When did bacon become the coin of the realm in culinary circles? I’m sure someone out there, some blogger or Wikipedia editor, could put their finger on the precise moment this beloved but maligned smoked pork product went from simple morning meat to the most common ingredient known to man... which can also kill you if you eat too much of it. (Sad but true, according to a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Though, subconsciously, it’s not exactly news since pretty much any rational person who’s ever eaten bacon probably suspected this. Nothing that tastes that good could conceivably be good for you in the long run.) For me, a few crispy strips alongside a pair of over-easy eggs, some hash browns, and a cup of coffee is still the best way to enjoy bacon. I’m speaking of breakfast, of course, and since I’m speaking of it, I’ll add that it’s also the best way to enjoy pancakes, corn cakes, waffles, croissants, scrambled eggs, French toast, omelettes, doughnuts, butter, salt, syrup, sugar, coffee, tea, crepes, burritos, dim sum, huevos rancheros, coffee cake, sausage, ham, and goetta. All of which will also kill you if eat enough, especially in great galloping American-sized mouthfuls, the way us Americans do. I guess what I’m saying is, we’re all going to die, so we might as well enjoy our breakfasts before we do.
Still, what is the deal with bacon? I suspect its popularity lies in the fact that it may be the most ingenious taste delivery system ever invented. Of the five known tastes that our brain and buds register—salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami—bacon can, in its most lovingly cured forms, hit at least three out of five. Especially umami. On the Umami Scale™ (which picks up on savory sensations, and which I just invented), bacon is off the charts. Also, it has an amazingly pliant texture, simultaneously crisp, crunchy, and floppy, that few other foods can match. And then there’s the fat content. Any food that can literally melt in your mouth is golden as far as I’m concerned.
Which is why I would also make the case for goetta. Over the years we’ve published thousands of words extolling the virtues of our homegrown sausage. We adore the stuff—an inspired mixture of beef, pork, pinhead oats, spices, fat, and salt. It has a flavor profile that is remarkably similar to bacon with a texture that, once fried, is unlike almost any other death-meat: crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside. I love bacon, but if I have to choose a breakfast treat that will ultimately hasten my demise, I’m gonna go with goetta every time.
So turn to page 70, immerse yourself in our in-depth investigation of breakfast in Cincinnati, and start your own personal countdown: 5...4...3...2...1...Serenity Now!
Originally published in the September 2012 issue.
Glasses photograph by Ryan Kurtz