One of my favorite people in the world is a graceful, ginger-haired slip of a girl who when I knew her was Jenny Lee. She’s married to an earth scientist of some sort and they live in rural Lafayette County east of Oxford now, but she became my friend in graduate school when she’d console me after classes in Middle English because the professor, Dr. T.J. Ray (God love him), would single me out and thunder at me from the podium for the least pronunciation or mistranslation, of which there were many I assure you. I’d leave class shaken and dejected, but Jenny Lee (bless her sweet soul) would sit next to me on a bench outside of Bishop Hall, put her arm around me and say, “He likes you. You’re his pet.” All I could do was wonder what kind of life T.J.’s dog had.
Jenny Lee and I also worked at the Harvest Café in Oxford together, and while there she taught me about red rice. Jenny is from Charleston, South Carolina (“South Of Broad”), and often rhapsodized about her grandfather’s red rice, which he would make for her when she’d visit him. She told me how it’s made, and while we couldn’t make it at the Harvest because it involves that most grievous of vegetarian sins, bacon, I learned to make and love it.
For four servings, fry three strips of thick bacon until crisp and set aside. Sauté about a cup of chopped white onion and the same amount of chopped bell pepper in the bacon grease, add two cups water, an 8-oz. can of tomato sauce and one cup of rice, season with a little salt and pepper, cover and cook until rice is tender. Stir in the cooked bacon before serving. This is the most basic recipe for red rice imaginable, and it goes with almost anything.