I suppose you might think it’s just practical but it amazes me that I’ve never seen unsliced bacon – no bacon steaks, no bacon roasts, no bacon fingers or croquets. How is it in a world which calls two almost completely unrelated foods “clam chowder,” do we have uniformity on the issue of preparing pork belly? We live in a country in which people that voted for Pat Robertson are living next door to people who voted for Jerry Brown, and we consider “thick slice” a radical departure in the area of breakfast meat.
It’s not as if we lack the imagination. I was surprised when someone told me about scallops. What they serve you in a restaurant is rarely a true scallop. Someone just takes some common white fish and cuts it down to little button shapes. (I had always wondered how the little guys swam around) Why no such innovation with bacon? Oh, I hear you! “Bacon bits!” you say. But bacon bits are just slices crumbled up. If you don’t believe me, spend a night at a salad bar matching them up like a jigsaw puzzle (it’s more fun than it sounds and a great conversation starter).
Could it be that there is something THEY’re not telling us? (I’ve always loved the THEY concept. Isn’t it exciting that there maybe a people sufficiently motivated to pull themselves away from Baywatch re-runs in order to create dubious conspiracies of minutia and mind control?) Maybe things just aren’t the way we think they are at the slaughterhouse.
They say that pigs are highly intelligent. I’ll admit that I’ve not been exposed to pigs a great deal. There wasn’t much of an opportunity to see pigs in the neighborhood I was raised (unless you believe what Mrs. Harris said about her ex-husband) but from what little I’ve observed, I’ve seen no sign of brilliance among these illuminati of the barnyard. I’ll buy that dolphins are smart, living in the sea, swallowing shrimp at will, befriending mermaids and bopping sharks on the nose. I can believe that chimpanzees are savvy, making neat tree houses, eating high fiber fruits and leaves, staying out of reach of lions and making fun of Tarzan but what do we see of the pig? Does sleeping in mud and eating excessive amounts of garbage in order to raise cholesterol and fat content sufficient to invite slaughter sound like an enlightened lifestyle choice?
This is where THEY come in!
THEY don’t want you to know but I’ve figured it all out. Historians, politicians, zoologists, practitioners of animal husbandry (yes, I laugh when I hear that too) and several grocers have successfully (for the most part) hidden the fact that at one time, the pig competed with humankind for mastery of the planet.
At that time, pigs were a slim, clean, warrior species. They wrote poetry and dressed in tasteful linen robes and open toed sandals. Their prowess with the multi-blade sword was admired, feared and copied. For centuries the issue was in doubt. The pig armies would march out for honorable combat as we humans sneaked around behind them, toilet papered their rock gardens and painted rude mustaches on their sculpture. We might be speaking grunt today if it weren’t for the swine traitor Poq Ye Pyhigue who revealed to us the secret word of pig submission, Sooooouuwweeeeee! What, you think a simple word could never have such power? C’mon, what did you think the movie Babe was REALLY about?
A once mighty people, now live in squalor, consume refuse and follow calmly on that last long mile to their extermination. Their only hope, that high cholesterol may take a few of us with them. Reaching the abattoir they are allowed to hold for the only time in their lives the weapon of their people, the multi-blade sword. In a tradition since copied by the samurai class in Japan, the noble pig commits hari-kari leaving his belly in several long even strips.
Perhaps it’s better that people not know the truth. Our breakfast plates are salty enough, without tears of remorse, regret and recrimination. We dare not attempt liberation. The backlash would once again threaten our very existence. There’s an entire wing of the pentagon dedicated to contingencies in case pigs someday develop immunity to the farmer’s call.
Like a red and white flag of defiance, the bacon strip waves and curls at the bottom of my skillet. No steak, roast or kabob could express so well, no scallop could define in such certain terms, the dignity and tragedy that is the porcine karma.
Hey, what would you call a bacon scallop? Would you want to eat a pig belly button?
This was a column I wrote in August of 2001. Since that time, I’ve seen more variety in bacon products. Why might that be?