AS YOU MAY or may not have heard, the British National Pig Association predicts a severe global bacon shortage in the next several months.
Its causes have been studied extensively by agricultural scientists, ecologists, farmers, and policymakers and point to some very troubling trends in global agriculture and the supply chains that produce our food. But a discussion of such trends is beyond the scope of this article. This article merely wishes to point out some of the wonderful foods from around the world that you may soon no longer be able to enjoy due to the bacon crisis. Here’s what you’ll be missing:
I need to befriend a Dane just to learn how to pronounce Æbleflæsk. I also need to befriend a Dane so that said Dane can make me Æbleflæsk. I have never had Æbleflæsk, but it sounds like the ultimate in comfort food — essentially, it’s boiled apples, seared onions, sugar, and bacon, mixed together and served on rye bread. It sounds like something that would have been invented in the days when winters were harsh and central heating was less of an option. Bacon seems like a pretty good substitute for central heating.
Czechs are big soup consumers. Traditionally, some sort of soup precedes the main course of the midday meal, which is the day’s largest. This makes sense for practical reasons — soup is on the whole cheap, warm, and filling…all positive qualities. As a kid, one of my favourites was bacon-pea soup. Pea soup is healthy and full of boring things like vitamins and fiber, but the addition of squares of bacon (cca 1cmx1cm) is a game changer.
Suddenly, it’s a bit like Lucky Charms in that in the process of eating your meal you’re occasionally rewarded by a surprise delicious sensory experience while still getting your nutrients (actually, here the comparison may fail — I have no idea if Lucky Charms contain any form of nutrient). Due to the impending bacon shortage, bacon-pea soup is about to become just plain old pea soup, which frankly is not nearly as fun.
The chivito is the national sandwich of Uruguay. Despite the fact that its name means “baby goat,” it’s a beefsteak and bacon sandwich. The story goes that one night a customer came into a restaurant asking for a goat meat sandwich. They were out of goat, so the chef made a sandwich with everything available — beef filet, bacon, lettuce and tomato, melted mozzarella cheese, and a fried egg. The sandwich was understandably an instant hit and remains popular today.
To be fair, it sounds like it would be delicious even without the bacon, but there you have it — the bacon shortage will have adverse effects on the culturo-gastronomic landscape of Uruguay.
Technically, prosciutto is not bacon. Prosciutto is thinly sliced dry-cured ham served raw, while bacon is cooked. However, prosciutto is still a pork product, so pork shortages mean prosciutto shortages as well. This is a shame — prosciutto possesses a taste and texture wholly different from any other meat I’ve ever had, and a single slice is a dessert all by itself.
The Italians came up with it (on the whole, Italians sound like they’ve got sensory experiences of all sorts mastered) and have made its production an art unto itself — the recipes for individual varieties of prosciutto are often fiercely guarded secrets, and it can be correspondingly extraordinarily expensive. Upshot: Less pork means less fancy ham, which means the world’s gourmands die a little on the inside.
On the other end of the culinary spectrum is the meal you make at some hour of the late morning to assuage the effects of the night before — in North America, this is often some haphazardly thrown together mix of eggs, toast, and bacon.
The Daily Telegraph recently published an article about a scientific study claiming a bacon sandwich does in fact help to cure a hangover, much to the delight of college students everywhere. Without bacon, you may have to resort to one of the other traditional hangover cures — strong coffee, a brisk run, or, of course, hair of the dog.