I recall an old woman in the Ken Burns’ Dust Bowl series remarking how the dirt and sand got into everything. You’d keep sweeping and sweeping and sweeping, and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning, but it was in vain. The dirt got into everything. It was in your hair, in your clothes after you washed them, on your plates in the cabinet, and under the rug.
This is how I feel about what bacon has become.
It’s everywhere and thrown in to dishes without thought. We are barreling down the roller coaster hill exponentially gaining speed with our use of bacon. Sharp turn to the left…bacon and cheese in pizza crust. Shoot threw a tunnel…bacon in mac & cheese.
I find the average American’s relationship with bacon is like my 16 year old niece’s with Justin Bieber. I bet you have a homemade t-shirt that says ‘bacon’ on it. I bet you post pictures of eating bacon with your friends. I bet you have a wall poster in your bedroom with a sexy, scantily clad, juicy slice of bacon.
Bacon is just a culinary crutch right now – and we are in deep, blinded by any other potential flavor that may bring smoke, salt and/or crispy. It’s just bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon.
These past few weeks, I’ve been trying all kinds of things with bacon – all of which made no sense to me.
First, I had a cod cake that was wrapped in bacon and served with a mayo-dressed slaw. The cake was warm and soft, pleasantly fishy and herby. The slaw was a bit heavy on the mayo, but it was fresh and crunchy – a nice foil for the soft cake. Then, ok, the bacon held it together, but that’s all it did for me. The flavors totally clashed – fresh, ocean, crunch brought down by heavy, greasy meat.
The next day beautiful brussel sprouts roasted in olive oil and salt were corrupted with chunks of bacon. Why?! They were already salty with crispy…burnt outer leaves and a touch smoky from the high-temp roasting. But I guess that’s too boring to eat vegetables by themselves – gotta add Justin Bieber…
Then came this total lunacy (see photo)! There was a gorgeous spread of New Orleans foods. All the favorites were present – jambalaya, dirty rice, étouffée, and gumbo among many other well-known dishes. On my plate was a mini oyster po’ boy with a cucumber slaw stuffed in to the cutest, tiniest parker house roll; lightly barbecued shrimp with creamy grits; three bean salad; and I also grabbed a hush puppy.
Five minutes into the meal, I go for the hush puppy. I split it open first before I pop half in my mouth and what did I find…come freakin’ on! RIDICULOUS! Why is there bacon in my hush puppy!?!
Even though I grew up in New Jersey, I’ve spent time every year of my life in the south and lived in Virgina for eight years. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have I seen bacon in a hush puppy!
When will we heal enough to remove the bacon crutch?! I’m ready to move on…