The Food Almanac: Monday, October 7, 2013

Staff Writer
It's National Bacon Day!
Wikimedia Commons

Good bacon is so intensely delicious that the temptation is strong to overeat it.

Today's Flavor
This is National Bacon Day. Good bacon is so intensely delicious that the temptation is strong to overeat it. Fry up a whole pound of it and leave it on the kitchen counter, and it's gone within minutes. Breakfast buffets are popular mainly because they offer unlimited bacon.

Bacon comes from the belly and sides of a pig. On pigs, as on our own bodies, fat is concentrated in those areas. The fatty pork belly is first cured in a combination of sugar, salt, and pickling spices--usually by injecting a brine solution. Then it's smoked. 

At several points in the curing process, decisions about quality are made. Bacon can be dry-cured like prosciutto, or injected with salt brine. It can be cured with honey or molasses, or with cane sugar. The smoke can come from a real smokehouse with fruit or nut woods, or liquid smoke. That's what makes some bacon better (and more expensive) than others.

About three-fourths of all the bacon eaten in America is eaten at breakfast. That's a habit we picked up from the Brits. Bacon is a British invention, consumed even more avidly there than here. Almost nowhere else is bacon such a breakfast staple. 

To accommodate our urge to overeat bacon, restaurants overserve it. Almost any dish sells better and at a higher price if bacon is included. This is why atrocities like the bacon cheeseburger--which ruins bacon, cheese, and ground beef simultaneously--has become so universal. The same mechanism works in the gourmet segment. Every time you see bacon wrapped around a scallop, note that the bacon piqued your interest. Even though it's a better dish without the bacon.

Deft Dining Rule #59
The addition of bacon doesn't improve every dish.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
Before assembling a dish that will be broiled or grilled with bacon wrapped around it, fry the bacon until it curls before you start. This is only unnecessary when the assembled dish is then deep-fried (as in oysters en brochette).

Gourmet Gazetteer
Bacon Creek runs some eleven miles across rolling dairy ranchland and woods in southwestern Arkansas. Seventy-three miles northeast of Texarkana, it ends in the Muddy Fork, whose water then goes to the Little Missouri, the Ouachita, the Red, and finally the Atchafalaya down to the Gulf of Mexico. It's unlikely that bacon will be found in the creek, but you might find some wrapped around filets mignon at Mr. T-Bone's Steakhouse, five miles away in Murfreesboro.

Edible Dictionary
back bacon, n.--The Canadian name for what Americans call Canadian bacon. It's made by curing and smoking pork loin (or, sometimes, pork round) in the same way that a ham would be. It's much more like ham than it is like the more common strips of pork-belly bacon. It has a milder flavor and much less fat. It's used mostly for making sandwiches. It was once popular as a topping for pizza, but that use has been fading in recent years.

Physiology Of Eating 
Rudolf Leuckart, a German zoologist, was born today in 1822. He undertook the study of worms, particularly very small parasitic worms that can causes diseases. He figured out why eating undercooked pork can cause a problem: it admits the parasitic trichina worm into the body. He also did a lot of work on liver flukes, tapeworms, and other disgusting invaders. We don't have to worry about them much now as a result of Leuckart's research.

Annals Of Chain Restaurants
PepsiCo, the maker of the perennial second-place cola, ceased to be the world's largest restaurant operator today in 1997. It spun off its restaurant unit--which included Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell--into a new company now misnamed Yum! Brands.

The Saints
This is the feast day of St. Bacchus, a former high military officer in the Roman army. When he converted to Christianity, he soon became a martyr. He was beaten to death in 303. A saint named for the Roman god of wine, he has a church named for him in Rome.

Music To Eat Turtle Soup By
Today in 1962, the Four Seasons' song Sherry made it to the top of the pop music charts. It became the group's most distinctive record, with the falsetto lead vocals of Frankie Valli and good harmonies by the other three singers. Sherry, baby.

Food And Drink Namesakes
Actor Dylan Baker, who was in two Spider-Man movies, came out of the oven today in 1959. . . Pakistani cricket professionalSalman Butt (almost a rare double food name) stepped up to the Big Wicket today in 1984. . . Tang Wei, an actress in China, auditioned for life today in 1979. She passed.

Words To Eat By
"A couple of flitches of bacon are worth fifty thousand Methodist sermons and religious tracts. They are great softeners of temper and promoters of domestic harmony."--William Cobbett, nineteenth-century British political writer.

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Words To Drink By
"A drink is shorter than a tale."--Unknown.