Chickens, Lawyers, Breaking Bad
As another salty-sweet and jammy gallon of Gloria’s Bacon and Berries Ice Cream hits the deep-freeze for this Sunday’s Sequoyah Hills Ice Cream Social, I’m thinking about how every flavor of Elaine’s Ice Cream contains an element of adventure—sometimes for you, but always for me, otherwise what’s the point? Anyone can go to the grocery store and get more or less what they need.
Or can they? I’d spent hours this week trolling for Benton’s smoked bacon through its handful of Knoxville retail outlets. Ordinarily I’d hit up the one closest to home, the twee market-garden cornershop in Fountain City, but a few weeks ago they’d sold me something pink and thinly sliced that didn’t smell or taste like Benton’s despite its label and set me back $8.99 a pound. The produce and plants place on Sutherland wanted $9 but only had a pound left. The co-op was out. (The co-op is always out.)
Against instinct, I made a run to the overpriced neighborhood indie gro not far from the mall. At 8 pm, the place was quiet and dimly lit. I rounded the corner into produce but produce was dark and half-displaced by a dozen people seated along a curve of desks and grimly spooning up something custardy while a couple of store clerks swished through the metal doors at the back bearing plastic trays of food. The last guy on the line met my eye. “Is this a class?” I whispered. “Mm-hm,” he nodded, redirecting a blueberry into his mouth. I slid him my business card and his eyes went wide. Seconds later, so did mine.
Overpriced neighborhood indie gro wanted $16.25 a pound for Benton’s bacon. “No way,” I said under my breath. That’s more than twice what Mr. Benton himself charges at his smokehouse. He had actually once explained to me that before the soda machine and its 35-cent cans of Dr. Pepper went into his Madisonville store, he’d sold Cokes in those sweet little bottles for a quarter. He knew it lost him money but he didn’t care. Said a quarter was “just the right price.”
I couldn’t imagine Mr. Benton would conscience the white-bread grocery’s markup—or so I was saying to friends only a few minutes later at Casa Don Gallo, the Mexican restaurant a block away. Running into them had been a pleasant surprise, but it got better. “You won’t believe this,” said the attorney among us. “I’ve got a meeting in Madisonville first thing tomorrow.”
I thought of him early the next morning on my own drive to beautiful King’s Hydrofarm near the city-county line. There I met my guiding hen, worth her weight in the tender just-picked raspberries you see here.
And that afternoon I opened my arms to 10 pounds of bacon. O gratitude! Did the messenger happen to get a receipt? I asked. He pointed at the bag.
Can you see where Benton’s toted up my cost? That’s one reason I have trouble throwing away these brown paper sacks. Another is that they’re smoked to perfection themselves, thus ideal for introducing people to the product. Capacious, heavy and resilient, these sacks form an essential part of my offsite ice cream rig: the insulating barrier between ice cream and the several pounds of dry ice it takes to keep everything scoopable.
I keep them on hand for weekends, when my dry-ice vendor of choice, Knox Fire Extinguisher, is closed. Monday to Friday, those guys fish monster blocks of ultra-dense frozen carbon dioxide out of an industrial chiller, cut them into chunks on a shrieking bandsaw and cheerily hand-wrap them while you wait. It’s an immensely satisfying experience made more so by the relative squalor and inconvenience of the competition, which is chain supermarkets.
Like some nightmarish combination of snowstorm hysteria and a scavenger hunt, buying enough dry ice to transport an order seems lately to require that I visit as many as four big-box stores for one delivery. Store No. 1 will be out. Store No. 2 might have one 3-pound piece at the bottom of the cooler with the filthy ice-retrieval glove sticking out of it like an artifact from the Shackleton expedition. Store No. 3 won’t let me get the ice out of the cooler myself but the retired gentleman sacker in suspenders who’s delegated to the task elects to make three trips to the register carrying one piece each time and asking “Is this enough?” Meanwhile time’s a wasting, ice cream’s melting, my costs are piling up. Tic-toc, drip-drop, cha-chingg.
Tic-toc, drip-drop, cha-chingg, Breaking Bad—
Wait a second! Did that cashier just say, “Breaking bad”?
"Breaking bad. Breaking bad," says the cashier.
"I’m just kidding," she says with a wink. "I just need to see your ID, please."
She keys in my date of birth, explaining, “We have to card for this stuff. Because of meth.”
"There you go," she says. "You have yourself a blessed day, Honey!"
Nothing good is easy and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you tend to agree, please
• Show your good taste and support for the courageous and principled State Representative Gloria Johnson tomorrow afternoon, Sunday, June 22, between 2 and 4 pm, at Talahi Park in Knoxville at her Sequoyah Hills Ice Cream Social.
• ”Like” the Vote Gloria Johnson Facebook page.
• Add your name and email address to Gloria’s list of supporters at www.VoteGloriaJohnson.com.
And while you’re sharing the love,
• ”Like” Elaine’s Ice Cream on Facebook.
Canneberges a la neige