Our tract house is in the Flowing Wells School district; our nickname is “Seeping Sewers.” You can drink delicious fresh water right out of the tap, but our streets are dirt roads that blow dust devils and tumbleweeds. On weekdays, the predominant scents are dust and horse shit, from the farm on the other side of the Del Norte City Park that faces my house.
Inside, it is Cream of Wheat with brown sugar, Malto-Meal, Special K with raisins, Product 19. On lucky Sundays, if my older sister is in the mood, she might make French toast. If Mom’s in the mood, it’s scrambled eggs with Roman meal toast and margarine. The only color on the Sunday table are the comics, which my Brooklyn-born parents call “the jokes.” Everyone else in our 1960’s Tucson suburb call them “the funnies.”
And for everyone else, Sunday morning is all about pork: sausage, ham steaks, and bacon. Always bacon. We keep the thick, greasy scent out while the kitchen door is closed, but when I’ve scraped the last bit of molten brown sugar from the beige mass in my Corningware bowl, I step out in the front yard, and am assaulted by bacon.
White bread, hash browns, biscuits and gravy—all goyish delicacies which my parents have schooled me to scorn and abhor. And under and over and through all of it, thick steaming stink ribbons of bacon. I walk up and down the sidewalk looking to see if any kids are out and of course they’re not. As the Arizona sun heats up the morning, the sidewalk smells of bacon. Later it will smell like spray starch and church clothes. But now it is bacon.
For a Jewish kid, in one of two Jewish families in the entire school district, the smell of bacon triggers one thing: the loneliness of being the “other.” Bacon smells like playing alone all day. Bacon is getting into tiffs with your siblings out of pure boredom and simmering resentment. Bacon is everything closed except for church. Bacon is sweeping your room and mowing the lawn and doing your chores because what else is there to do?
To this day, while I do enjoy a good BLT served on toast and slathered with delicious, goyish mayonnaise, I still feel waves of illness and alienation whenever I smell bacon frying.
- Judy Geraci