The fascinating, untold truth about bacon

There's something about bacon that discourages complex thoughts. Maybe it's the intoxicating, vegetarianism-denying aroma, or the sweet, salty, crispy deliciousness that serenades your tastebuds when you take a bite, or the slightly sinful, guilt-inducing, neanderthal-brain-satisfying greasiness of it that makes seriously thinking about anything else utterly futile. But the fact is, bacon is no culinary wallflower — if it's there, you know it because demands your attention. And every time we take a bite, it brings along enough stories, baggage, and hate-mail to bore ten thousand grandpigs — but we don't listen because we're too busy eating it. So, since you weren't paying attention, here is the untold truth about bacon.

The earliest bacon wasn't made out of pigs

"Bacon" has been consumed by many people, from many nations, over many millennia. But what they called bacon, and what we now think of as bacon, wasn't always the same thing. For most of the time that the word "bacon" has been used—or bakkun, baken, or bacun, depending on which part of Europe you hailed from—it could be applied to almost any salted cut of pork. However it wasn't until the 17th century, when the English applied their term to the parts of the pig we now consider the true source of bacon, that the modern usage became the norm.

What "bringing home the bacon" actually means

Anyone who brings a bit of bacon into the home has got to be pretty decent human being, especially if they share it with you. But the origins of the phrase "bringing home the bacon" are rooted more strongly in the world of morality than you might have supposed. Back in the 12th century, a small church in the village of Dunmow, England sought ways to improve marital harmony — what they came up with was a tribute to pragmatic decision making. Any man who could swear before God and the church's congregation that he had not argued with his wife for at least a year and a day, was rewarded with a side of bacon. So, assuming that every man who received the grand prize was telling the truth, he not only got a minimum 366 days of marital bliss, but a slab of pork awesomeness to take home at the end of it. This can mean only one thing: bacon truly is a gift from God.

We once made bacon from our own pet pigs

Before the process of bacon production was industrialized, it was up to individual families, in their own homes, to meet their own needs. If you're going to make your own bacon, you're going to need pigs, so it was common for families to keep their own small herds of oinkers, which they bred and butchered as needed. That's all very well if you're willing to part with beloved pets, and if you live on a couple of acres in the countryside. But if you live in the middle of a city, and the only free space you have is in the basement, then things could get a bit problematic. However, if you were brave enough to keep a powerful methane generator in your (probably badly ventilated) basement, then you at least had the benefit of a decent supply of God's Gift to make shoveling pig manure worth the effort.

There so many varieties of bacon

Although the love of bacon transcends almost all man-made barriers, depending on where you come from, the bacon itself can vary quite a bit. The classic crispy American-style bacon is cut from the side of the pig's belly, and much like the design of the "Red, White, and Blue", it features red and white lines of fat, alternating with meat. The Canadian variety, also popular in Ireland and the UK, is cut from the loin, and with less visible fat, is a leaner and healthier cut of meat. It is also usually cut thicker, and not cooked to the point of being crispy. Italians prefer a cut similar to Americans, though they call it pancetta, and make it look quite a lot classier.

It's healthier than you thought

As a general rule, anything that tastes awesome probably isn't very good for you, and bacon is sadly no exception. It's full of salt, fat, and nitrites which have been blamed for causing heart disease, among many other unpleasant ailments. Obviously, the threat of deadly consequences has never been enough to stop a true bacon aficionado, so good news for them: bacon can actually be good for you, albeit in moderation. Since it's largely meat, bacon contains lots of protein, which helps you feel full and keeps hunger at bay. If you choose Canadian bacon, or some other lean variety with as few nitrites as possible, a small-yet-sensible amount can offer very real advantages.

What's more, bacon is so delicious that it very often has a tangible calming effect on people eating it. Plus, if you're an athlete, the high-protein, low-carb combo of bacon could be just what you need to help you train effectively. Baseball pitchers should wash their hands after eating it, however, just to keep things fair.

We're taking it way too far

Bacon tastes great nearly every way you can eat it: bacon cheeseburgers, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, the traditional bacon and eggs, and just a big ol' bucket of bacon. However, people's obsession with stripey meat Heaven has inspired a whole new industry that seeks to add bacon to everything it possibly can, whether that thing is edible or not. Hence we have almost everything bacon, from the mostly innocuous bacon salt, through bacon soap and lip balm, to the truly bizarre bacon-flavored sex lube, condoms, and even coffins. It is now possible to incorporate bacon and bacon flavor into almost every aspect of your existence, and while most of these products are gags (albeit working gags), the fact that they exist at all demonstrates how deep into our souls the bacon flavor has soaked. Bacon might be a gift from God, but that doesn't mean He likes the taste of it.