Bacon, oh bacon, how I miss thee.
In fact, I miss all things pig – bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, jamón iberico, chorizo, all types of salami, pork belly, ribs, sausages, honey-glazed ham, brawn, pig’s cheek, trotters, tripe… even Canadian/back bacon, which I normally wouldn’t count as bacon (why have that when you can have streaky, fatty, delicious bacon?!) but in this case I’ll allow for it.
And yes, this really is an ode to the meat of the pig. That wonderful, magical animal, in Homer Simpson’s words.
Lisa: I’m going to become a vegetarian.Homer: Does that mean you’re not going to eat any pork?Lisa: Yes!Homer: Bacon?Lisa: Yes, Dad!Homer: Ham?Lisa: Dad, all those meats come from the same animal!Homer: Right, Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!
You can’t even begin to comprehend the horror with which I read about an impending ‘Aporkalypse‘. The UK’s National Pig Association has predicted a worldwide pork shortage in 2013 because of rising feed costs. Bacon shortage is now unavoidable – that, or a more realistic rise in prices according to basic capitalist economics. And then I also realized this information doesn’t really apply to me, seeing as I’m currently living in a country where they don’t seem to appreciate the deliciousness that is pig. It’s ironic that the pig is considered to be an unclean animal and not fit to eat in Islam and Judaism, because you can eat all of the pig except its squeal. (Seventh-Day Adventists, Rastafarians, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church also do not eat, or discourage consumption of, pork). Or as it’s popularly called in chef/foodie circles, nose-to-tail eating à la Fergus Henderson.
If you’re going to kill the animal it seems only polite to use the whole thing.
Henderson’s famous London restaurant, St. John, and his 2004 book, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, brought the ‘nasty bits’ of an animal back onto the dinner table: brains, cheeks, sweetbreads, offal, testicles, tripe, trotters, and tail, among others. The whole ethos of nose-to-tail eating is exactly like it sounds like – eat every part of the animal, and thoroughly enjoy it. It’s economical to do so, and prevents a lot of wastage. Today’s omnivores don’t want to face the harsh reality of where their meat comes from – gasp, you mean this boneless chicken breast was once part of a live, stinky, squawking chicken?! – and are also incredibly lazy – you mean I actually have to put in some effort to cook and eat this meal? deal with bones and shit? forget it, give me something tasteless and textureless I can throw in a frying pan and smother in jarred sauce before eating it without ever getting my hands dirty. So most of the meat in supermarkets come pre-packaged in easy-to-cook cuts, and much of the carcass is thrown away. Eating the rejected parts of an animal therefore is more eco-friendly, and cheaper – bone marrow is the cheapest of all offal, and butchers will often let you have beef bones for free. It’s also THE BEST THING YOU’LL EVER EAT. Rich, buttery bone marrow on toast with parsley salad = me in gastronomical heaven.
As an added bonus, nose-to-tail eating is also ethical. If you’re going to kill an animal and take its life, the least you can do is be respectful and eat the whole thing. Now I’m sure vegetarians would disagree – why kill it in the first place? – but if you’re going to eat a pig anyway, you may as well not be wasteful and eat it all. Especially because you can. You can eat everything from a pig, making it the ‘cleanest’ animal for human consumption. (Oh! the irony!). Now, I know religious restrictions and taboos on food are more likely to come from existing practices rather than the imposition of a new law, and the existing practices are a result of ecological, economical, and cultural contexts. Pigs do not forage/graze like camels, sheep, and cows; instead, they need water and feed, placing them in competition with humans for scarce resources. In the Middle East, the birthplace of Judaism and Islam, it thus makes sense that pork had become forbidden. Much as I love bacon and the other equally-or-more delicious parts of the little piggies, if it’s a competition between me and the pig for that trough of water, I win. The lack of preservation techniques (mainly salt) and the higher chances of food poisoning and food-borne illness from pork that’s gone bad is also another reason for it to have been taboo in the early centuries.
But now?? Why people still refuse to eat pork because of religious dictates, is not something I want to get into. I respect that it’s a part of these religions, but if we’re really going to argue on ethical or religious lines, we just shouldn’t eat meat at all. My friend Anna, who is a vegetarian, thinks that one good thing about Islam – they don’t eat, and so they don’t kill, pigs. Because pigs are friendly, smart creatures. True, but I’d rather have all or nothing. If you’re going to eat meat, then eat all kinds of meat. Or don’t eat any at all. This is my current dilemma. I miss bacon. And all the different kinds of cured pig bits and offal previously mentioned. I wish I had packed an extra suitcase full of chorizo and salami. (Hint: this would make the perfect care package, if any of you lovelies are so inclined. Oh wait. They don’t have a functioning postal system here. Damn).
Well, all that to say…
Bacon, I miss you, and I cannot wait to be reunited with you in 6 weeks.
P.S. Just for funsies – have you heard about bacon mania and the Bacon Nation? I love bacon as much as the next person, but this is a bit cray. Also check out Bacon: A Love Story, and the related blog.
(Featured image — via)