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Reality Is Relative

by Brian Griffin March 08, 2018

Reality Is Relative

You may have noticed how the popularity of bacon seems to repeatedly come and go with us humans. It's a wonderfully flavorful thing that is apparently very unhealthy for us, and the arguments for pro and con, ebb and flow, over and over through the years. Mile's law can help us understand this, because as with everything else, where you stand depends on where you sit, and in this case how you serve what you serve at the table where you sit to eat your meals. There is much more to bacon that the flavorful treat it is, or the lipids it causes in our veins that slows our blood flow.

My theory on the bacon phenomenon goes back in history quite a ways. These days myriad of marketers that push it only show the cooked bacon, which starts the Pavlovian reaction at first sight. The Kaleidoscope of media images only show the bacon itself as well, served in any number of configurations. I think we only respond so well and so willingly to these images due to the role it once played in human life. 

There is more to the bacon story than meets the eye on television. Yet because we are deemed to have become so wise and enlightened over the years the rest of the bacon story isn't thought to be necessary for us. We are presumed to no longer need the knowledge and wisdom within the story, the powers that be just don't want us to stop buying the bacon that keeps their bank accounts flowing.

The story of bacon, and savory meats like it, goes back thousands of years into the history of human development. However we don't have to travel too far back in time to see the importance of it. We only need to go back as far as the settling of the North American continent, In the early days of the exploration of this country, and the westward movement that followed, bacon was not just a breakfast entrée. Slab bacon, or whole smoked pork belly, was a highly prized resource that provided much more than tasty slices of meat, and keeping it whole rather than preslicing it allowed it to keep longer, retain its full flavor longer, and travel better. You can see in the photo below how the color inside remains when it hasn't been exposed to air for long.

The meat smoked or salted to preserve it. Then it would be stored wrapped in cloth and kept cool, and then it would be sliced off and cooked as it was needed, Back in those days, it was most often used sparingly, with none being wasted. Unlike today, in years gone by the meat would sometimes be just the bi-product of the cooking operation, rather than the actual goal itself.

There were times when the drippings (or rendered fat) which you can see being collected in the image below, were not considered as a waste product as is often the case today. It was in fact as much of a desired result of frying the meat as would be the bacon itself. The drippings, if not used immediately at the meal time in which it was cooked, would be collected and saved for later use.

In the image below you can see how the filtered rendered fat, once it has cooled, will return to a state that very much resembles the fat content of the meat itself. However now it has been separated from the meat which can spoil and become putrid very quickly. The rendered fat can and will become rancid over time, if kept too long and / or not kept cool, and especially if it was not filtered well. But if filtered well, and protected from insects, it will keep for days even at room temperature. You can also see how the meat changes texture and color once it has been sliced and left exposed to air.

This photo illustrates a just few of the ways that frying up a few strips of bacon can produce not only a bit of meat to eat, but can also produce another valuable resource. The oil that is rendered from frying the meat can also serve to coat the skillet for making fried corn bread, at times when an oven is not available, without the bread sticking to the metal. So you see in most cases the cooked meat would be used to flavor a big pot of soup made from dried beans or peas, and perhaps a big pot of greens as well, and thus effect the production and flavor of an entire meal. With a container and wick, since it is also highly flammable, any leftover drippings could be used as a source of light and or heat. So there was a time when bacon was not just the decadent luxury it is today. It was a very valuable resource for our ancestors. Especially in the winter months when the days were much shorter and only a few greens found here and there would be the only green growth available. It gave them the calories needed to face a grueling day of work, and the fatyy acids needed to produce the insulation they needed to survive in a harsh cold winter.

So, you see, it pays to not be too hasty. and neither embrace nor dismiss a thing, based only on the one part of the story that is being presented to you. There is always more to any story than meets the eye. There are people who still live this lifestyle, consume the fats in a relatively healthy way, all things considered, There are some folks who end up being talked into having bacon every other meal, while seldom being active. In both instances, as in most instances, the health questions and answers will have much more to do with the activities of the individuals, how the foods were prepared and consumed, and in what quantities, than which foods are consumed. The old saying goes that knowledge is power, and that will always hold true. The more knowledge you possess, the less power others will have over you.




Brian Griffin
Brian Griffin

Author

Brian Griffin is a photographer, knife enthusiast, wilderness skills instructor, professional writer, author, outdoor gear research & development consultant, and knife designer. He has a long history of using and developing outdoor related tools and gear.



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