First things first: I have nothing against cured side cuts of pork. I like them. I take pleasure in eating them. I don’t care if I’m half-Jewish, half-Muslim or half-Hindu—it’s hard for me to resist their splendour amidst this Pork-Filled Nation (Québec).
But the problem with bacon is when it hits the restaurant and we pretend it’s art. Addictively akin to cocaine, it’s a quick fix. And its wielders shouldn’t get any more credibility than a suburban drug dealer.
Bacon caters to the lazy chef. Yet, six years later, it’s all I see on menus from Montréal to Santa Fe.
Bacon was worthy, to be sure, of a brief ironic giggle circa 2007, around the time its prominence amongst respectable restauranteurs and trendsetting gastronomes (yes, you horrible blogging foodie), tempered a late-90s trend toward artificial health edibles. We wanted to smell real food again, to name its pasture, to eat closer to the ground. The sense that this might not be so death-defying after all was soon to follow.
But our bacon trend is about a half-decade past its prime.
Consider, for a moment, just how many raw ingredients are able to punch you in the mouth with salt, fat and sweetness—no effort added.
There aren’t many. I’d love to hear a shortlist of, say, more than five. The thing is, we’ve all been fleeced. Because if more existed, more chefs would be getting rich off of them.
We can all make bacon taste good. I don’t care if it’s No Name or knifed by Pied du Cochon. It takes no skill. And yet, day after day, I see up and coming chefs trumpeting their bacon dishes (or adding bacon to stupid, stupid things) as if even a teaspoon of skill were actually involved.
Trend-chasing bacon cooks: why not make me a turnip dish I will dream about? That would be something to share, post and brag to my friends about. Making turnips tantalizing takes a true culinary hero, like this one, or this one.
But until then, bacon should remain where it belongs: next to fried eggs at a hangover brunch, or as an supporting actor in more rounded, composed dishes.
Yes, I will draw some ire for this rant. I will be seen as anti-bacon, or ultra-kosher.
This, as any of my friends could tell you, is tragic. Because I’m of neither sort. Yet bacons’ brainwashees fan far and wide. They’re the same sort of “culinary” type who add pigs to ice cream, foie gras to milkshakes, or bourbon to scallops. It’s anti-culinary. And it’s not their fault. They were fleeced long before they knew what hit them.
Indeed, bacon has ridden such a long wave of taste-trending that most seem unable to recall a time before it. (Article 1: this bloggers’ self-portrait with Gordon Ramsay).
But I can tell you: it existed. And back then, chefs couldn’t so easily cop-out.
Postscript: Mad respect to Lafleur for holding out on the bacon in your poutine. Keep it real. Please. And La Banquise: no comment.