How can the same meat yield so generously and yet conceal so much? Sometimes it seems bacon, like “Lost,” begs as many questions as it satisfies. Maybe in the future instead of “You’re begging the question!” we’ll say, “You’re bacon the question!” Okay, that might be taking it a bit far, but you can’t deny that some of bacon’s most profound truths are shrouded in fatty, salty pockets of mystery. Such as: How best to prepare bacon? My friend John, who cooks from the molecular gastronomy cookbook and has his own pizza stone, once whispered to me, ushering me into the inner sanctum: “Low and slow.” There’s no speedy way to fry bacon to the desired texture; good things come to those who wait. Michelangelo knew you can’t rush perfection: that’s why the Sistine Chapel still isn’t finished (sure, the ceiling is done, but what about those new faucets the Pope has been waiting for?).
And: What is the significance of the cannibal-like way bacon achieves its maximum potential when it is fried in its own fat, or the fat of its comrades? I keep a container full of archived bacon drippings in my fridge, adducing layer upon laying like an ever-evolving palimpsest that attains masterpiece status over a lifetime of additions. What does it mean?
Sometimes even obtaining the bacon is its own cabalistic ritual. Now since I am opposed to eating bacon raw, I am always pro-curing it, but procuring it can be a thrill almost as visceral as feasting upon it. At a certain farmer’s market in a certain seaside town near a certain major metropolis where a certain film industry has its headquarters (hint: not Bollywood), there is a certain vendor who guards his bacon like a Templar knight. He’ll indiscriminately sell you his produce, and he has coolers of meat every week (Wednesdays and Saturday) but his bacon is only for the inner circle. I only found out about it myself because I was such a regular consumer of his chipotle cheddar pork sausages. I bought two of them one week and he said, “You like those huh? Let me show you this,” and he shared with me the bacon burgers: frozen patties of pure ground beef speckled with bits of bacon that, upon frying, crisped up and helped bring the burger to its meaty apotheosis. The next week I bought 3 packs of the sausage as well as bacon burgers and the vendor, his long hair and five o’clock shadow the color of the sand that, judging from his sleeveless shirt, he spent many hours upon waxing his surfboard, said, “I got something else for you” and went to the truck. The truck? What did he have there? Private select bacon, that’s what. Premium bacon. Invitation-only bacon. Secret bacon.
He told me that he only sells the bacon to the people who buy a lot of meat from him. I took it home and fried it up, low and slow, stewing in the juices of the many bacons that came before. I won’t say it was the best bacon I ever had in my life, but it was delicious, thick cut and hearty with just the right size ribbons of fat. The next week, we hadn’t eaten many of the sausages or burgers, so I didn’t need any of them from him. I approached, lowered my voice, and asked, “Got any bacon today?”
“Sorry man,” he said, eyes dead to me. “Didn’t bring any today.” Was he telling me the truth? Or just letting me down gently? I slunk away, only then realizing that I’d asked him within earshot of several other melon-squeezers, who weren’t ready to be let in to the cabal. As quickly as it had opened, the door had closed again. The secret of the farmer’s market bacon will remain as obscure to me as the meaning of “Lost”’s last episode.
So who is this vendor? And where is this market? I could tell you. But then I’d have to share my bacon. And that would mean I’d have to kill you.