Waste and Great Lent

There it was. I was surprised to see it, really. I had arrived at the dacha in the afternoon of Saturday and I was putting some things away in the Frigidaire; you know, the usual goods during Great Lent, hummus, roasted red pepper puree, tahini sauce, which J.A. had provided to me most graciously and sacrificially before my departure from the city. But when I opened the door and looked inside, there was the small bag right on the top shelf. Cooked bacon. Well now. I thought to myself, “Oh, the previous weekend’s guests must have left it there. They cooked it up and didn’t finish it.” Didn’t finish it? Bacon? Thinking back I am almost positive that J.B. had told me just that morning on my travels out that they had consumed an entire package. Well, nevertheless there it was. And I could worry about it later, there was much to do this weekend.

Monday morning broke gloriously. The sun in its full radiance peeked up over the hills to the East and the frost began to disappear as darkness is rolled back by light. Heat remained in the stove, enough to add a few logs to get it going again strong. The coffee was ready to help prepare me for the work ahead. Yes, there was work to do this morning, and with the early start, there was no need to rush. There was time to savor. And one should not work on an empty stomach. The wood was running low, only enough for one more good fire, and there could still be more of winter left. The evenings remained clear, cold, with the night sky glittering with its myriad little lights. So, this was the time to find fallen trees that Nature has given to provide warmth before they set to rotting.

First, nourishment. The potato is a marvelous creation, really. Don’t you think so? It comes straight out of the ground and all you have to do is clean the dirt off and cook it. It requires no refrigeration, is easily transportable, requires no special packaging; and this, the most important thing, dear reader, it provides sustenance! I read recently in one of our periodicals that all that man needs to survive can be found in two foods: the potato and milk. On the second, I must urge that milk of the goat is far preferable, in my humble opinion, for human health than the bovine variety. But, enough! Breakfast is the matter at hand! And here, I had a fine potato. The potato, King of the Tubers and offspring of Peru! How to prepare it though? Truth be told, brothers, there were drippings of olive oil left in the pan from the night before – Sunday, the celebration of the Resurrection. Would you have me discard it in honor of the Great Fast? What good would that do? I can say with all honesty, a clear conscience I might add, that on this topic I did not delay. In particular, when the potato had been scrubbed and cut open – well, glorious! It was perfection. My knife smoothly diced the plump, round Russet, making quick work of it and sliding the pieces into the sizzling skillet. I considered what spices with which to adorn this morning glory. Pepper, yes, Garlic, yes, Onions, yes…of course salt at the end. Now, what else? A single potato needs a garnish.

Oh yes, there is that bacon kept under cool. What is to be done with it? I am leaving today and can not just leave it there to spoil. Dear reader, do not imagine that I considered this all weekend. It is not true! But there it was, I did not plan it. The day before was Sunday of the Holy Cross, mid-way through Great Lent. We are half way there. Of course, no meat or meat products are eaten during this time of year – especially not bacon. There it was though, glowing all brown and white striped under the light. Something had to be done, I would take it out because either it had to be thrown away or I would simply eat it so that it would not go to waste. Waste! Why should it be tossed out like a used tea bag? And on this morning I needed strength for the day – I would be cutting and hauling wood to store up for next year’s winter. And yes, there was wood to be had. Now, C.B. had told me that while he was here the prior weekend he did not see any trees that had fallen. The reader should note that I do not cut down live trees for my fire; I wait for God to provide. But on Saturday night, as I was heading off to vigil at the Russian church, I made my way along the creek and there, to my left, in a thick stand of trees, was a tall black walnut that had split off near its base, and its upper branches were hung up in its surrounding neighbors. God has provided! But this would take some work to bring it down and then proceed to cut it in that thicket. Thankfully, during a visit a while back, some friends A.W. and P.H. were at the dacha, and P. was kind enough to sharpen my saw, being a skilled woodsman from the wilderness of Montana. Since that time it has remained sharp as new and has seen good service.

Back to the matter at hand – what is one to do? If it would be a shame to waste the bacon, and I am in need of strength for the morning’s work, why should I not eat it? Brothers! Do not think me an excuse maker! For I am no scoundrel, but I simply applied reason to the facts. What rational creature would not do the same? The bacon looked, well, you know how bacon looks – like a masterpiece. I have thought on more than one occasion, is there any great art that features bacon? There should be. But this bacon was cold, and not crispy. I decided that I would set it in the pan to one side where there was no oil or potatoes just to heat it up a bit. In this way, once it was in its proper state, I could decide on how to proceed. I know what you are thinking! But hear my case: Was I to toss it out and leave it to the meandering possum, raccoon, or cat? Is that what you would have me do? You, however, did not stand at the threshold of this dilemma yourself. Judge not, lest ye be judged, I always say.

The potatoes were finished to perfection. Crisp and warm and flavourful. So good! Then, there were those four tantalizing strips. Now heated through. Oh, you should have seen them. I would say that this was culinary glory, except for one missing element – that delightful aroma of cooked pork belly did not waft through the room to greet my awaiting nostrils and trigger the good and right mouthwatering response. The price of freshness lacking. But I had read in a fascinating new book completely dedicated to the subject of bacon, given to me by my dear friend A.S., that bacon has a long shelf life. Onto the plate they went. And still, I did not have to take a bite. There was no moral compulsion here, except the desire not to see waste have its day. Oh I know, brothers, you think that I let my mind develop the reasons once I had already made the decision. I don’t believe it. Every reason lined up in proper order: let there be no waste; strength and fortitude is needed; and now, look at the calendar!, today is the day of the Kursk Root Icon! A cause for celebration if ever there was one! Glory! And is this not a proper way to celebrate? So, no hesitation. I tasted with satisfaction, taking a good and sufficient bite!

Ah. Hmm. Wait. Try another. I took a close whiff of my prize. Something amiss? I see now why the tell-tale scent of glorious bacon was absent. This bacon was not left by last weekend’s visitors. I now recall, yes, it was me; I was the one who had cooked this bacon and left it in the bag. Before Great Lent.

And now, rancid.

Out into the field for the meandering possum, raccoon, or cat. Time to cut some trees.

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