Everyone is familiar with that particular scene, co-workers gathered around the coffee machine at work and just chatting it up, talking about the boss, catching up on the latest gossip or sharing advice on life. I like to think that it’s the same in the kitchen, but it’s different. Often times, my colleagues and I find ourselves hovered around a 200 perforated pan full of bacon, where each thinly sliced pork belly smoked with apple-wood is stacked one on top of another. The layer resembles a fanned-out blanket and if this pan was a bed, I want to sleep on here. And if I had a lover, I want to sleep here with my lover… underneath this layer of bacon goodness with drippings and all.
I need BACON!!! Photo©mrg 2017
Our phones have made us ambitious photographers all. We take pictures of just about anything. Selfies, our dogs, french toast with sausages on the side, flowers and sunsets. Everywhere is opportunity. Mine just happens to be the bacon. Bacon from one kitchen into another, whether stripped, chopped or raw. Looking at bacon even swimming in its own liquid goodness seems gratifying, more so after it’s drained. And it sits there, atop a rack, dripping as the sliver of pork belly gets a little more crisp from the residual heat. The perfect piece of bacon for me is when the cook has achieved that crispiness of both meat and fat that it just crumbles in my mouth. With all the limp bacon I’ve witnessed over the years, from bacon being cooked haphazardly to feed hundreds of people, acheiving that crispiness seem fortuitous at times. And so as a cook, I stand back on the sidelines and wait, until the batch of crispy bacon is brought out. Often times, these are the ones left behind because no one else is more discerning than me when it comes to bacon.
I know I shouldn’t fawn over bacon this much, but I do. I wouldn’t call it a super food, but it’s one of those perfect foods. By that, I mean it can stand alone. Its cured, smoked goodness make it a meal on its own. There’s the balance of meat and fat, sweet and salty… tastes which touch upon all sides of the tongue and cajole us in a way that we are drawn to pick up one more and another and then another until the guilt of cholesterol and having too much sets in. Bacon is irresistible; it has a charm of its own. For the most part, it doesn’t need anything, but everything seems to want to pair up with it. If bacon was a character, I think I’d liken it to Kerouac… that lone beat poet who embodied coolness travelling from New York to San Francisco and back just absorbing life, writing it down, not needing a whole lot but to be able to just write. And bacon or pork belly, more or less, is this figure in the culinary world, absorbing all sorts of flavors from brown sugar to maple to every kind of spice, in the end, to be thinly sliced and fried up to a crisp so it can give us either one great sandwich or one great breakfast. Because bacon doesn’t need anything. But our eggs do. Eggs need bacon as much as we do.