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It seems that the phrase “bring home the bacon” has a more interesting history than you might have thought.


According to the Homecooking editor at About.com (which isn’t still a thing, is it? I don’t remember):

“In the twelfth century, a church in the English town of Dunmow promised a side of bacon to any married man who could swear before the congregation and God that he had not quarreled with his wife for a year and a day. A husband who could bring home the bacon was held in high esteem by the community for his forebearance. 

To this day, apparently, the Dunmow Flitch Trials, rewarding couples for not fighting and for not wishing they were divorced, are held once every four years in Great Dunmow, Essex, England, just northeast of London. (A “flitch” is an old word for any hunk of meat cut from the side of an animal, now commonly only used in British English, and only to refer to a side of bacon).

But wait! Wikipedia claims that the custom of awarding bacon to couples originates in Lichford, Staffordshire, almost 200 miles away.

As with most things historical, there’s plenty of room for interpretation.

Speaking of which: the way we use the phrase today has nothing to do with keeping peaceable and happy in the home. It is about a man (or, as Peggy Lee famously and pointedly let us know, a woman) leaving the home, going out in the world, and bringing back what the family needs to continue living — bacon metaphorically standing in for food in general, or, more likely, money. So I wonder if this old custom of “flitch trials” is really where the phrase came from, or if there’s some other source.