Saturday, September 2, 2023
It’s International Bacon Day!
Do you know why? Me either.
Is it an official holiday? Who cares.
It’s bacon, quite possibly the most perfect food on earth, and while it does not need a special day to be enjoyed, any excuse to enjoy it is good enough for me. I sometimes do a thought experiment and imagine giving up either bacon or bread for the rest of my life and I have to say… bacon is putting up a good fight.
After a day like yesterday when I got all existential and think-y, this is the perfect topic for a fun blog tonight.
I thought, certainly, I have at least a hundred photos of bacon. But apparently I was too busy eating it to stop and photograph it. So my imagination will have to do.
The fabulous thing about bacon, besides its deliciousness, is that it can accompany any meal, any food group, any time of the day. Think about it. What other food can you have with your pancakes for breakfast just as easily as you can have it on your burger for dinner, just as wonderfully as you can eat it on your donut, just as fabulously as you can put it into your cocktail?
Usually with a topic like this I share some interesting history or unexpected tidbit. But there will be no pork-curing lessons tonight. There will be no “and the first slab of bacon was fried in 1204.” I mean, I imagine that people have been frying bacon since the first Neanderthal figured out how to rub two sticks together. It only makes sense.
The only problem with bacon is that pigs are cute, and allegedly smart, perhaps smarter than dogs. I can’t imagine eating a Husky, so it sometimes worries me that I am eating the swine version and in five hundred years humanity will look back on this heinous act and judge.
In the meantime I’m just going to keep eating bacon.
Besides, it supports my local economy. The farms here produce some spectacular bacon. Supermarket bacon is homogenized and derived from the tears of angels, but don’t get me started on that. Farm raised bacon, however, is as diverse as the animals they raise.
It has different textures, different amounts of fat, different ways of melting on the pan. Then of course some farms cut it thick and some thin. Some season it, some smoke it, some just let it be as it was in the beginning.
I have eaten enough bacon from enough farms to know which ones are better for burgers and which go with omelets. I know which ones to cook in a piping hot pan and which to slow fry.
The only rule of bacon is that is must be crisp. It also doesn’t hurt to add a bit of artistry. Like when you take the bacon off the pan, you can lay it flat on a paper towel to drip, or you can give it a little flourish so it curls up in pretty shapes and makes an impression on the plate.
Other fantastic things you can do with bacon: wrap it around figs. Or asparagus. Or shrimp. You can top a baked potato with it. You can put it in quiche or add it to your pasta. It’s fabulous in a cold salad and excellent on grits.
You can’t have a BLT without it. Or a bacon-egg-and-cheese, which is, quite possibly, one of the second best manifestations of food on earth.
There’s a reason why to be successful is to “bring home the bacon” and not “bring home the strawberry jam” or “bring home the pea soup.” As delicious as those other things may be, they are not bacon. Although bacon IN pea soup does improve it quite substantially.
You might think you can’t improve on perfection, but as I was pondering all the wonderful ways that bacon has appeared in my life, I immediately recalled a particular appetizer we had at the OBC Kitchen in Lexington, Kentucky.
It was called Bacon in a Glass, because it was bacon. Served in a glass.
One might wonder why this matters. For starters, it’s a beautiful thing. That stately bacon served in a tall glass, almost like a bacon bouquet in a vase. It could have been a centerpiece at a wedding. In fact, if Ralph and I ever renew our vows and throw a Renewing Our Vows party, I am putting bacon in a glass in the center of every table.
The other reason it was so spectacular is because it was bourbon sugar glazed bacon, served with a peanut butter dipping sauce.
I know I said I wasn’t going to give any lessons but I can’t help myself and googled “why is bacon so delicious?” I often find the results of these types of searches amusing. Bacon did not disappoint.
You might not be surprised to learn that there is no lack of people answering the question or waxing poetic about this slab of pork. But you might be surprised, as I was, to learn that the same thing that makes toast so delicious is what makes bacon just as addictive.
It’s called the Maillard reaction, which happens, according to “swine science” when you combine an amino acid and a sugar and apply heat.
The same thing happens during the process of frying onions, which anyone who has ever made Sunday Sauce or been in a room where Sunday Sauce is being made, knows is maddeningly mouthwatering.
So maybe I don’t need to choose between bacon or bread. It seems like they were destined to be perfect companions from the beginning.
As I conclude this culinary reverie, I’d like to go on record and say that as delightful as bacon is, bacon-flavored anything should not exist. Bacon is not a flavor.
Did you know, for example, that bacon flavored jellybeans are a thing? Bacon flavored gum balls exist, as does – and I am not making this up – bacon flavored cotton candy.
If bacon flavor is anything like grape flavor when compared to the real thing, I lament this state of affairs.
But tomorrow is Sunday, which, along with Saturday and sometimes Monday if it’s a holiday (Wait! It’s Labor Day weekend!) is bacon-eggs-and-pancakes day. And if there is one thing you can put your lottery money on it’s the fact that on any of those days you will wake up to the heavenly smell of bacon frying in my house.
Later, I will deal with the less-than-heavenly grease spatters on every appliance in the kitchen but it will have been utterly worth it.
Photo: you can smell that, right?