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Stirring the Pot: Put Down the Bacon and Pork Belly!

Drop the bacon and back away slowly.EXPAND
Drop the bacon and back away slowly.
Danielle Lirette
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Do we really need to put bacon in every fucking thing? I’m all for smoky, salty, fatty meats, but if this is the bar for us as chefs, then it’s been set far too low. Salty fat is always going to taste good, but it’s like a professional baseball player using a tee when up to bat: Yes, you can wallop the crap out of the ball, but while I won’t call it cheating, I will say you're coming up short in effort.

This isn’t a question of bacon being good or bad, but an indictment of the unnecessarily gluttonous approach that bacon represents when plastered all over a menu. As far as I can tell, the egregious overuse of bacon started with the ridiculous Atkins diet. You know, when people were told they could gorge themselves on salt-cured and smoked fatty pork and not only be healthy, but lose weight. I’ll own that I’ve made some drastic dietary moves in order to live a healthier life, and that's the filter through which I pass food choices, but that's not the only reason for my current state of bacon bigotry. I understand that every meal doesn’t have to be clean and healthy, but it also doesn’t have to take years off your life and come with a prescription for Lipitor.

Bacon-wrapped doughnuts stuffed with foie and served with bacon fat aioli is an actual thing, and that thing will actually kill you.

Would you like a pint of bacon with your bacon?EXPAND
Would you like a pint of bacon with your bacon?
Mark Antonation

Manipulating flavors is what we as chefs do on a daily basis, and I look forward to a time when we stop using this caloric crutch and start walking on our own again. Bacon isn’t just for breakfast and BLTs, but it doesn’t have to go into every flippin’ thing we make. I believe in equilibrium both in a dish and across the spectrum of a menu’s offerings. Each dish occupies a slot, and those slots should fulfill the dining desires of a broad spectrum of guests. We have to move away from the archaic attitude and belief system that gastronomy equals gluttony.

When it comes to delicious, wholesome produce, I’ll throw down the gauntlet and dare us all to create dishes that don’t involve animal fat. Collard greens don’t have to have salt pork, bacon or ham shanks. Brussels sprouts can be made without bacon. A ripe summer tomato with a little olive oil and sea salt is divine.

Balance is beauty in cooking, and shows an overall approach that’s based on perfect bites. It’s the acid element on seafood and crunchy bits on creamy components. It’s the sweet and spicy with a splash of lime. I live for those food moments, because they put a smile on my face and a sense of purpose into every bite. More than anything, they show intelligence in craft and intention of design.

Time to put down the pork belly and give it a rest, and let bacon have a healthy hiatus while we all recoup and lean into the great balance of food life.

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