Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bacon = love

Batman, if you turn out to be a vegetarian, a vegan, or of any dietary predilection that does not warmly invite bacon with open arms, I will love you no less, but I might be a little disappointed. Why? Because I LOVE bacon. I love bacon like I love the smell of old books, like I love the feel of damp sand through my toes as I stand in the surf, like I love those long hugs that let you know the other person truly cares about you, like I love the change from one season to the next...aw, screw it, bacon is totally better than all that. Seriously. I love bacon.

What's the big deal with bacon, you might ask? Three big things. First and foremost, bacon is THE SHIT. If I made a rubric for a perfect food experience, it would hit all the taste/texture criteria with a perfect four. It's delicious, salty, sweet, crispy, chewy, satisfying, and it leaves this incredible film of scrumptious grease on anything it touches that lets you appreciate the baconey goodness later! Second, and no less important, is the fact bacon holds a precious place in my memories of a few very important people in my life. Granted, the Jewish side of the family didn't really do the whole bacon thing, but that's cool.

My Grandpa, who I fear you'll never meet, was no great cook. I remember his contributions to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners being...er...well...I think he put something in the oven once, and I'm sure he cut stuff every now and then. He was, however, lord and master of a magical concoction known as "Glop." Glop was composed of literally every meat product floating around in the fridge, a bag of frozen shredded hash browns, diced onion, and some ungodly number of eggs. It was like every best thing you ever ate, sex, and breakfast had some sort of beautiful, gooey baby. Every time we had breakfast at Grandma and Grandpa's house, unless someone stopped me, I would eat Glop until I was literally aching. As my parents told me years later, one of the primary ingredients in this delicacy was generic brand scrapple from the nearby dollar store. This is why my parents NEVER ate any Glop, and why there was always enough for Grandpa and I to smugly eat ourselves sick together every single time he made it. I didn't care (or even know) about the scrapple: what I cared about was that, regardless of how much of anything else went into it, there was a full pound of bacon in every batch of Glop. My delicate, otherwise nearly bacon-free system practically launched into sodium-induced shock after consuming, oh, half of that in one sitting, but damn was it worth it.

My Dad did a pretty solid job of instilling bacon-love in me. Having been raised in a Jewish household that, while not adhering fanatically to Kosher law, maintained many core tenets. Dad didn't really eat much pork growing up. When I was little, every time Dad made bacon at home, it felt conspiratorial. It was like he was sneaking the bacon behind his parents' back, despite their living twenty-five minutes away. He'd hover over the stove, prodding the bacon every few seconds as if it would otherwise leap from the pan to run and tell on him. Dad is a REALLY good cook; there is very little he wouldn't cook or eat, so seeing him treat any food with such near-paranoid reverence kind of freaked me out. Outside of my Glop consumption, these rare, deviant instances were almost the only times I ate bacon until I was in college. Bacon had acquired a mystique akin to fugu. If I ate it too often, I risked...something (probably heart disease, but whatevs)...still, I wanted it so badly...

Then came the bacon years. Oh yes, that's right. I think there's something magical between my generation and pork products. I seem to know more people who LOVE fancy pork, no matter how it's prepared, than I ever remember noticing or knowing until my peers got into their twenties. Maybe it's just something that happens to everyone near the quarter-life crisis, or maybe we are special (I hope we're special!), but bacon feels almost like the diasporic food of the twenty-something. We would smuggle paper cups packed full of bacon out of the cafeteria for later, more exciting breakfasts, and find creative ways to sneak bacon into nearly anything we ate, be it pasta, pizza, casserole, vegetable, salad...you get the idea.

When I met Ryan (your eventually-going-to-be-father), one of our first real bonding experiences was over bacon. (I'll tell you about that time NOT on the internet.) As our relationship evolved, bacon became the iconic food of celebration and comfort. Christmas morning? Bacon for all! First day of vacation? Fancy bacon! Birthday? Special bacon! Some random weekend? Bacon again! Batman, I can bet you good money that after you're born (eventually), I will eat a SHITLOAD of bacon.

Bacon, to me, is a symbol of love. Yes, that's right. I'm sure some clever psychologist could make something fascinating of my association between emotion, affection, and a processed pork product, but I'll just leave you with this: sometimes, a particular food just comes to mean something beautiful. Batman, you should embrace every chance to enjoy that food as an opportunity to feel a little glimmer of that happiness. On the other hand, I do really only eat bacon once a week or less, and I would not recommend indulging too frequently in a similarly unhealthy love-food (like, say, ranch dressing or lard). Just tell yourself it would dilute the experience to have it too often (or whatever helps you not eat a pound of bacon in one sitting). I leave you with the words of an arguably less delicious Bacon: "Rebellions of the belly are the worst."

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