Monday, June 8, 2009

Bacon: A Love Story

By Pat Tanner

This is the apt title of a book just out by Heather Lauer, creator of the popular blog baconunwrapped. The subtitle is accurate, too: the book, published by William Morrow, really is “A Salty Survey of Everybody’s Favorite Meat,” which Lauer lovingly refers to as meat candy and The Best Meat Ever.

I thought I was a true aficionado of cured pork belly (i.e. bacon) until reading this book; I now accept that I don’t even qualify as the merest of dilettantes. Did you know there are at least a dozen blogs devoted to this salty, smoky, sweet, and greasy culinary delight that, as Lauer points out, is beloved worldwide and has been for centuries? The blogs have entertaining names like iheartbacon, lordsofbacon, mrbaconpants, and sexandbacon.

There is also a world of bacon-centric gifts, including bacon-scented candles and “bacon” band-aids, scarves, and wallets (of which Lauer owns three). Not to mention bacon-flavored foods, among which her favorite is bacon salt. (Bacon flavored vodka, anyone?)

Quotes about bacon range from the ridiculous (Homer Simpson: “Bacon up!”) to the sublime (Charles Lamb: “Pig – let me speak his praise…”).

Lauer’s writing style mimics that of her blog: breezy, witty, informative, and passionate. She includes descriptions of bacon festivals around the globe, profiles of leading chefs who incorporate the “sinful strips” into their fare, as well as recipes from them, a primer on the various ways bacon is salted and cured, and a whirlwind tour of leading artisanal bacon producers. (Word to the bacon obsessed: get your hands on La Quercia bacon.)

Speaking of “meat candy,” here is a slightly adapted recipe for caramelized bacon. This “candied apple version of bacon,” Heather Lauer writes “will make you look at bacon in a whole new light.”

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drape 6 slices of bacon (not thick-cut) on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (shiny side down). Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar even over the slices. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp and brown. 

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