Sunday, September 11, 2016

It's About Bacon

Unless you are Muslim or a vegetarian you probably consume bacon in one form or another. So
almost everyone has an opinion about bacon.

Ancient Romans gave us ham. Anglo-Saxons gave us bacon. It is the food of kings and common folk. Tasty, versatile, economical and ubiquitous. Brown N' Serve (precooked) bacon was introduced to the American public in the 1960s. USA consumption plummeted in when cholesterol was "discovered" and nitrates caused a stir. Turkey bacon surfaced in the 1990s. People today are redisovering the joys of bacon. In moderation. Bacon pairs perfectly with sweet (chocolate, cookies, ice cream)and to savory (potato chips, salad dressings, Bloody Marys). The possibilities are infinite! What have you seen made with bacon?

What is bacon?
"Bacon. The side of a pig cured with salt in a single piece. The word originally meant pork of any type, fresh or cured, but this older usage had died out by the 17th century. Bacon, in the modern sense, is peculiarly a product of he British Isles, or is produced abroad to British methods...Preserved pork, including sides salted to make bacon, held a place of primary importance in the British diet in past centuries....British pigs for both fresh and salted meat had been much improved in the 18th century. The first large-scale bacon curing business was set up in the 1770s by John Harris in Wiltshire...Wiltshire remains the main bacon-producing area of Britain..."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 47)

Why call it "bacon?"
"Bacon. Etyomologically, bacon means meat from the 'back of an animal'. The word appears to come from a prehistoric Germanic base *bak-, which was also the source of English back. Germanic bakkon passed into Frankish bako, which French borrowed as bacon. English acquired the word in the twelfth century, and seems at first to have used it as a synonym for the native term flitch, 'side of cured pig meat'. By the fourteenth century, however, we find it being applied to the cured meat itself..."
---An A-Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 14-5)

Bacon "dates back to the Roman Empire, although it was called petaso at the time, and has a tradition of being cheap, available, easy to cook, consistently appealing to the taste buds, and having a place in various cultures." But these days it is everywhere, seemingly. I have even seen a menu with a bacon sundae!

Personally, I am not a fan of bacon flavored everything. I like mine fried and served with eggs or on a cheese burger or  bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. But let's just have a look at some bacon "treats".

Justin Esch, co-founder of J & D's Foods, with his friend Dave Lefow, founder their bacon-centric company. Their first creation and staple is bacon salt. But when an intern's project of creating bacon lip balm went viral, they realized that the way it would get free media for its more ligitimate products like bacon salt and baconnaise [bacon flavored mayonaise] would be to create a string of ridiculous kitsch items for the holiday season. This is when bacon saving cream, bacon lube, bacon soda, bacon coffins, and most recnetly bacon deodorant were born.

Some believe the bacon craze is over. But there are signs that this is false. “I think that’s categorically false,” said Jack in the Box spokesperson Keith Guilbault, noting that sandwiches with bacon perform categorically better and sandwiches without bacon always get bacon addition requests. “Americans absolutely love bacon. It’s one of those flavors that adds so much life.” Which is why Jack in the Box rolled out the limited time bacon milkshake last year. Yuck. Well, I've never tasted it. So my opinion probably doesn't count.

Bacon for breakfast seems as American as apple pie. And certainly bacon has been a staple to the American diet since the colonial period. Pigs are relatively easy to domesticate, and the brining/salting process that preserves bacon allowed the meat to thrive in the days prior to refrigeration. But bacon's association with the American breakfast is barely a century old. Before this most Americans ate more modest, often meatless breakfasts that might include fruit, a grain porridge [oat, wheat, or corn meals] or a roll with a cup of coffee.

Bacon became associated with the American breakfast thanks to Mr. Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. The Austrian-born Bernays was quite good at using psychology to get people to buy a product or an idea. He was" hired by the Aluminum Company of America to use the American Dental Association to convince people that water fluridation was safe and healthy to the public. His campaign for Dixie Cups scared people into thinking the glasses they were drinking out of were unsanitary, and should be replaced by disposable cups. Bernays was even hired by President Coolidge to help run his re-election campaign in 1924, and encouraged Coolidge to invite the country’s leading vaudevillians to the White House for a meet-and-greet over pancakes. This was one of the first known political pancake breakfasts that are now so popular among presidents and council members alike.

"In the 1920s, Bernays was approached by the Beech-Nut Packing Company – producers of everything from pork products to the nostalgic Beech-Nut bubble gum. Beech-Nut wanted to increase consumer demand for bacon. Bernays turned to his agency’s internal doctor and asked him whether a heavier breakfast might be more beneficial for the American public. Knowing which way his bread was buttered, the doctor confirmed Bernays suspicion and wrote to five thousand of his doctors friends asking them to confirm it as well. This ‘study’ of doctors encouraging the American public to eat a heavier breakfast – namely ‘Bacon and Eggs’ – was published in major newspapers and magazines of the time to great success. Beech-Nut’s profits rose sharply thanks to Bernays and his team of medical professionals."*

Now, the big question is: What does bacon have to do with peace or making our world better? Absolutely nothing that I know of. I just wanted something to write about! What do you think? Do you have any "bacon stories"? Or maybe recipes with bacon? What is the strangest bacon product you've ever heard of? Leave comments about bacon.

Or, leave suggestions of what you'd like to read about on the blog. I know I'll come up with something. But I've been ill and my brain wasn't working too well. So . . . . you got bacon!

*The Complete History of How Bacon Took Over the World 
By Laura Stampler @laurastamplerNov. 15, 2013 

1 comment:

  1. LOL. I do the same thing. I write a sailing blog but one day I couldn't think of anything else to write about so did this post on the topic of Crispy Bacon.