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Archive for the ‘Sarah Pratt’ Category

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

 

People love bacon.

And when I say love, I don’t mean flippantly, as in, “Oh, I love that hat.” The relationship many people have with bacon borders on spiritual.

Let’s start with the facts. One slice of bacon contains somewhere around two grams of fat and is often referred to as the heart attack snack.

It’s traditionally a cured meat that contains vast quantities of salt, and there are many cuts of bacon, depending on where the meat is taken from the pig. Some of the lesser-known bacons include jowel bacon, also known as pig cheeks, and collar bacon, taken from the back of the animal, near the head.

One of my friends, who is a bacon zealot, once told me that bacon is nature’s candy. I suppose that’s why you can find bacon ice cream, chocolate-dipped bacon, bacon doughnuts and bacon mints. You can also try an aperitif that includes bacon-infused vodka, and the Goose Island Beer Company created a maple bacon stout.

For the main course, it seems Wendy’s Baconator was a hot seller, to say the least. It’s reported that the fast-food giant sold 25 million Baconators in the first eight weeks it was on the menu. And here are some numbers for you: the single Baconator contains 34 grams of fat; the double contains 63 grams; and the triple contains 91 grams of fat. Based on gender, height and weight, most people should be eating somewhere between 60 to 80 grams of fat per day, total.

So it seems bacon’s siren song lures many a carnivore to its fatty shores. “The only thing better than bacon is bacon wrapped in bacon,” said Vladimir. There’s a BBQ Addicts website that shows you how to make a bacon explosion. It’s basically two pounds of bacon wrapped around two pounds of sausage and ends up looking like a meat brick. 

“I could eat bacon all day,” said Kim, laughing. “But it has to be thin and crispy and no maple flavour. And no turkey bacon, that’s a complete joke. And never microwaved.”

See? People are passionate about their bacon. I suspect there are secret societies, much like the Masons, devoted to bacon worship.

Lucretia was recently on holidays in the States and had buffet meals of just bacon. “They flatten it out so it doesn’t curl up,” she said.

“And if you have bacon with pancakes and some of the maple syrup gets on the bacon, it’s even better.” Everyone has a favourite bacon presentation.

“The only thing better than bacon the first time is bacon the second time, as leftovers,” said Carol.

My friend Kathy made a bacon stir-fry and said her family loved it. Really? Bacon stir-fry?

Joseph, whose father was a chef, shares his favourite way of cooking bacon. “You bake it,” he said. “Put the oven at about 375 F, put parchment on a cookie sheet and just turn the bacon once. And it’s easy to clean, you just roll up the parchment paper and it’s done.”

Find a true bacon junkie and you’ll have someone who thinks veggie bacon is heresy and shouldn’t even be called bacon.

The website thinkgeek.com sells a My First Bacon talking plush. It has a mechanical mouth and says “I’m bacon” when squeezed. Because, as they say, “you’ve got a friend in meat.” They also sell bacon popcorn, bacon lip balm and other swine-inspired products.

It’s truly amazing how passionate so many people are about bacon. Besides chocolate, it’s hard to think of any other food that inspires such loyalty. There’s even a Royal Bacon Society and I don’t know how many other bacon-loving groups.

I’m wondering if our readers love bacon. Well, do you? Visit the Country Asides Facebook page and tell us why – you could win an Edmonton Journal prize pack. Maybe you have an unusual bacon recipe that we can print in a future edition. How about bacon-related photos? Send your pictures to countryasides@edmontonjournal.com.

-Sarah Pratt


USELESS BACON FACTS!

• a 200-pound pig produces about 20 pounds of bacon.

• the people in Denmark consume the most bacon in the world

• the top bacon market in the U.S. is New York

• Bacon is Britain’s most frequently eaten meat

• Canadian bacon, also known as peameal bacon and back bacon, is literally from the back of the pig

• more than two billion pounds of bacon is produced annually in the US.

 

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If you haven’t read the Twilight book series, you probably won’t have much of a reason to visit Forks, Washington. 

Oh, you may drive through Forks on the 101 if you make the wise decision to tour the perimeter of Olympic State Park, but you likely wouldn’t list Forks as your destination.

This city in Clallam County records a population of 3,175 and was nicknamed the logging capital of the world. When the lumber industry began to wane, the residents of Forks started to depend more on the nearby corrections centre to help keep the city afloat financially.

In 1995 a woman named Stephenie Meyer published a book called Twilight, an event that would change life in Forks forever. Twilight is a story about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire. Well, that’s the extremely condensed summary. 

The book is set in Forks, and the following that has helped the book sell 17 million copies worldwide now has this humble city on their list of places to visit. The Forks Chamber of Commerce embraced this phenomenon and is certainly thrilled that tourism has increased an
estimated 600 per cent since the book was released.

There is evidence of Twilight (which was followed by three books to complete the saga) throughout the city. A sign on the visitors’ centre says Entering Forks, Population 3,175, Vampires 8.5. 

Local restaurants serve items named after characters, such as Cullen’s Clam Chowder, Bella Berry Pie and a Werewolf Burger. Yes, there are also werewolves in the stories, but we won’t be sucked into too many plot details here. A fuel station just outside Forks put up a sign that welcomes visitors to the Twilight zone. 

There are Twilight tour buses rolling down the streets, and a huge store called Dazzled by Twilight is the city’s hot spot. The Twilight goodies for sale ranged from chocolates and bumper stickers to jewelry and water bottles. There were no vacancies at any of the city’s motels and a crowd gathered at the Welcome to Forks sign, with everyone eager for a photo.

About 20 kilometres from Forks is the community of La Push, home to the Quileute Tribe and another setting for the Twilight books. It’s a place of raw, natural beauty with a breathtaking beach and rich cultural heritage. 

In the books, the werewolves are from La Push and the vampires live in Forks, and some tourists even choose where they travel to depending if they are on what Twi-Hards (avid Twilight fans) call Team Edward (the vampire) or Team Jacob (the werewolf). And it’s not an exaggeration to say that Twilight fans range in age from youths to great-grandparents, as evidenced by the white-haired trio of women buying “Edward prefers brunettes” coffee mugs in the souvenir shop.

If you decide to continue past Forks and around Olympic State Park, you will be rewarded with some of the most inspiring sites you’ll find in nature. The topography of the Olympic peninsula is ethereally beautiful, with saltwater waves crashing onto driftwood and thick rainforest with towering trees and lush ferns. You forget where you are as you drive the winding road through the park.

There are a few different ways to reach Forks and the park, but they all involve ferries. When you’re on the ferry, you’ll likely know which groups are the Twi-Hards heading to Forks. A minivan full of various-aged females is a dead giveaway. If you’d like to take a tour of the Forks area from home, the website (www.forkswa.com) has photo galleries, webcams and even an online store. 

Now you don’t have to actually travel to Washington to get your I Kissed A Vampire And I Liked It bumper sticker.

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As I sat on the Teddy Bear Special diesel train from Stettler to Big Valley, the discordant rhythm of the car lulled me into a welcome sluggishness and I started to decompress. 

My thoughts meandered from one subject to another. I wondered if I would have found this relaxing if I was travelling across the Prairies in the heat of summer with five kids in 1910? Would we have had meals of bread, dried fruit and salted meat? What did they do for bathrooms? Would the countryside look at all like this if we were travelling through Germany?

It was Sunday, July 4, and we were on an Alberta Prairie Railway excursion, named the Teddy Bear Special because all the kids were invited to bring their favourite teddy along for the ride. The train left the Stettler station at 11 a.m. and arrived in Big Valley near 12:30. We had two hours to have a buffet lunch and wander the nearby streets before boarding the train for the approximately 90-minute ride home.

I admit to being a little hesitant before the trip, as the idea of train cars full of children in a confined space brought Grinchy thoughts of all the noise, noise, noise. But I was pleasantly surprised when people were able to fall asleep on the trip down and back, and I was even happier when my sniffly four-year-old slept the entire ride back to Stettler. Actually, he was almost asleep on the southward leg of the journey, but the train robbers had him quickly on alert. 

We were rolling into Big Valley when the train slid to a stop and the popping of gunshots brought curious heads out of the windows. Horses ran the length of the cars, carrying robbers in full cowboy gear and handkerchiefs over their faces. 

As we were gruffly told to hand over our change, I could see the kids holding their teddy bears a little bit tighter. Up and down the train the cowboys rode, collecting coins for the Edmonton and Calgary children’s hospitals.

After lunch we meandered up to the little ‘Blue Church,’ otherwise known as St. Edmund’s Anglican Church, built in 1916. Then we wandered on and bought gemstones at the quaint shop on the corner. 

We poked around the museum and were herded back into the train car early, as it started to rain. Before naptime on the ride home there was a teddy bear promenade, with all the kids walking the length of the train and back. Some kids (mostly girls) proudly held aloft their favourite teddy, while others (mostly boys) sauntered along with their friend dangling by their side. Do boys really learn to try to look cool at such a young age?

The trip home was a little uncomfortable, with my little guy using us as a mattress, but being able to kiss his warm cheeks made it worthwhile. The entire day ended up being relaxing and easy, and I highly recommend the trip to anyone. The countryside is beautiful and the excursion staff is fun and friendly. 

Visit absteamtrain.com for more information on their various seasonal excursions.

And now I will just leave you with one thought: why hasn’t someone designed a children’s bed that shimmies like a train car?

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Are you a beach bum?

One of my favourite childhood camping and swimming spots was Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park, on the east basin of Lac La Biche. It’s an island park accessed via a causeway, and it easily resides on my “places to revisit” list.

The private campsites were nestled within heavily treed boreal forest, home to my first pet squirrel that I named PJ. I think he was named after Prince John in the 1973 Disney animated version of Robin Hood, in which Peter Ustinov played the lion prince. 

I taught PJ to run up my arm and take an unshelled peanut from my mouth. It sounds a bit unhygienic with the potential for rabies, but my Grade 6 self just thought it was really cute and kind of tickled. Evenings were spent around the fire, and we were usually sunburned and full of hotdogs and roasted marshmallows.

My best friend Kathy came camping with us one summer, and we had matching bathing suits and spent hours splashing in the lake. She was a master storyteller, just one of the reasons we stayed up late every night (you can add huge quantities of sugar and endless giggles to the list of reasons).

The park is full of meandering trails and is well known for its large and varied bird population. The amphitheatres are perfect spots for movies and park information sessions and the lake is a swimmer’s paradise. I remember walking out for at least 100 paces on a sand bar. It felt as though I was in the middle of the lake in only chest-deep water.

This park is one of many you’ll find on a useful website called albertabeachbum.com. The site is dedicated to beaches, campsites and all manner of recreational activity in and around the Lac La Biche Region, the M.D. of Bonnyville and Bonnyville. This beautiful area of northeastern Alberta is home to more than 200 lakes and a selection of sandy beaches, prime fishing holes and relaxing picnic spots. 

I love having these amazing spots basically in our own backyard. You don’t need a passport or currency exchange, and you barely need a map. 

You can easily do a weekend blitz or a week-long chill. It’s natural and beautiful and helps support local tourism. Check out the website for a lot more information.

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This past spring Jonathan Huntington of Northlands Park took in the renowned Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. 

The derby experience is one of mint juleps and the garland of roses, Twin Spires and 136 years of history. The infield parties alone hold 80,000 people on race day. The derby is famous for much more than the race; it’s also about the food, the fashion and the people.

One of the items on Huntington’s agenda was to investigate the history, culture and celebrations that make up the derby and bring ideas and inspiration home to be merged with Northlands’ own vision.

“This year we’re targeting three areas,” said Huntington, Northlands’ racing and slots marketing/communication manager. “Hardcore fans, young families and women.”

Thus, two of Northlands’ huge events this summer are Canadian Derby Day and Horses, Hats and Hope.

The $300,000 Canadian Derby takes place at Northlands on Aug. 21 and is a full family event that includes a Derby Princess contest for girls ages two to 10. 

The July 1 weiner dog races are another fun event, and you can register your dog at http://www.thehorses.com. The top three dogs earn cash prizes, and what an event for kids, dog-lovers and photographers.

Horses, Hats and Hope is a breast cancer fundraiser on Aug. 13. The gala includes dinner, a silent auction, a fashion show and prizes. 

The silent auction is a much-anticipated event, as there will be hats from various designers on the tables. Think fantastic derby hats, royalty and southern tradition. 

The fashion show features Miss Canadian Derby contestants displaying all manner of derby wear, including dresses, shoes and the famous hats. This is an event dedicated to women and a valuable fundraiser as well.

The 2010 season at Northlands includes 85 race days and purses totalling $10 million for the year. There are eight new riders and Sugar Doyle is now the track announcer. 

Closing day is Oct. 11, and there are opportunities to watch racing every week, as well as major race days now through September. 

If you go to the Horses website, you will find all the information you need, including track and racing lists, Racing 101 for the novice, industry news, blogs and the season’s schedule and results.

Spending a day at Northlands can be an event of your making, with food, the Slots, live and simulcast racing, and let’s not forget people-watching (especially on derby day).

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