Bacon: A Lament

I am a big fan of breakfast food. However, I am not a big fan of waking up any earlier than the last possible minute that will allow me to roll out of bed, bathe, dress, primp, and still make it to work on time, so I only get my eggs and pancakes on the weekends. I love a nice oozy Eggs Benedict or a pile of French toast, but the crowning glory of any breakfast plate is, of course, bacon.

As a mostly Muslim country Guinea was not big on bacon, so when I lived in Conakry I paid $10 a pound for premium applewood-smoked bacon smuggled in frozen from Wisconsin, and it was worth every penny. In Ireland availability is not a problem. But as nice as it is to now live in a place that loves and cherishes bacon as it deserves, something is lost in translation. Even though I should know better by now, when I see “bacon” on a menu I can’t help but think of crispy strips of succulence, only to be disappointed when the inevitable floppy rasher appears on the plate.

Irish bacon and American bacon are not the same. I almost wrote that they are completely different animals, but they are both pig of course. They are both salt-cured, frequently smoked, and usually fried. But American bacon is sliced from pork belly, while Irish bacon comes off the pig’s back. It’s leaner, meatier, more like ham. It does not crisp up into delectable ruffles when fried. It just lays there, limply steaming. You eat it with a fork and it chews instead of crunching, like well-cooked bacon ought to do. Yes, it’s still salty porky tastiness, but it’s not what I wanted!

Apparently you can get American-style bacon here, known as “streaky bacon.” I’ll definitely look for it, but as an integral part of Irish cuisine I feel like I should also learn to appreciate the rasher on its own terms. We’ll see how that goes.