Question of the day for a cool-but-sunny Monday: When did bacon become a joke?
Bacon, says Alton Brown, is “meat candy.” It’s certainly tasty, and has always been my favorite breakfast protein — I can barely tolerate those insipid American sausages — but only recently did I become aware that eating it is something of a comedy act. Sites like This is Why You’re Fat and “recipes” like the Bacon Explosion have turned my not-particularly-guilty pleasure into a sideshow.
What happened to two eggs, two strips and out the door? Now we have the KFC Double Down, a bacon “sandwich” between two “buns” of fried chicken breast. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight shows that even fast food can be number-crunched, and demonstrates that, while bad, the Double Down isn’t the worst thing you can order, all things considered. Urp. I prefer Sam Sifton’s digestion of the sandwich at the NYT; while I generally am game for a taste of almost anything, this is one I’ll experience entirely vicariously, especially when it gives me an excuse to read The Onion’s review:
Instead of the expected chicken filling, the Double Down sticks two different kinds of cheese—pepper jack and a mystery variety created by the devil himself to win souls and punish humanity by inciting a massive wave of gluttony-induced heart attacks—bacon (yes, bacon), and something called “The Colonel’s Sauce” between two fried, breaded chicken-breast patties. (The Colonel’s Sauce, incidentally, only sounds like a crude euphemism for ejaculate.)
Rule No. 1 of adventurous eating: Beware of all secret sauces. You really don’t want to know the secret. Although the Big Mac’s is obvious: Some sort of mayo/thousand-island-dressing mashup.
Anyway, back to bacon. I think the problems started when gluttons started adding it to cheeseburgers. You ask me, proteins can be combined in another medium — bouillabaisse is fish stew, paella a big ol’ mess of fried rice — and sometimes on a sandwich (submarine), but not on a cheeseburger. Make up your mind: Do you want a bacon sandwich or a cheeseburger? You can’t have both. But that, I think, was the tipping point. Soon bacon became a joke ingredient, the magic un-PC add-on for everything from cookies to martinis. You think I’m joking. Go ahead, click.
The NYT link above explains that food has always tolerated a certain amount of silly showmanship, mentioning the custom of putting a napkin on one’s head while eating an ortolan. (I’ve read about this. Supposedly it concentrates the exquisite aroma of the endangered French songbird. Also, it keeps God from seeing you do such a vile thing.) We all know about turduckens, and even Julia Child has a recipe for a whole boned chicken stuffed with something else, but God almighty, who goes to the trouble of boning a chicken while leaving it intact? I bet that one came out of some decadent regal kitchen seeking to impress a bored monarch. Peasant cooks — the real gastronomic pioneers — don’t have time for such silliness.
But this new bacon stunt work is just silly, the sort of thing you link and pass around Facebook, but never cook and never eat.
I stand corrected: John Scalzi ate a piece of Bacon Explosion. Someone made it for him as a joke. This may be the single best description of it I’ve ever read, and now I don’t even have to think about it anymore:
Oh, God, imagine there’s bacon on one side of my mouth and sausage on the other and they meet and have hot and angry make-up sex in the middle while a salt lick cheers them on.
As for me, I’ll stick with bacon with pancakes, with eggs, sprinkled on a salad, the occasional carbonara and your late-summer BLTs with tomatoes straight out of the garden. You take your bacon cheeseburgers, your bacon explosions, and your Double Downs right back to hell, stunt eaters of the world. You are embarrassing the pig. You should be ashamed.
In keeping with today’s sodium-heavy theme, a story about Detroit’s salt mines, and relations with the neighbors. (Not good.) I think Joe or someone else mentioned them a while back, so there you are.
On those annual get-to-know-the-freshman-class memos, the ones that college in Wisconsin prepares every year to remind the faculty that some of the kids in their classes have never even seen a typewriter, let alone used one, someone should add: The 18-year-olds of today have never known responsible Republicans. I was IM-ing with a younger friend the other day, and realized he had no idea what a Rockefeller Republican was. Jacob Weisberg asks who killed them, and fingers who else? Bill Kristol.
Oh, look: Comcast is backing RightNetwork, a new cable channel focused on “entertainment with Pro-America, Pro-Business, Pro-Military sensibilities.” Looks like Kelsey Grammer is involved. Funny how actors shouldn’t be involved in politics when it’s lefty politics, but on the right they get the Strange New Respect Award. Kelsey, once again, you can’t have it both ways. Although evidently you do.
Hello, manic Monday. Have a good one.
alex said on April 19, 2010 at 10:18 am
No wonder they call it a Bacon Explosion. Grease the skids with that and you’ll be cleaning the walls with a toilet brush.
Deborah said on April 19, 2010 at 10:31 am
My daughter, Little Bird, actually made bacon infused vodka once, maybe twice. It’s supposed to be good in Bloody Marys. I never tried it.
Dorothy said on April 19, 2010 at 10:32 am
It’s Twilight Zone-ish weird that you would bring up bacon today. Just yesterday I was at the grocery store and saw packages of side meat, which looked like thick cut bacon. I’d heard of this but never saw packages of it put out for sale among the other meat products.
After reading the Bacon Explosion recipe I felt strange mixed feelings like “I’d like to try just one bite of that”, and also “I think I’m going to be sick all week after looking at that.”
Bill Kristol was just here at Kenyon almost two weeks ago for that conference we had on American Democracy. I didn’t attend any of the sessions; I had to work.
Michael said on April 19, 2010 at 10:38 am
On this particular item (bacon as an ingredient), I claim some expertise. I have spent the last year perfecting my own bacon chocolate chip cookie (the b-triple-c as it is known here at the casa). I will not claim all versions were great, but how bad can anything be when bacon, chocolate, and cookie are the key elements.
In closing, I will plead guilty to sending my wife to scour the city looking for the perfect bacon yesterday. Four pounds to pair with an insanely large package of nestle chocolate chips (from Costco) will keep me in the kitchen all week.
. . . right after I get that double down for lunch, since it is like twice as good for me as the wendy’s double with cheese.
coozledad said on April 19, 2010 at 10:49 am
My French girlfriend in college stood about six and a half feet tall and had an inefficient metabolism, so she had to eat all the time. We went to a Shoney’s breakfast bar, where she and her big feet demonstrated the concept of force projection. It was a pleasure watching her singlehandedly wreck the restaurant’s bottom line that day. After one trip to the bar, she returned to our booth, her plate piled with several pancakes rolled up around scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon, burrito style.
“It is like crepes.” She said.
Dorothy said on April 19, 2010 at 10:57 am
Cooze and LA Mary need to get together and spend a few months in a cabin collaborating, writing their life stories. Most people would think it is fiction, but we will know otherwise!
crinoidgirl said on April 19, 2010 at 11:30 am
Lincoln fans: I just got back from the library, and if you haven’t seen this book you need to check it out –
It’s chock-full of the coolest photographs. (Of course, when ordering thru Amazon, use the Kickback Lounge!)
beb said on April 19, 2010 at 12:36 pm
I’m not fond of the bacon cheeseburger because I can’t bite through the bacon the way I can the rest of the cheeseburger, so it ends up deployed all over my lap. Bacon should be eaten by itself where greater jaw pressure can be applied to snap that sucker in two.
The idea of using a pancake as a sort of crepe for scrambled eggs might have made sense if the pancakes could roll up enough. I think MacDonald has something like that on their breakfast menu. Essentially an eff mcMuffin but with two mmaple syrup infused pancakes inbstead of the English muffin. Short of deep-frying it, how could you make this even more of a gutbuster.
“Responsible adults” what a concept. And how do you explain to the youth of today that the Republican party is, without exception, fricking nuts?
basset said on April 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm
Bacon and zombies… the two memes I just don’t understand at all.
We made an Elvis Presley “Fool’s Gold Loaf” awhile back just to say we’d tried it, the Bacon Explosion may be too much for human bowels though.
MRMARK said on April 19, 2010 at 1:54 pm
Did anyone catch the NBC special on Detroit? Caught a few minutes, including the previously NN posted SUVs up on the alter and the former mayors best hours. Nance, thanks for keeping us in the know!
Enjoy today’s photo of Dogwoods at Smith Plantation (Roswell, GA)
harrison said on April 19, 2010 at 1:55 pm
Regarding the story on Kristol: Yet another reason to scorn and despise Dick Lugar.
And Nancy — will you have any comment on the story NBC showed Sunday night on Detroit?
Little Bird said on April 19, 2010 at 2:23 pm
I did indeed make bacon infused vodka. Once. There are only so may Bacon Bloody Marys a person can stand. They were good though.
Deborah forgot to tell you about the bacon chocolate bar we got once, just to try. Again, good, but only in small doses and only once or twice a year. If that.
Rana said on April 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm
Mmm… bacon chocolate. If you like the salty-sweet combination, it can be really tasty. Of course, I’m also the sort of person who pours maple syrup on the breakfast sausage, so adjust the usefulness of my recommendation accordingly.
nancy said on April 19, 2010 at 2:36 pm
I didn’t see the Dateline thing. I was working, and also:
1) I can’t take anything Chris Hansen says seriously, after he sold his soul to do those vile “To Catch a Predator” things;
2) I feel like I already know the story; and
3) Even relative insiders like Hansen (he grew up in one of the ‘burbs) never seem to “get” the city, and I say that as one who probably doesn’t get it either.
That said, I’ve been listening to comments about it today on the radio, and:
1) It sounds like it was fair, and didn’t over-dwell on the sideshow stuff;
2) The current mayor is a good guy, and the prescription he’s writing is probably inevitable; and
3) If the city recovers and evolves into what people are proposing — urban villages with bands of urban farmland — it has the potential to be one of the most interesting cities of the 21st century U.S.
Dexter said on April 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm
I remember seeing English people order “a rasher of bacon” and for years I thought it meant about four slices held over a campfire in a two sided screen thing, like a bacon-vise. Nope.
When I retired, for a couple years I made bacon and eggs, ham and eggs, sausage and eggs almost every morning . Then I just got tired of it. Lately, I rarely fry an egg and I quit buying bacon. I love bacon too, but even bacon can become tiresome.
Sometimes my wife will still buy bacon, though, and if I am cooking it I use my bacon press to make it very crispy with a hint of burn to it. My wife likes it what I call half-raw, un-pressed and juicy.
No Treme comments…I don’t know if everyone’s abandoned it already, but for those with HBO, it’s there OnDemand. Last night’s episode was really good , too. Over on AMC, I must report that Breaking Bad has sort of degenerated into the dreaded telenovela. Not good at all last night. I find Hank the DEA agent to be a boring asshole of a character, and he is getting way too much camera time.
Dorothy said on April 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm
I know what you mean, Rana, but I get my salty/sweet kick by eating some M&Ms along with cashews. Just a few of both will hold me over. They are addictive, however.
Deborah said on April 19, 2010 at 3:13 pm
Yes, the bacon chocolate bar we got from a specialty chocolate place here in Chicago called Voges (don’t know if they have them in other cities) was quite good, but I don’t know that I’ll ever go out of my way to get another one.
Dorothy, I eat M&Ms along with salted peanuts, but cashews sounds way better, why didn’t I think of that?
Dexter said on April 19, 2010 at 3:17 pm
salty sweet combo: G.O.R.P. made with yellow raisins, salted blanched roasted peanuts and shattered Hershey bars. I doctor mine up with dried papaya, but that’s just me.
Lex said on April 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm
I’ve been waiting years to say this, and yet, according to Google, I am the first to say it: I loved bacon when bacon wasn’t cool.
Also: zombies. But microwaved rather than pan-fried.
ROgirl said on April 19, 2010 at 3:41 pm
Speaking of bacon, it just a coincidence that this story was in the paper today?
Deborah said on April 19, 2010 at 3:50 pm
Another bacon story: my husband’s family grew up on toast sandwiches made with bacon combined with jelly, they had them for breakfast every morning. My husband’s Jewish friend that he walked to school with used to stop by for a helping of the forbidden bacon. He claims to this day that his mother never found out he ate bacon nearly every school day morning.
Julie Robinson said on April 19, 2010 at 3:57 pm
Is anyone else getting hungry? We are having bacon tonight, in one of those use-up-the-Easter-egg-dishes, Seven Layer Salad. Lettuce, bacon, eggs, peas, cheese, onion and the white man’s lubricant, Miracle Whip.
4dbirds said on April 19, 2010 at 4:03 pm
My mother says when she went to school, that the poor kids ate bacon grease sandwiches.
Kirk said on April 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm
My mom used to fry up the breakfast bacon and then cook the pancakes in the bacon grease.
Jolene said on April 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm
Bacon cheeseburgers, ummmmm.
On salt/sweet combos: My father would occasionally fix himself a dish of ice cream w/ crushed potato chips on top. He lived to be 90.
nancy said on April 19, 2010 at 4:28 pm
As always, I think the most significant word in Jolene’s comment, above, is occasionally.
My mom always fried my dad’s eggs in the bacon grease, too. He lived to be 88.
JC said on April 19, 2010 at 4:30 pm
And my dad taught me that the best movie snack was a box of milk duds poured into the popcorn so the duds get all soft and gooey. Is it any wonder I’m on a first-name basis with my dentist?
All this talk of bacon has actually made me crave a salad or other healthy snack.
Jolene said on April 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm
So, not to disrupt the bacon discussion, but this volcanic ash is really something, huh?
I’m always fascinated by the interconnectedness of things–the idea, for instance–that a blizzard on a holiday weekend eats into the profits of caterers. Now, we are hearing about fruit rotting in South America because it can’t be flown to markets in Europe, an Egyptian filmmaker who can’t get to Ebertfest in Central Illinois, and all manner of such things. Pretty amazing.
Colleen said on April 19, 2010 at 4:51 pm
Mmmm. Popcorn and milk duds.
And mmmm. Bacon. Alex, has your Hunkie family ever done a bacon roast? I have heard of this great peasant tradition, but never have had the luck to participate in one.
Jason T. said on April 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm
I don’t know about Alex, but this hunkie has been to a bacon roast. My grandfathers used to have them in the summer, and one of the local Hungarian churches usually holds one at least once a year. (Here’s a picture of the pastor presiding over the grill.)
You need what’s called “slab bacon” (essentially, a thick slab of cured pork, not sliced down).
You roast it on a slow fire (charcoal or wood) and scrape the charred/cooked part onto bread (heavy brown or rye bread works best) with onions, scallions, tomatoes or peppers.
Essentially, you’re not really eating the bacon, you’re eating the drippings on bread with vegetables. I suspect this originated as a way to make the pork last longer and fill up on bread and veggies instead.
Colleen said on April 19, 2010 at 6:03 pm
Yeeeesssss, that’s how it’s been described to me, and it sounds just delicious!
brian stouder said on April 19, 2010 at 6:12 pm
Crinoidgirl – those books look great. I have a beautiful, over-sized Kunhardt photo book which is simply arresting. Over the years, as I read more about our 16th president, I will pull that book out again, and the photos look different; different details stand out or catch one’s attention. One of the nice things about Burlingame’s massive biography is that, by and by (in the course of all those pages), one gets past the immortal, marble American icon, and down to a very intelligent, very stressed thinker and political operative.
Plus, you just gotta love the somewhat smutty Lincoln jokes and anecdotes that are sprinkled from one end of the book to the other; earthy, American stuff, that. (pull my finger and I’ll repeat one!)
As for bacon, meh.
Now if we start talking about various cheese cakes – that’s another matter! I will say that this past weekend I tried baking “cheese straws”. I’d never heard of these, and saw a reference on Laura Lippman’s blog to her own world famous cheese straws, so Google and I teamed up, and……they were OK. (next time I’ll add more salt. Or maybe – bacon grease!)
The recipe is general enough that it leaves lots of room for tweaking and personalizing the taste. (in effect you’re making your own Cheese Nip crackers)
LAMary said on April 19, 2010 at 7:58 pm
I still occasionally cook my eggs in bacon grease. I so seldom buy bacon I don’t think I’m about to die from it. I like the nice stuff from Niman Ranch. My dad used to talk about having “drippings” sandwiches when he was a kid. Even later in life he considered drippings a side dish.
MaryRC said on April 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm
The late Duchess of Windsor used to serve her guests bacon brown sugar appetizers — bits of crispy bacon coated with brown sugar.
Re Kelsey Grammar: yes, I’m so sure that it was those rightie “Pro-America, Pro-Business, Pro-Military sensibilities” types who kept “Frasier” on the air all those seasons.
Kirk said on April 19, 2010 at 8:27 pm
You reckon Kelsey did as much coke as Lush Rimshot did OxyContin?
Deborah said on April 19, 2010 at 9:35 pm
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I order it for lunch and dinner whenever I’m on the road because it’s the only meal you can count on. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, there’s not much you can do to mess them up. Of course I’ve had eggs that are dry and overcooked and bacon that’s slimey and undercooked but for the most part I’ve had good experiences. Mostly for breakfast in the morning I just have a bowl of Wheat Chex or Grape Nuts, but how I wish it was a plate of bacon and eggs (fried in the bacon grease). Mmmm hmmm.
beb said on April 19, 2010 at 9:38 pm
Dorothy @6: I see Cooze and LAMary like the two old men on Monty Python complaining about “the youth of today”
First Man: “When I said ‘House’ I meant a cardboard box…”
Second Man: “Oooo, we always dreams of a cardboard box!”
Cooze would write a chapter, then LAMary would try to top that, then Cooze would try to top that, and so on.
salty-sweet combinations. I’m not sure I’m ready for chocolate covered bacon, but when it comes to salty-sweet combinations, the “Take Five” candy bar is really nice. Basically it’s a chocolate covered pretzel with maybe a layer of nouget or caramel. Nice crunch and a delightful mix of salty chocolate.
bacon grease sandwiches? I’m sure my Dad had some growing up during the Depression. And what’s so bad about Bacon Grease sandwiches? It’s kind of like bread and butter, but with more flavor.
As for me, when I was young Mom worked so I went across the road to Grandma’s for breakfast. She fried eggs in about a quarter inch of bacon grease. It was more poached then fried. Grandpa lived a good long life. Not into his 80s sadly, but good for his generation.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 19, 2010 at 10:18 pm
There’s a few dozen YouTubes out there of the “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch, including an updating by four current Brit comics, but I think this is fun in it’s own right — a script of the bit:
alex said on April 19, 2010 at 10:34 pm
Never been to a Hungarian bacon roast, but plenty of hilljack affairs accomplishing essentially the same thing. And still adore my fair share of bacon-slathered Hungarian cuisine, with Crestors and Lisinoprils for dessert. Mmmm-mmmm.
paddyo' said on April 20, 2010 at 12:24 am
Dexter @ #15:
I agree that “Breaking Bad” has deteriorated some the last few episodes, but the previews for next week — now that Walt’s going to cook again — looked pretty strong. We’ll see if the plot gets cooking again, too.
As for “Treme,” I’m still optimistic, even if it merely limps quietly along for the moment, like a Katrina evacuee hitchhiking home. The he’s-not-my-son scene with the prison system (with a too-brief cameo by the actor who played “Slim Charles” on “The Wire”) reflected the futility of post-Katrina life — as did the pot bust of the trumpet player, something I doubt the NOPD had time to do, but then again, it was widely known as one of the more corrupt police forces in the land before the ‘cane.
As has been said too many times, it ain’t “The Wire,” but I for one remain interested . . .
MichaelG said on April 20, 2010 at 12:31 am
There’s a place right nearby where they cure their own bacon. You buy it in slabs and slice the skin off and then cut it yourself. The pieces are smaller than supermarket bacon but it sure is good and the price is competitive. No water and no two inches of grease in the pan. I don’t mean to sound like a snob. The stuff is just down the street convenient. And when I was a kid my mom used to cook eggs in bacon grease. She always saved the grease in an old coffee can. I haven’t had bacon fat fried eggs for years. Maybe I’ll try it this weekend.
I have also heard of people making bacon grease sandwiches back in the day.
I never did watch The Wire. For whatever reason. Tonight I looked at Treme for the first time. I don’t look at a lot of dramatic TV but I felt invested in Treme because of Ashley. My usual act is to read a book while watching news or sports or entertainment on the tube. A few, a very few, minutes of Treme served to disabuse me of any thoughts of multi-tasking. Treme commands your full attention. I don’t know what episode I watched; it’s the one that ends with the carpenter/musician older guy beating the shit out of the robber and maybe killing him. It’s great and riveting TV and I’ll continue to watch the show. I’m also falling in lust with the woman who owns the restaurant.
I must say, however, that the black people who inhabit the ghetto where I live are tad different from the people on the TV show. It’s not quite so brotherly and heart warming here in the real world.
Denice B. said on April 20, 2010 at 12:42 am
Ah, bacon. I saw a recipe in the Food Network Magazine called ‘French Toast Cupcakes’ It was a kind of sponge cake with maple icing and sprinkled with a small amount of Bacon as an accent flavor. Darn that looked tasty. And as for Bacon as a Hip Icon, Archie McPhee’s web site sells bacon flavored mints, bacon flavored dental floss, gummy bacon, bacon jelly beans, bacon air fresheners, bacon purses, and a bacon-shaped watch. And in Montana or somewhere like that, the State Fair makes deep fried bacon-on-a-stick dipped in sweet maple syrup! Paula Deen has a Bacon, lettuce and tomato soup that looks divine. Gee, I know too much about bacon. Too much for my own good…
Dexter said on April 20, 2010 at 1:39 am
paddy-O & MichaelG…I got a lump in my throat when Ashley…er…”Creighton Bernette”‘s wife tells him to “drive safely” and gives him a slightly longer look than usual, to which Creighton mumbles back something like “yeah, yeah, c’mon let’s go!”
My dad started school in the Fall of 1920. He told me kids carried lard sandwiches to school, but I can’t recall if he ever did. When I was a kid in the 1950’s , we’d always get big empty lard pails from someplace and store stuff in them and use them for all sorts of purposes. Dad said a lot of kids used empty lard pails for lunch pails. I suppose that is why when I was a kid , packing a Davey Crockett lunch box, that lunch box and all the other kids’s Roy Rogers and Snow White lunch boxes were still called “lunch pails” by the teacher and our parents.
Cosmo Panzini said on April 20, 2010 at 6:26 am
I believe that with the appearance of the Right Network, the right wing noise machine has jumped the shark. But then, didn’t H L Mencken say nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public? Well, maybe a few more years then.