Breaking Bacon

What breakfast do you feed a man who walks through the woods, ripping up one vicious plant after another by its roots? Not corn flakes or granola, for God’s sake.
This is what I was contemplating as I waited for my friend Jim to show up and eat breakfast before we went on one of our periodic and vigorous hikes. Jim’s latest obsession — and those of you who know him are only too familiar with a long and interesting line of them–is striking out against those pernicious bullies of the forest world that are strangling our Southern saplings to death by the millions. Stay with me. I’ve become a believer.


Earlier in the year, I bore witness to this phenomenon, surely at its worse, in Bethabara Park where Jim and I were surrounded by the colorful riot of autumn’s decease. Jim showed me an area that was in a state of advanced pre-deradixification (as yet to be uprooted). It was, in fact, an unweeded garden, a tangle of chaos, trees grasping for life, vines overgrowing and entwining saplings, particularly bittersweet and honeysuckle and greenbrier, although Jim can list you species by the dozen, many of them exotic to North America.
The difference between the pre- and post-deradixificated site was dramatic. Where Jim had ripped the vines off the adolescent trees quite literally by the thousands, the glen flourished and the trees grew straight, proud and unbowed. By comparison, the control site was not a pretty sight. Although Jim has taken on the project of deradixifaction totally on his own and unbidden in Bethabara, the park ranger has given it her blessing.
Yes, a man who’s getting ready to engage in this sort of aerobic activity, I decided, needed bacon — double-smoked Hungarian from the Eastern European store here–fried crisp as pork rinds. The crinkly remains in the pan begat milk gravy, accented with a sprinkling of paprika and a dusting of black pepper. Gravy begged for starch, and I popped some leftover roasted beets into the frying pan, along with some hash browns, and fried them to the outer edge of crunch. I topped this with a couple eggs, poached to a semi-soft state just short of being runny, and flanked it all with a big mound of kim chee. Fortified and satisfied, we set out on our hike.
As we walked through the woods, Jim working with one hand, then the other, made quick work of offending vines. Celastrus orbiculatus, or “oriental bittersweet” vine, Jim told me, is the most noxious and there are groups of people committed to the eradication of this invasive species. Uprooting things does have a definite lure that I recalled from doing yard work. And when you started looking around the woods in which we were walking, saplings by the dozen almost cried out for help. A budding maple, about chest high, struggles against the tug of of a tangle of honeysuckle, a greenbrier ambushing its upper branches. A little intervention from Jim and it was free, the vines ripped from the bosom of the earth. Granted, it’s a bit distracting, trying to hike and carry on a conversation with someone who’s two-fistedly denuding the lowl-ying landscape and intent on destroying an enemy, while he theorizes about how he thinks different species of vines are evolutionary co-conspirators. (Jim’s obsession did not keep us from seeing a rare event, two red-shouldered hawks mating in the very top of a towering oak. I consulted with my resident bird interpreter, otherwise known as my Latin-teaching wife, and she conceded that it would doubtless have been a good omen to the Romans — and Lord knows, Jim and I need some propitious signs.) Back to the vines. I tried a few myself, and I must admit it’s a satisfying experience, rewarding. Very before and after.
Nobody tell Jim about kudzu, OK?

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2 Responses to “Breaking Bacon”

  1. Richard Gilbert Says:

    Sounds like just the activity you need for your amazing energy . . .

  2. Elizabeth Westmark Says:

    I love lasagna for breakfast, but your choices even daunt me and my cast iron stomach!

    Actually, your friend Jim sounds like a pretty good hiking companion. The most annoying person I ever hiked with (once and never again) was a triathelete. She attacked that Smoky Mountain trail like there was a trophy to be won over some imaginary finishing line. She snorted in disgust when I wanted to stop to look at a trilium or admire the beauty of a wild azalea or rhododendron. As for watching hawks mate, her hard-shell Baptist heart would have found that pornographic, poor misguided thing.

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