For some time now, another bacon rebellion has been under way: bacon fans vs. healthy eaters. If pop culture is any judge, the rebels may be gaining the upper hand.
The USDA defines bacon as "the cured belly of a swine carcass,” but any way you slice it, this cured meat is enjoying a heyday in an age of veggie burgers. Yes, irony can be very ironic.
Bacon has crackled its way to tables for 3,500 years. Bacon fat was the cooking fat of choice from early Saxon times, though the meat was later considered a luxury. “Bring home the bacon” refers to a 12th-century challenge in Dunmow, England. The church offered a side or “flitch” of bacon to any married man who could swear before the congregation and God that he had not quarreled with his wife for a year and a day. Bacon was coveted a prize.
Oscar Mayer (who else?) introduced pre-sliced packages in 1924, making it easier for consumers to consume more bacon. Bacon grease, in fact, helped us win World War II—American cooks saved the rendered grease, turned it in to butchers who would donate it to the war effort to make explosives.
Bacon soared in popularity a few years ago when the National Pork Board, the folks who gave us “the other white meat”, began marketing bacon as the man’s chocolate, the “candy of meats.”
The best bacon idea I’ve seen is pre-cooked strips. Of course pre-fab bacon won’t measure up for some, but for the finicky stove cleaners among us, it’s an option worth exploring. Skip the skillet and spatter screen. Put paper towels and the microwave to work. In less time than it takes to read this paragraph, those ready-to-heat strips are sizzling.
Bacon’s preservatives give plenty of cause for pause. It is not a health food. In fact, it may be the antithesis of the politically correct. The stuff is gluten-free, but it’s certainly not fat-free, nitrite-free, cholesterol- or calorie-free, and perhaps that’s the point. Michelle Obama and the healthy-eating crowd may know what’s good for us, but the fact remains: Americans like bacon. Tell us what we can’t do, and we tend to rebel.