In Defense of Bacon (and Self-Determination)

This post has been in the works for awhile, and seems to have come up for publishing at the appropriate time. Mr. Wolf has given us a delightful home-cured bacon post.

I know bacon is a boring subject, so this will probably fall like a drop into the ocean. I can’t imagine the subject of bacon driving any traffic to my site. (Aside: Sex! Live Nudes! Bacon!)

Not that the traffic matters – I kept this blog going for a very long time when my only readers were my mom, the tallest Kardashian, and my gramma. (Hi ma! Hi Khloe! Hi Grams!)

Anyway, I use this blogging medium to keep in touch with family and friends from whom the military has moved us devastatingly far. This blog isn’t monetized, I’m not selling shirts, I don’t have an Amazon Store and I’m not selling you my services. I simply like to benevolently self-importantly bestow my sage wisdom personal opinions upon you, free of charge, in hopes that my experience will resonate in some way. Making connections is part of how I make this lifestyle work. Here, take my words! Mix them with glitter and take them to a Rush Limbaugh campaign party! They’re oh-so-special!

(Incidentally – when I want attention, I put on my cutoffs from Limited 2 and a bikini top, grab a bucket and a big hose, and start a car wash in the parking lot of the local Bennigan’s. It’s a subtle strategy, but it seems to work well for me.)

So recently my dear Grams, who is quite possibly the smartest, most well-read woman on the planet, asked me a question:

“Why are you such a devotee of bacon when it is so highly processed?  Most of the western world thinks bacon is bad food.  This is a question that should be addressed.”

I agree this should be addressed. My personal bacon choices (Beef Bacon from US Wellness Meats and Pork Bacon from Cherry Grove Farm) are not so highly processed. You can actually make bacon yourself, as Robb Wolf has shown us in a post by Tim Huntley.

Most of the Western World doesn’t think too hard when it comes to food choices. If the WW is anything like me in my diet heyday, they wait for a book to come out or a guru to make a definitive statement on what’s “ok” and what’s “no way.” I don’t operate that way any more. The “gurus” offering their hand get a cold, limp-fish handshake and are sent a-packin’. I don’t need anybody to stand as intermediary between me and my instincts.

I absolutely am a bacon devotee. I appreciate bacon. I adore bacon because it’s delicious. But I don’t eat it every day or in massive quantities. I may have for a bit, as I leaned into this way of life, but I never beat myself up over it. I was learning new foods and learning to cook, trying to be patient with myself, and I knew how to make bacon. I realized eventually – and I think most folks possess the “innate intelligence” to understand  – that it is possible to have “too much of a good thing.”

“Too much of a good thing?” Yes. Even vegetables fall under this umbrella. Eating nothing but, say, broccoli…or yams…or bacon (choose your adventure) simply displaces other sources of nourishment, and the newness inherent in varied choices is what keeps our minds engaged in any endeavor. Especially the endeavor of appreciating the many incarnations of delicious food. And in the end, this isn’t just about what goes down the cake-hole. It’s about trusting our instincts, choosing our own way, finding balance (in Bio 101 they called it homeostasis), being patient with oneself, being your own taskmaster, and not being neurotic!

The above isn’t an argument for “everything in moderation.” I’m not advocating you throw a few of Dr. Kurt Harris’ “Neolithic Agents of Disease” into the mix. (Also see this post from Chris Kresser.)** I’m saying well-sourced bacon is FINE. I believe that the polyunsaturates in bacon are no more likely to be oxidized on the stovetop than a hunk of salmon in the same cooking medium (actually, salmon has nearly three times the polyunsaturates of lard). Oh, and you can bake both bacon and salmon for less caustic cooking, if you’re truly concerned. Further, I don’t fret about oxidizing the cholesterol in my egg yolks when I make a scramble, but I do work in fried, poached, and soft-boiled eggs to keep that commitment to variety.

Yes, this “cooking” point is hotly debated (see Mark Sisson’s “Cooking with Animal Fats” write-up here). I generally state that even primarily monounsaturated fats like EVOO shouldn’t be heated, but that’s also because the flavor of EVOO is best savored cold, in my opinion; and also because cooking with more highly saturated fats  – and never highly polyunsaturated omega-6 bombs like soybean and corn oil – is just plain better in a heat-stability scenario. (Why would you wear an old Hanson shirt when you’ve got a brand new Bieber tee? One’s just clearly better than the other, although they both have a place in the rotation.)

But there’s also good debate going on in my winner’s circle (read: me and my AOL chat room) about how long you’d actually have to heat EVOO (which has approximately the same % of polyunsaturated fatty acids as lard, though lard boasts a far higher percentage of saturated fat – 44% to 15%) to begin oxidation. I believe bacon skillet time (over medium heat) is just fine. I also believe that eliminating those aforementioned “agents of disease” – O6 vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils – will keep your O3:O6 balance effectively in check in the long-term.

Bacon is not so “bad,” truly, IF you get it from a source you know and understand. I will hammer the point home every day for the rest of my life if it means someone will hear me say: Food quality and sourcing is paramount. It’s how we all vote with our dollar and how we’ll make the world better and safer for small farmers. It’s an unfortunate burden, but it’s one that will change the world. I know this view isn’t masses-friendly, but it’s where my buck stops.

So anyway, Grams…hope this helps! Thanks for always tolerating my snarky attitude, and for (most likely) being the one who gave it to me 🙂 Love you lots, and can’t wait to crawl around the lake in the Pontoon this summer. You’re the best.

Libbeth

**I cite these particular posts from Dr. Harris and Kresser because I like them. I’m not speaking to their agreement with the highly specific arguments I make here.

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21 Responses to “In Defense of Bacon (and Self-Determination)”

  1. “(Aside: Sex! Live Nudes! Bacon!)” – hilarious.

  2. Great post! Thanks for being so smart and well-reasoned about this topic.

    We recently finished off the last of a couple big batches of homemade bacon from a half sow we bought from a farmer last November. It was delicious, but we really didn’t want more than an 8 oz. pack about once a week.

    I have my first pack of US Wellness beef bacon in the freezer right now, and can’t wait to try it!

  3. I am not sure that I would call even commercially available Bacon “highly processed” unless it was Turkey Bacon. (Do not get me started on Turkey Bacon.)

  4. Speaking on animal fats being good – when I was 8-14 years old my mom had a side business making homemade soap and selling them at “pioneer fairs” in Minnesota (where I’m from).
    We would make large batches of soap using lard as the base and sometimes even make it in front of the crowds.
    People don’t even know what actually goes into soap so we would get comments like “That pudding looks gross!” and people trying to dip their fingers into the curing soap. (Not smart – lye burns are not good – witness Edward Norton in Fight Club)
    I love bacon too – I don’t often cook it at home but I do love going to a burger joint here in Seatlte called Lunchbox Laboratory – they put 6 (!!!) slices of bacon on a burger. So once I’m done with that meal I’m good for bacon for another 2 months at least. Probably not super awesome but bacon is MEAT CANDY and I work damn hard to eat that bacon so foo! to the natysayers.

  5. Well said! Quality and sourcing needs to be stressed.

  6. I like this point a lot and was tempted to make it in my post as well, but I had already said way, way too much… perhaps I’ll give you a nod for it in a follow-up I will probably end up writing…

    “I believe that the polyunsaturates in bacon are no more likely to be oxidized on the stovetop than a hunk of salmon in the same cooking medium (actually, salmon has nearly three times the polyunsaturates of lard).”

    AMEN.

    I’m sure you (and most of your readers) already saw my post, but here’s a link if you/they didn’t. Nice job on this one lady. Using that squishy thing inside of your skull to make the best decisions you can based on information… imagine that?

    http://balancedbites.com/2011/05/bacon-health-food-or-devil-in-delicious-disguise.html

    Diane 🙂

  7. Thanks for plugging my post on Robb’s site about making bacon – hopefully some folks will try the process for themselves (and see how easy it is).

    …Tim

  8. Not a fan of bacon. I actually hate the taste so much, it was what made me go vegetarian when I was 15 (don’t worry, I’ve since come to my senses).

    However! I really do wish you WOULD sell-t-shirts ’cause I know I would now look so damn hot in a tank top with the CaveGirl on it. You don’t have to think of it as monetizing your blog, you can think of it as community service!

  9. Since we’re shamelessly plugging in bacon apparel, : http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts-apparel/unisex/generic/e6c7/
    Be sure to look around. I totally want that Bacon Scarf.

  10. I can attest to the deliciousness that is Cherry Hill Farms bacon. Scrumptious! My children adore bacon…and would probably eat the bacon flavored lip balm that I bought as a joke if I ever let them get a sniff of it.

  11. Cherry Grove Farm is amazing. My boyfriend has been buying meat and eggs from them for the past year. There is nothing better than showing up to the farm on Saturday morning and getting eggs that have just been collected 4 minutes earlier. Everything we buy from them is fantastic, especially the bacon!

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