LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
During the weeks before and after the holiday you couldn’t walk the two miles out of Blair Branch without smelling fresh bacon and taters frying at every step mingled with the sweet aroma of cornbread or biscuits ready to come out of an oven. It’s no wonder why I keep having strokes. I heard someone tell Dad one time that eating all that pork was going to kill him. And Dad said, “Well, you have to live on something before you can die.” Dad figured death by pork was way better than starvation.
We called the building where we stored our winter and spring supply of pork, “the smoke house” but no meat was ever actually smoked in it during my life time.
There was evidence by way of a lingering odor of hickory smoke that Pap (my grandpa, Mose Adams) had used it for the stated purpose, but all we ever did was salt the meat down and leave it to cure on wide benches or suspended from the rafters with stout cords.
Salt pork would keep for many months in that old building but, by warm weather, it was usually gone. Mom would keep chunks of side meat and jowls refrigerated to season green beans all summer because we didn’t believe that beans were fit to eat if you didn’t cook a big chunk of fat back with them. Ditto for cushaw and mustard greens and even taters tasted way better if they were cooked with a piece of back bone or a neck bone.
Even at the risk of suffering another stroke, I’d love to have a little pan full of good fresh striped bacon trimmed off the hams and shoulders and served up with a pone of hot cornbread. Maybe if someone will get a copy of the paper to John Wayne Blair he’ll send me some the next time Keeter comes down from the mountains to check on me.