THE ONE THING BACON DOESN’T MAKE BETTER
by Todd Hartley
I was at a party last night, and one of the appetizers being served was a little skewer of fried pork belly. Naturally, I went back for seconds … and thirds, fourths and fifths, which is not quite as gross as it sounds, as the portions were quite small. (Of course, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have gone back for fifths if the portions were bigger.)
Despite gorging myself, I have to say I’m still ambivalent about pork belly as a food trend. It’s not that I dislike the taste or have any moral objection to eating fat; it’s just that pork belly doesn’t deserve to be its own trend. It’s bacon, for crying out loud. It’s what we put on everything to make everything taste better. Has bacon ever not been a food trend?
If you don’t believe me that bacon goes with everything, bear in mind that I’ve eaten candied bacon. The bacon made candy taste better. There’s bacon ice cream, bacon salt and bacon brownies. We wrap shrimp and tenderloins in it. There’s nothing left for bacon to conquer. Bacon wins.
I went to the new Sweet ColoraDough bakery in Glenwood Springs the other day, and I have to say it usually takes me a while to make a decision when I walk into a doughnut shop. When I walked into that place and saw that they had maple Long Johns with a strip of bacon on top, I didn’t bother to look at anything else.
Now, for you high-falutin’ folks who don’t know what a long john is, picture what you call an eclair. Now picture an eclair the way America would make it, by which I mean so swollen and fat that it would constitute a month’s worth of calories in most developing nations. That’s a standard Long John.
Now picture a Long John with maple frosting instead of chocolate. Now put bacon on it. Now you see why I didn’t bother to look at anything else.
When I ordered the maple-bacon Long John, the server asked me what I wanted it filled with before rattling off a bunch of choices. I heard the words chocolate and blueberry, but I failed to get all the details because I was a little shocked by the server’s question. No one has ever asked me what sort of filling I wanted before, and I was momentarily lost in the rapidly expanding flavor horizons I could see opening before me.
Did you guys know you can do that now — that you can choose your own doughnut filling? I had no idea. That’s freaking awesome. That is a food trend that I can totally get behind.
For the record, I chose Bavarian cream, in honor of my recently departed Munich-born mother-in-law, author of the magnificent comment, “The Bavarian body needs more fat.”
But speaking of food trends, when my wife and I mentioned to the owner of the bakery that we were writers, he gave us a chocolate-frosted cronut to split. That was pretty exciting for me, as I’ve been aware of cronuts for some time but never actually eaten one.
Now, for you non-high-falutin’ folks who don’t know what a cronut is, picture a doughnut made with croissant dough. Now picture hundreds of hipster douchebags waiting in line on a New York sidewalk to get one.
Really? That’s what you idiots waited for hours to eat? I mean, it was good — it was fried and coated in chocolate; it’d be impossible to make it not taste good — but anyone who’s ever waited more than 10 minutes to get one probably has ironic facial hair, a closet full of fedoras and a pathetic desire to prove himself hipper than you. It really wasn’t that big of a deal.
Sadly, and somewhat incomprehensibly, the bacon on my maple Long John didn’t really add anything to it. It would have tasted just as good without the bacon, which is a statement I never dreamed I might write. I wouldn’t have thought such a thing was possible.
So I learned that a strip of bacon doesn’t enhance a maple Long John, and I’m a little disappointed because I love the idea of combining pig flesh and fried batter. I think I have a solution, though. I’m going to invent a kind of pork-belly puree that can be squeezed through a pastry tube. That way, when the server asks what filling I want, I can tell him to stuff my Long John with bacon.
Todd “Hard Artery” Hartley has written four best-selling vegan cookbooks.