Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Salty, Smoky, and Greasy As Sin

Not long ago a friend noted on Facebook that people often demur when asked if they want bacon, yet if you cook it and serve it unannounced, “it will magically find a home. Bacon is persuasive.” I never really thought about it in those terms, but there is not a small measure of truth in it.

Let’s me be honest up front. I love bacon. As I said when I responded to my friend’s Facebook posting, I will take bacon anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance, regardless of the time of day, the day of the week, the season of the year, offered or withheld. I will beg, maybe even steal, for a rasher of bacon. It can be thin or thick sliced, hickory or maple smoked, sugar cured or not. I really don’t care. Well, I guess this is not entirely true. I will draw the line on Canadian-styled bacon. Don’t get me wrong. I will eat it and I enjoy it, but it is sliced ham in my book. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not bacon and don’t let anyone (especially Canadians) tell you otherwise. The same goes for “turkey bacon.” It looks and kind of tastes like bacon; it even smells and sizzles like bacon when it is frying in the pan. But don’t be fooled by this. It is not bacon! It does not have the fat, the salt, even the nitrates of real pork bacon. Some might say for these very reasons it is better for you. I am quite certain this is true, but we are not talking nutrition here folks! We are talking about bacon, the true essence of bacon. the greasy, salty, why the hell am I eating this stuff that’s bad for me bacon. When it is all said and done, I find I must agree with Homer Simpson - “Porkchops and bacon, my two favorite animals.” Well, bacon anyway. A final word from Homer on the eating and enjoying of real bacon. “You know that feeling you get when a thousand knives of fire are stabbing you in the heart? I’m having that right now . . . Ooh, bacon, unexplained bacon!” I love bacon!!

There are those who can quote chapter and verse why you should not eat
bacon. One of the people who commented on my friend’s Facebook entry noted that she had read somewhere that when vegetarians fall off their self imposed refusal to eat meat, more often than not bacon (real bacon) is the culprit. The popular Wisconsin (where they eat a lot of bacon) columnist Doug Larson once wrote that "life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon." The late James Beard, the noted chef and food critic who, along with Julia Child, brought gourmet French cooking to the United States after World War II, had long confessed that “if I were about to be executed and were given a choice of my last meal, it would be bacon and eggs. There are few sights that appeal to me more than the streaks of lean and fat in a good side of bacon . . . Nothing is quite as intoxicating as the smell of bacon frying in the morning, save perhaps the smell of coffee brewing." As my friend
commented on Facebook - “bacon is persuasive.”

It is also becoming pervasive. It is not just strips of pork bacon frying in a pan anymore. It has also long been used to wrap other foods. Think of filet mignon Then there is bacon-wrapped shrimp, scallops and oysters; bacon-wrapped pork roast, bacon-wrapped chestnuts and dates; bacon-wrapped asparagus; and one of my all-time favorites - bacon-wrapped hot dogs. And I just discovered what could very well be a new favorite . . . the bacon-wrapped corndog, a version of which one connoisseur has christened the “porndog” because the batter contains hot peppers and other “sinful” ingredients. And don’t forget bacon-flavored seasoning for those dishes that just seem to be missing that finishing touch, or bacon bits for your salad or sprinkled over other culinary offerings. There is also the obvious combination . . . bacon-wrapped bacon (and bacon-wrapped bacon-wrapped bacon, and on and on). Let us not overlook foods not normally associated with its crispy goodness: bacon-wrapped Twinkies, bacon-flavored donuts and other pastries, bacon-flavored ice cream and Jelly Bellies. I understand there is a vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco that serves coffee brewed with bacon. James Beard would have loved that before heading to the gibbet. And what do you do when you find the need, after feasting on bacon, to dislodge those crunchy little bacon bits that wedge between your teeth? Bacon-flavored dental floss. Yes, there is bacon-flavored dental floss. Oh, the humanity!

I am reminded of the late cowboy poet and former poet laureate of South Dakota, Charles “Badger” Clark, Jr., whose poem “Bacon” can be found in his Sun and Saddle Leather (1915).

You’re salty and greasy and smoky as sin
But of all grub we love you the best.
You stuck to us closer than the nighest of kin
And helped us win out in the West.
. . .
You’ve sizzled by mountain and mesa and plain
Over campfires of sagebrush and oak;
The breezes that blow from the Platte to the main
Have carried your savory smoke.

How much more persuasive can one food be?

But we love you and swear by you yet.
Here’s to you, old bacon, fat, lean streak and rin.’
All the westerners join in the toast,
From mesquite and yucca to sagebrush and pine,
From Canada down to the Mexican Line,
From Omaha out to the coast!

Yes, bacon is one of my favorite animals. To quote Homer. “Ohhhhh . . . . .. Bacon.”


  1. Great post, Steve! In moments like this I like to think back and reflect...

    ...on the great Bacon-Chicken Narwhal:


  2. Very funny! I think you should audition for the next Beggin Strips commercial.