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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reading List: Bacon: A Love Story

Lauer, Heather. Bacon: A Love Story. New York: William Morrow, 2009. ISBN 978-0-06-170428-4.
The author, who operates the Bacon Unwrapped Web site, just loves bacon. But who doesn't? I've often thought that a principal reason the Middle East produces so much more trouble than it consumes is that almost nobody there ever mellows out in that salty, fat-metabolising haze of having consumed a plate-full of The Best Meat Ever.

Bacon (and other salt-cured pork products) has been produced for millennia, and the process (which is easy do at home and explained here, if you're so inclined) is simple. And yet the result is so yummy that there are innumerable ways to use this meat in all kinds of meals. This book traces the history of bacon, its use in the cuisine of cultures around the world, and its recent breakout from breakfast food to a gourmet item in main courses and even dessert.

The author is an enthusiast, and her passion is echoed in the prose. But what would be amusing in an essay comes across as a bit too precious and tedious in a 200 page book—how many times do we need to be reminded that bacon is The Best Meat Ever? There are numerous recipes for baconlicious treats you might not have ever imagined. I'm looking forward to trying the macaroni and blue cheese with bacon from p. 153. I'm not so sure about the bacon peanut brittle or the bacon candy floss. Still, the concept of bacon as candy (after all, bacon has been called “meat candy”) has its appeal: one customer's reaction upon tasting a maple bacon lollipop was “Jesus got my letter!” For those who follow Moses, there's no longer a need to forgo the joys of bacon: thanks to the miracles of twenty-first century chemistry, 100% kosher Bacon Salt (in a rainbow of flavours) aims to accomplish its mission statement: “Everything should taste like bacon.” Try it on popcorn—trust me.

If you're looking for criticism of the irrational love of bacon, you've come to the wrong place. I don't eat a lot of bacon myself—when you only have about 2000 calories a day to work with, there's only a limited amount of porky ambrosia you can admit into your menu plan. This is a superb book which will motivate you to explore other ways to incorporate preserved pork bellies into your diet, and if that isn't happiness, what is? You will learn a great deal here about the history of pork products: now I finally understand the distinction between bacon, pancetta, and prosciutto.

Bacon lovers should be sure to bookmark The Bacon Show, a Web site which promises “One bacon recipe per day, every day, forever” and has been delivering just that for more than four years.

Posted at May 28, 2009 01:23