Bacon has been around for hundreds of years, but it only recently has achieved superstar status in the food world. Why is everyone in love with it? Since the first Europeans set foot in North America, bacon has been humble breakfast fare. For generations, it loyally served as a morning protein source relegated to a place on the plate between the eggs and toast or cozied up next to pancakes.
Bacon’s Fall And Rise Back To The Top
After years of dutifully playing this supporting role at breakfast, it struggled during the 1980s and 1990s as “fat-free” became the diner’s mantra. The Atkins diet and some other low-carb eating regimens came to the rescue, however, and consumers once again started “bringing home the bacon,” even during the recession of the early 2000s. And in the past decade, it has shot to fame. It’s as if a lightbulb went off over consumers’ heads and they collectively said, “If this is good for breakfast, wouldn’t it be great for lunch and dinner, and for a mid-morning snack and a midnight snack and in lip balm?”
More than the “B” in BLT
At one time, sales went up only when tomatoes were in season and people were making BLTs to utilize their garden bounty. Then sales would taper off again as the tomato vines withered. But in recent years, sales have soared independent of tomato harvests. While still the “B” in BLT and a breakfast staple, bacon has also found its way onto other sections of the menu, from appetizers, soups, and salads to sandwiches, entrees, and desserts.
The trend has also gone beyond the kitchen as fans proclaim their love of all things bacon on quirky throw pillows, baseball caps, tee shirts, and neckties. People who can’t get enough to eat can use bacon-flavored toothpaste. Those who just love the smell of it can light a bacon-scented candle or use bacon-scented shampoo, cologne, and massage oil. For those who want to drink in their love can pick from bacon-flavored soda, beer, and even vodka.
Bacon In Unique Forms
The love of bacon has also been combined with the love of sugar through brittle, chocolate-covered, ice cream, and candy canes. A bacon-flavored latte can be whipped up by adding bacon-flavored syrup to your coffee drink.
Will Bacon Eventually Become Passé?
Will the madness ever cease? Chicago-based chef, food blogger, and recipe developer, Billy Parisi doesn’t think so. “It’s been a huge culinary trend in the last five years,” he says. “But I remember thinking when I was 13 or 14 that if I had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life, it would be bacon.”
Bacon From Many Sources
While it can be made from soy, turkey, beef, or even duck, when most people think of bacon they think of pork; meat from a hog’s belly that’s been cured, smoked, and sliced. The type of wood used for smoking it can subtly change the flavor. Common smoke flavors come from apple, hickory, and maple.
“You can get expensive, perfectly cured, thick-cut slices that cook up tender and crisp at the same time,” Parisi says. “But you can also get it on sale for less than $3.99 a pound, and while it may be fatty and thin, it’s still bacon. That’s what’s great about bacon … even when it’s bad, it’s good.”
More bits of wisdom from Chef Billy Parisi:
- Save your bacon fat and use it instead of lard or shortening when making crust for savory pies.
- Wrap your Thanksgiving turkey in the slices and roast it upside down for maximum flavor and juiciness.
- Use your food dehydrator to dry it, then grind it up in a food processor, mix it with salt and use it as popcorn seasoning.
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Judy Kneiszel is a freelance writer from De Pere, Wisconsin. She contributes to regional and national magazines and newsletters, writing on a wide variety of topics including food, farming, health, renewable energy, and running a small business.