THE YOUTHFUL PROPERTIES OF (COOKING) WITH BACON GREASE
By Kat Stickroth
My grandmother’s sister, Aunt Carrie, is the epitome of a Southern genteel lady. She is 101 years old now, an intellectually sharp woman apprised of current events.
Think the leading actress in “Driving Miss Daisy,” and you’ll get the picture.
Aunt Carrie was relentless during my growing up years to transform me into a Southern Belle. More often, however, I returned home with muddy jeans and brambles in my hair.
To me, it was futile to plaster my face with makeup and douse my hair with spray. The moment I stepped outside, 100% humidity would melt me into a chemical mess.
I tried, I really tried.
She moved in with me at 98 years old, and I became her caregiver. Frequent doctor visits amused me, for they consistently remarked on how young Aunt Carrie looked, like in her late 60’s- slender, upright, and with smooth tanned skin.
Her youthful appearance was the opening topic at a confab of her girlfriends who met for coffee one afternoon.
She glowed at their greetings, “Carolyn, you look so young! How do you do it?”
I summarily answered, “Bacon grease!”
I believed it. She used bacon grease to season her turnip greens, her green beans, her squash. You name it, her food was cooked with bacon grease. While my education abounded with the lessons of the harmfulness of too much fat in the diet, I couldn’t dismiss the fact she was healthier than I was, though 30 years older.
She insisted I butt out of the conversation, so I left to run errands as a sound similar to cackling hens diminished behind me.
Most of the ladies were gone by the time I returned. Aunt Carrie had enjoyed the stimulating conversation.
The next morning, she received a phone call in her room. I was putzing about in the kitchen and heard this:
“Yes, I use bacon grease a lot.”
“How much? Oh, about a tablespoon."
Then she burst out laughing.
“No, I COOK with it.”
The call ended and through her giggles she recounted that one of her friends wanted to know how the bacon grease was applied to her face, “With your fingers?”
Every time I helped cook afterward, Aunt Carrie and I laughed when she reached for her special flavoring.
For me, I’ll cast my chance for any youthful looks to the fresh air, real food, and mountain hikes I find in Wallowa County.
Originally published January 6, 2016 in the La Grande Observer. Reprinted with permission.