Monday, July 17, 2017
Bacon is hot: Meet the guys who helped save bacon's bacon
Sometimes pulling the thread on a single question can lead to an unexpected story. Here, I was trying to find out when precooked bacon came into being, and happened upon its largely unknown genesis. If after reading this, you just have to visit a pig slaughterhouse, one of Chicago's last, you can do so here.
My mother never cooked a pork chop. Never once did a holiday ham grace the table of our modest suburban home. For a simple reason: we're Jewish, and such things are forbidden.
But bacon was another matter. We had bacon all the time. With eggs of course, but also piled high on BLTs, the wheat toast smeared with mayonnaise. She served hot dogs wrapped in bacon.
Faith is fine, but bacon is "the most beautiful thing on earth," as comedian Jim Gaffigan put it during a routine on the beloved cured meat. "Bacon's the best!"
Isn't it though? The public agrees. Bacon sales have surged over the past decade. Bacon prices are up 20 percent this year, with supplies at their lowest in 60 years, stripped by voracious consumer demand for everything from bacon donuts to bacon-infused vodka.
Amazingly, not long ago bacon was in decline. I was examining historical data and found myself reading the bacon entry in The Encyclopedia of Meat Sciences. It noted that in the late 1970s bacon was wilting; a study found that female heads of households were consuming far less bacon, due to cost, the bother of preparation and the trend toward quick, simple breakfasts.
"As late as 1989," the encyclopedia noted, it was believed "bacon consumption is evidently in a long-term eroding trend."
What happened? One problem with bacon was that you had to cook it, a messy process. It spattered and popped in the pan. You had to scrub your stovetop or microwave every time you cooked bacon.
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