birthday parties & spiced maple roasted bacon

When I was a kid, I only remember being a guest at a handful of birthday parties. And, though my memories have faded, I only recall a few parties for my own birthdays. There was that one when I was in kindergarten or first grade – but I think I only remember the snapshot moment when a photo was taken, with me and my other 6 year old friends dressed in our 70s-era polyester. I can recall a birthday party at Burger King, either for me or my brother. Parties at the BK were in high demand. I mean, where else can you be crowned royalty for an hour?

Parties just were not something we did routinely. Money – or rather, the lack thereof – probably had a lot to do with the scarcity of parties, but it also just wasn’t the Thing To Do as it is now. This weekend it seemed the party circuit jumped into full swing here. Each of my children had a party to attend over the course of the two days, which means they both came home completely exhausted, crashing from their sugar-high.

The trend here is to have birthday parties at one of the gymnastics and sports centers in town. You know the kind of place – they have big gymnastics mats and equipment in one room, a rockwall in the back, a three-story jungle gym in one corner, a bouncy house room, and a series of rooms along the sides for the two dozen or so parties held each weekend day. Our center has even added a pool for pool parties and swim lessons.

I must confess, I don’t like going to these birthday parties. I try to send my husband whenever possible. While the children have a fantastic time with their school friends, the parents often stand around awkwardly, smiling politely at each other. The moms who know each other huddle in a corner, talking about people none of the rest of us know. Occasionally a dad will be there, but the dads stick with each other and don’t branch out too much. We hover around our children as they play in the jungle gym, holding their stray socks and hair bands, listening out for cries of pain from a fall or an accidental elbow to the nose.

The whole experience would be a lot better if the punch were spiked. Just a thought.

So, Saturday I sent my husband and Oliver to a 4-year old’s birthday party while I stayed home with Madeline. We only had an hour and a half to spend without the boys, so what did we do? We cooked. Well, we made bacon.

Pretty darn good bacon, I might add.

Yield: 4 servings

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Spiced Maple Roasted Bacon

If you like a bit of heat, use 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne. If you want to tone it a little, decrease the cayenne to 1/8 teaspoon.


8 slices center cut bacon
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place oven rack in center.

Lay the strips of bacon on a cooking rack placed inside a sheet pan. Roast for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, mix together in a small bowl the maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and ground cinnamon.

When the bacon has completed cooking, baste the slices with the maple syrup mixture. Roast for another 4 minutes.