We proudly present our new team member: Jennifer L.S. Pearsall! Jennifer is a food guru, with a strong love for bacon. That’s probably why people also know her as the Bacon Maven. She writes fantastic cook books and has her own food blog (www.thebaconaffairs.com). Please give a warm welcome to our new Bradley Blogger!!
Can you tell us something about yourself/family/living situation?
I’m a single lady living in central Wisconsin, land of beer, brats, and cheese, but I’ve lived in a bunch of different places. Born in New Jersey, I escaped without the “Joisey” accent with a move to California in junior high. Next came Virginia, where I had my first introduction to smoking and barbeque that I really liked, via the whole hogs that were slow roasted all day on our opening day dove hunts. I lived in Virginia for 25 years, still call it home, but from there I went to Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, and now here I am in Dairyland. I’ve been here a couple years, working as a book editor for a F&W Media. I have two Great Pyrenees pups for company and lots of beautiful scenery to look at.
What is your most embarrassing food/cook story?
Ha! I whipped up a batch of banana bread once and I must have over measured the baking powder. Two loaf pans oozed banana bread dough like lava for an hour (I kept trying to salvage it, hoping some of it would bake into something familiar). Honestly, every time I opened the oven door and saw the batter bubbling up and over the pan sides like so much banana bread lava, I felt like I was in my own version of that scene from I Love Lucy, where she bakes bread and this huge loaf pushes out of the oven and pins her against cabinet on the other side of the kitchen.
So you have this great website/blog, can you tell us how and why you started this?
My blog, www.TheBaconAffairs.com, started as a joke. I had some friends on Facebook post about a cooking solution for some wild game. Most wild game is very, very lean, and bacon is a natural and tasty solution to keeping all sorts of venison and fowl from turning into a meal of hockey puck consistency. This wasn’t your usual post for help with wild game–I think it was a recipe for snow goose, which you don’t see often–and I advised a soak in orange juice and wrap the bird in bacon. Bacon got the thumbs up all around, and soon everyone else was posting “Add bacon!” to every post I made, whether I was talking about cooking, my dogs, the lousy winter we were having, or my dating woes.” It kind of lit a fire under me, and so I started the blog on a whim, kind of needing a creative writing outlet separate from my work as an editor and writer in my day-job field.
What is your goal for this blog?
What do you want to accomplish with it?The blog has really taken on a life of its own. The more I added bacon to all sorts of dishes, the more I realized just how versatile it was–aside from the bacon goodness everyone loves, it almost has that umami element to it, adding depth and richness even when the actual bacon taste isn’t so obvious. As for a goal, well, I ran into a colleague of mine at our annual trade show last year. He’s a publisher at another publication house. He’d seen the blog posts and asked if I could make it into a book. The Big Book of Bacon, put out by Skyhorse Publications, is due out in the summer or fall of 2014, and they recently signed me to a second book, this one using the whole hog!
Where/how did your passion for food originate?
My mom, primarily, though all the women in my family are good cooks. My mom’s the queen of leftovers and she makes a spaghetti sauce that would make a Sicilian weep with joy, though there’s not a drop of Italian blood in us. I baked and canned and cooked for county fairs all through my youth as a 4-H member, but what really expanded my skills was a project I took on with an old high school friend about a decade ago. I’d read an article about how most home cooks really only make about the same 15 meals over and over again–your go-to comfort foods that you don’t need a cookbook for. I thought about what I cooked: guilty as charged. What really struck home was that, with more than 100 cookbooks on my shelf at the time (they number just over 200 now), I didn’t have an excuse to be cooking that way. I told my best friend about it and we decided we should do cookbook nights, where we picked a theme for two Saturday nights a month, the challenge being that we had to use cookbooks and recipes we hadn’t previously cooked from. And we were genius at it. We had one dinner that lasted more than six hours, with all the appropriate appertifs, wines, and more. We even thought briefly about catering, we were that good, but decided that would take all the fun out of it.
What do you like about food smoking?
There’s a richness to smoked meats that no other cooking method will get you. Too, because so much of what you taste is an olfactory sensation in addition to what you get on your tastebuds, there’s just more to the eating experience with smoked foods.
What is your favorite thing to smoke?
By far it’s a whole hog or Boston butts (when a whole hog isn’t practical), done with Virginia vinegar sauces or Carolina mustard sauces–but I’ve done brisket and lamb shoulder that you would just about die for, too.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “Bradley Smokers” ?
Easy peasy. Set it and forget it. They are also extremely well designed on the interior, as far as the number of racks and hooks goes. About the only thing you can’t get in mine is a whole hog!
What message do you want to get across to all those food smoke fanatics out there?
Mix it up! Mix up your rubs, mix up your meats, and realize that you can do so much more with the smoker than just big chunks of meat. Do meatballs, meatloaves, vegetables, fruits, and sides. I recently saw someone post on Facebook that they were smoking cheese–you can bet that’s on my list now, too!
Jennifer L.S. Pearsall (the Bacon Maven)