According to my elementary school health classes back in the day, there are four food groups: Fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy (of which the “dairy” means cheese and ice cream), breads and grains (or pasta), and meats and fish, which I hear has now been simplified to “proteins.” That’s disgusting. I don’t want to eat a “protein,” but I guess the new term at least precludes me from having to think about how many legs my dinner plate guest once had.
Meats and fish I’m sure includes just about every kind of protein you can think of, from steaks and hamburgers to Buffalo wings, beef jerky, hot dogs and Lamar’s chicken. But one thing the meat section of the old food pyramid leaves out is pork, and more specifically, bacon. Maybe it’s not kosher for some, but pork in the South is a staple of our existence.
Growing up here in the Noog, if family breakfasts didn’t include country ham or bacon, we’d be eatin’ vegetarian. And then what are we supposed to have for lunch? No pork barbecue? Don’t make me have to settle for another patty melt. I remember my favorite lunch as a young tike was “Deviled Ham,” which was essentially canned ham chunks swimming in some sort of mayonnaise-based “deviled” part. I loved the stuff, but my mom admits that she always gagged when making my sammies.
My favorite member of the carnivore food group however has always been bacon. In fact, I think its contribution to American cuisine is so significant, and tasty, that bacon should be at the top of the food chain for it is truly the “perfect food.”
First of all, it’s versatile. You can fry up a few strips to go with your eggs in the morning, combine it with lettuce and tomato for a satisfying lunch sandwich and then crumble up the leftovers to sprinkle on top of your dinner salad. It’s the perfect hand food. Grab a couple of strips and head out the door for a quick snack on the go. And dogs love it. Your canine will learn to sit a lot faster and obey a hell of a lot more if he realizes his reward is going to be a bit of his brother the pig.
In addition to its culinary flexibility, bacon is just plain delicious. Its taste is fantastic in a way that no other food outside of sweets can deliver. In fact, it’s the one forbidden food you’ll hear all vegetarians say they miss the most about their former meat-eating days. I’ve even had Jewish friends covet the fatty strips of unclean meat so much that they beg for just a whiff in a blind attempt to imagine its effects on the palette.
There’s no real right or wrong way of preparing bacon. Some methods are better than others, but all produce positive results. I simply love the bacon at the Longhorn restaurant on North Market Street and realized why when I saw them prepare it. First they fry it under a bacon press on the griddle like you’d imagine. But then they scoop it up and plop it into the fry basket for a soak in the boiling oil for a couple of minutes just to make sure it’s saturated in saturated fat before it makes you fat. For a minute or two after witnessing this I swear I was having chest pains, but I ordered it anyway.
Public pressure to curb our unquenchable desire for those seductive strips of fatty goodness has led to the creation of the dreaded “turkey bacon.” I’m not sure what part of the turkey produces bacon strips because to be honest I have no idea what part of the pig bacon comes from. But I can tell you this—turkey bacon just ain’t natural. It’s like trying to replace a Clark bar with a granola bar. Sure, they’re both tasty bar-shaped treats, but only one will make you oink.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and man about town. The opinions expressed are his own.