I hope that as you read these words you are also admiring those very appetizing-looking (if I do say so myself) bowls of homemade corn chowder in the photo above. I adore corn chowder, which is of course yet another way (aside from boiling and eating it straight off the cob) to enjoy the bounty of fresh local corn in August and early September. And so I whipped up a batch just last night, following a tried and true recipe by New England chef extraordinaire Jasper White. (You can find his recipe here, and if you like corn and cooking, I wholeheartedly urge you to try it.)
Now, I’ve made this chowder lots of times in the past, but this was the first time I’d done so here at the Manse. All went swimmingly save for one hiccup: the unavailability of what I consider a key ingredient, which is slab (unsliced) bacon. The recipe calls for four ounces of same, which you cut up into one-third-inch dice, sauté till it’s nice and crisp, and cook up along with the corn kernels, chicken stock, diced potatoes, diced red bell pepper, diced onion, some cream, fresh thyme, a couple of spices, and salt and pepper. What’s nice about those chunks of bacon is that they add lovely hits of delicious bacon saltiness (salty baconness?) that play off deliciously against the sweetness of the corn.
Slab bacon is dead easy to find in Montreal food stores and supermarkets; it’s at every deli counter, and you just ask them to cut the size of piece you want. I used to get it quite regularly to make not only corn chowder but also Julia Child‘s Boeuf Bourguignon and quite a few other things. Not so much in little Madoc, however. I tried at the otherwise well-stocked deli counter at the Foodland store, and also inquired at the excellent One Stop Butcher Shop. No luck.
Now, I suppose longtime readers might be thinking of my self-pitying complaints a while back about being unable to find white-wine vinegar for a potato salad. And perhaps you will remember the conclusion of that yarn, which was a salad made instead with red-wine vinegar (which was readily available) that was absolutely perfect and a bit of a lesson in making do and not getting too fancy about your food. (Also, I should note that the vinegar situation at the Foodland got significantly more interesting and varied after the appearance of that post, which I noted here, and I no longer have any vinegar worries at all.)
And yes, I did manage to make last night’s chowder with a substitute, which was a package of Schneider’s extra-thick bacon. But I do have to say that it was less of a success than the red-wine-vinegar potato salad had been; I really missed those nice big crispy bacon chunks in the chowder. I am hoping that in future my plea for slab bacon might result in its appearance at the One Stop.
There are other food-related things Raymond and I have had to get used to not having readily available since our move to Queensborough from Montreal: fresh (i.e. local and unfrozen) lamb and veal, for instance; watercress for my favourite green salad; and oh, lord, real baguettes and croissants would be so nice once in a while…
But as I was doing my grocery shopping and other errands in Madoc on Saturday, even after having ascertained that no slab bacon was going to be procured, I found myself smiling and thinking how very, very much I like living here. Maybe it was the always-super-friendly service from the guys at the One Stop as we picked up some of their excellent breakfast sausages; or the warm feeling one gets when emerging from the wonderful Hidden Goldmine Bakery with an armful of cookies and tea biscuits and a small apple pie for good measure; or maybe it was Russell, who works at the Foodland and is always on hand with a hearty greeting for everyone. At any rate, I felt thoroughly at home and happy here in our little north-of-7 corner of the world, and realized that in exchange I probably can live without slab bacon. For a while, at least.