<b>DINING OUT | </b>By Mina Williams Herald writer
Americans are beguiled by bacon. More than 32 billion of the strips of cured pork were consumed last year alone. And that has held steady for the past four years, according to the National Pork Board.
Somehow we have gone hog wild over the seductive food, whether it comes from a supermarket or an artisanal producer. When the classic caramel and wood smoke flavors are augmented with hickory, maple, pepper, honey, applewood or honey, bacon eaters say they are eating high on the hog.
Bacon lore says that in the 12th century, favored peasants were rewarded with pork bellies.
Today those who adore bacon are tantalized by the phrase bringing home the bacon, actually hoping the meat will soon be at hand.
It takes one 200-pound porker to produce the satisfying sizzle of 20 pounds of bacon.
The supernatural allure of the belly meat has created a Baconation, where the only discourse occurs chewing that fat over which form has more favor: crispy or chewy.
Bacon doesn’t just brighten the breakfast table. Devotees seek the sensory overload of succulent, salty and crunchy beyond the morning meal.
Yes, it is brilliant for breakfast but it is equally lovely at lunch and divine for dinner. Although 70 percent of all bacon is still enjoyed with the morning meal, lardo-laden cupcakes and bacon bits in brownies are finding a regular menu spot on restaurant dessert trays, pushing the savory tradition into a sweet role.
But does bacon make everything better?
Some say the bacon craze has gone too far with strips emblazoned on bandage strips, bras and shoes. Then there are the dishes purists proclaim have taken bacon too far: bacon ice cream, bacon lattes and bacon martinis to name a few.
Bacon salt, oddly enough, does not contain bacon, giving those nonpork eaters a glimpse into the magical world of bacon.
You can call it bacon in the United States, Canada or Ireland, ventreche in France, Speck in Germany or lop yuk in China. Where do you find the best cured pork belly? How is it used that makes the meal memorable?
I will eat any brand, so long as it’s chewy and served for breakfast, on sandwiches and wrapped around steak.
Besides a side of bacon with Swedish pancakes for a weekend breakfast, the best bacon is at Burgermaster. The Baconmaster burger has three slices on it.
It’s turkey bacon, but good bacon on Starbucks breakfast sandwich, the one with the Gouda cheese on it.
Hempler pepper bacon is the best. A lot of supermarkets have it. I get mine at Central Market at the butcher, but I’ve seen it at other stores packaged. It’s thick-cut and cooks up crispy.