If I had a thing I could give you, I’d give to you a day just like today.
If I had a song that I could sing for you, I’d sing a song to make you feel this way.
(After John Denver).
I used to work for a company that put on trade shows. We put on a trade show in London every year, but I only ate a “real” British meal once. Most of the meals I had during that trip were catered specifically (and, I guess, secretly) for American tastes, by my hotel and/or by the trade show venue.
I did sneak out one morning, to get my hair cut, and ended up eating a genuine English fast-food breakfast, somewhere in the neighborhood around Earl’s Court Road.
And let me just say this.
It was an egg sandwich infested with sour beet pellets (or something) called “Branson Pickle.” And bacon. Now, you’d think that anything with bacon on it couldn’t be all bad, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong. This bacon was undercooked, barely warm, really, sort of pink and stretchy, chewy as toffee, with little white flecks of cooked pig blood sliming up and down the length of it.
Turns out the British don’t even use the right part of the pig to make bacon, anyway. They use pork shoulder. In America, sirs, we put that shit in our SPAM, thank you very much. And then we don’t eat any SPAM. Yuck.
Among twenty snowy mountains
The only aromatic thing
Was the bacon in the camper’s skillet.
I was of three minds
Like a sandwich
In which there are bacon, lettuce, and tomato.
The bacon whirled in the food processor.
It was a small part of the sauce.
A man and another man
A man and another man and bacon
I do not know which to prefer:
The beauty of the sizzle,
Or the beauty of the steak,
The chewing of the bacon
Or just after.
Icicles filled the narrow freezer compartment
With ozonic aroma.
The packages of the bacon
Stacked here, right and left.
Traced in the packages:
An indecipherable expiration.
Oh thin men of Gotham,
Why do you eat celery and pretzel sticks?
Do you not see how the bacon bits
Wait in the container at the end
Of the salad bar?
I know subtle flavors
And fancy, complicated recipes.
But I know, too
That bacon is involved
In what I know.
When the bacon was placed on the plate
It marked the edge
Of one of many pancakes.
At the sight of bacon
Frying in a green pan,
Even the bards of infamy
Would settle down quietly.
He rode over Kentucky
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
The river is moving.
The bacon must be frying.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The bacon sat
In the pantry.
(After Wallace Stevens)
Microwave ovens were new technology in north Alabama in the 70s, when I was growing up. We got everything late. My mother, born in the 1940s, has told me that she remembers (just barely) a time before TVA brought household electricity to the area, even.
Anyway, my grandfather (“Papo”) didn’t trust microwaves. Nothing could possibly cook something so quickly. “It don’t stay cooked,” he said. His proof was that my grandmother (“Nanny”) had cooked him some bacon in the microwave earlier that day, and within seconds of her putting it on the table, it had unshrivelled itself back out into a sweaty white-pink raw state.
He pointed at it. “See?”
I did allow that it looked pretty nasty.
Nanny just glared at him, and then at me.
She kept using the microwave, though, for years and years after that. I guess he stopped complaining, or she maybe figured out how to use it better.
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).
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.