Concerning Bacon

The picture at right is the bacon case at Harrods in London. Note that in just this frame there are nine different types of bacon (streaky, middle, and back, at different levels of smoke).

I’m always astonished that here in the United States we don’t do more with bacon. We have a large pork industry. People here also really like bacon, and many of us eat a little too much of it to be considered healthy. But at most grocery stores I go to, there is generally just one type of bacon: “bacon.” If you’re lucky, there are a few brands, some more thickly sliced than others. Maybe some token peppered bacon or maple bacon. But in general, we live in a bacon wasteland. To quote a coworker of mine, “bacon is bacon, it’s a commodity.” Oh, how sorely wrong he is.

Yes, there are some places where a die-hard bacon aficionado can get good bacon. Here in New England we actually have two decent local smokehouse brands: McKenzie of Vermont and North Country Smokehouse in Claremont, NH. And, a few hours away is one of the places that I consider a shrine to bacon, Nodine’s Smokehouse in Torrington, Connecticut (where one time I counted 11 varieties of bacon being served, including Juniper-smoked).  But, in generally, halfway decent streaky bacon (as the Brits would call it) is about all we can hope for, and often it’s either been massively over- or under-cooked. Or, sometimes (particularly at pizza joints), we can get what we call “canadian bacon”, but is a poor imitation of the real Canadian item (unsmoked back bacon that has been lightly pickled and coated in yellow cornmeal, but is oddly still called “peameal bacon”, showing that those Canadians can be perverse in their own odd ways).

Meanwhile, over in England, virtually ever grocery store has at least four types of bacon (Streaky or Back, smoked and unsmoked), and many places have a much, much better selection (different thicknesses, different seasonings). And bacon is the cornerstone of the classic Full English Breakfast.

Somehow, I have the feeling that here in the US. somehow we’re not living up to our bacon potential. So how do we fix our bacon industry?

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