W. Main St. near the ABC store yet there is often a sketchy group gathered there.  What's the solution there?  Remove the liquor store?  Remove the trolley stop?  Nobody can buy liquor or ride a bus because a few people want to hang around and be obnoxious?


  1. I remember when the city removed the benches down near the movie theater because they didn't want the goth teenagers hanging out there all day. God forbid!

    I'm so fed up with the benches constantly disappearing, the expensive parking, and the feeling that I'm not welcome unless I'm spending money, that my visits have gone from multiple times per week to 2-3 times per year.

  2. We have public benches and tables at our town center AND our town has a sizable homeless population (surprisingly), but I never see them using that seating area. I wonder whether the police keep them moving along? Also, many of them hang out at the library - maybe Charlottesville needs a public library near the downtown mall.

  3. And I am so happy I know now who Not Beehive is!

  4. It drives me nuts that there's no seating down there unless you're paying to eat somewhere. Why do all those restaurants get to take up so much public space for their private use?

    And it's not like taking those benches away is going to solve the so-called problem of homeless people hanging out.

    I'm downtown pretty much once a week, whether I'm walking over to take care of errands or running through, and I really don't think that the problem is what some people say it is. Yes, there are homeless people and panhandlers, but they're going to be downtown whether the benches are there or not.

    In the meantime, my 80 year old father-in-law (partially blind, heat problems, Parkinson's) has no place to sit and rest when he's downtown.

  5. There is a library downtown-I used to live 2 blocks away from it. The library is just a couple of blocks away from the downtown mall, but I never saw more than one or two homeless people there. And thanks for mentioning the group by the ABC store on Main St-it never gets mentioned and I think that area can be a lot worse than the downtown mall

  6. I'm totally making the bacon candy--thanks for posting!
    What people don't get is that a lovely, publicly owned and maintained, well-traveled infrastructure BOOSTS a community. Privatize it and the benefits are only temporary. So short-sighted to allow that kind of development.

  7. As you age you understand and appreciate the need to sit down for a bit. I always thought places that did not allow me to sit or use the bathroom were just essentially saying, "We want you to shop someplace else."

  8. True story - once, when riding the trolley between downtown and the corner, the person apparently passed out and hunched down in the back corner of the trolley threw up all over the floor, much to the horror of my family, who was riding it at the time and sitting just in front of them. It was all liquid, a freshly downed beer.

    My daughter now thinks that NYC transit is far safer and less scary than Cville's.

    We have a friend who cooks his bacon that way. Now I know it has a name. You should try making bacon jam sometime - it's really good stuff.

  9. Sounds like it's time for a group of citizens to protest the lack of benches. (I'm next in line to smack anyone who makes that "bottle" comment, too -- not that a person really wants to walk around instead of sitting down to feed the baby a bottle, either.)

    So, this bacon cooks in its own fat AND brown sugar? I've got to make this for my menfolk. But not for my baby -- he's 12 years old and doesn't like meat unless it is in the form of a cheeseburger.

  10. I've been making bacon that way for holidays for years---I do mine on a rack over a rimmed pan--and I agree it's heavenly. I recently tried drizzling melted chocolate over cooked bacon, chilling it, (and then eating it all.) Oh, my goodness!

  11. I love that NY Times cookbook so I'm wondering HOW I missed this amazing bacon recipe. Thanks for posting.

    In Sarasota, FL they have removed all the benches in the downtown area to keep the homeless folk from hanging around in the park. Then they removed the knee high retaining wall around the park flower beds to keep the homeless folk from sitting on those. Now the homeless folk and the opera orchestra sit on the grass. Great planning. Geez.

  12. Totally agree. I hate when they remove benches. When the homeless co-opt them, I say make more. More benches for everyone!

    (I'm not feeling very practical when I really need to sit down.)