Bacon

I can never understand what it is about bacon.

It is the one thing that vegetarians are always asked – ‘Don’t you miss bacon?’

And as for Americans, they seem to be obsessed with the stuff. People on forums declare ‘Bacon Days,’ one (veg) blogger has a strapline of ‘Bacon is not an herb.’ (Cringing at ‘an herb’ – I really hate treating H as a vowel – like an hotel, but that’s for a different post).

At one point I knew a fair amount about bacon. Or rather, I knew a lot about Danish rolled bacon. And ham.

My parents sold the stuff. They sold a lot of it. They must have done, to only work three days a week, still make a decent living, pay for my private education, buy expensive cars, clothes, eat well, drink and smoke.

So onto bacon. Mostly it is sold flat, ie unrolled, but where I lived bacon came rolled. A bit like everyone preferred haddock to cod, they also preferred rolled bacon.

Bascially, it means that instead of getting back (expensive), or streaky (cheaper), you get the two together. In a roll. Quite clever really.

We bought middles, sides, and threequarters. This refers to how much of the dead pig you are buying. The middles are shorter, and fairly easy to carry. The threequarters were massive as they included the hams at the end. The sides were even bigger.

Somewhere on the side was the shoulder. As we had a reputation for selling top quality bacon, it was incredibly difficult to sell this part of the dead pig. My father would sell off half pound papers of shoulder at one shilling and sixpence, later it was seven and a half pence, post decimalisation. Later it went up to 15 pence. But what people wanted was the rolled middle.

We started loading up from home before seven and arrived at the market around half seven. My dad and I unloaded the trailer/horsebox, around seven or eight middles to sell on a Saturday, a side or two, some threequarters, and three or four cheeses (50/55 lbs). Then we had to unload the bacon machines. Hugely heavy.

Once we were set up at the stall, my father would start cutting the bacon. He was incredibly fast, and piled up papers and papers (approx 3 or 4lbs in weight) to fill our display boxes. At the time, we had the best display on the market. He turned the machine with one hand and caught the bacon with the other and flicked it over onto the sheet of film. Yes, I know. Hygiene regs would say that was appalling but I doubt anyone died from it.

Most people bought half a pound. Others bought one or two pounds. Some people just pointed and said I’ll take all that. A few regulars, would ask for an amount and ask me or my mum to choose which one we liked best. It didn’t matter to them whether it was smoked or plain, just whichever one we thought would taste the best. It was usually, the smallest, and most tightly packed roll, incidentally.

Ordinarily we cut bacon on a number six setting. Some people liked it thinner on number five, so they would wait for my dad to cut a pound or so specially for them. Others liked it thicker on number seven.

I mentioned the shoulder, but there was also the corner, or ham corner. This was extremely popular. Not quite ham, but more like large pieces of back. There wasn’t much of it on a threequarter so it sold very quickly. Ironically you could sell expensive corner and struggle to sell bits of shoulder at one shilling and sixpence.

People would ask my dad to cut a slice of ham with the knife because they wanted a thick slice, and he refused, saying he could do it accurately with the machine – usually setting number 12 I think. He could pretty well gauge how to cut a pound slice, or the thickness someone wanted.

As tastes changed, and fickle customers wandered off to supermarkets, we had to change what we sold. No more smoked ham. No more sides or threequarters, just middles and individual hams.

Originally we had gone down to one of the three railway stations in town to collect from the Danish Bacon Company. Later, as rail went the way of all things, they delivered to us in trucks, once or twice a week. After that, we used a local supplier who ran an excellent business. I used to love going to sit in Uncle Bert’s office, while my dad went around the factory to inspect the bacon. Finally, we ended up using Makro. Not the same to me, but to be fair, not bad quality.

My dad rarely ate bacon. Not surprising really. He was probably sick of the sight of it. He preferred a boiled egg for breakfast. Whenever he made breakfast for my mother she got a boiled egg. When I made breakfast for her she got bacon and egg. Which she always said she preferred.

As for me, I grew up on two rashers of bacon for breakfast. Bacon and tomato, bacon and mushrooms, bacon and courgette, occasionally bacon and egg.

I took the stuff to university. Kept it in my wardrobe cupboard so I could knock up a few sandwiches. More lack of hygiene but I didn’t get food poisoning.

It was a staple food. It came free and it was always around, but it was hardly gourmet. Just. Bacon.

So I’m always perplexed about people wondering how I can exist without bacon. Easy.

We had a neighbour whose daughter was vegetarian. She was posh Yorkshire (there are a few of us), and he was mediocre Newcastle. She was posh Yorkshire vegetarian in fact. So he would sneak out and eat bacon sandwiches at a local cafe. Everyone knew. Eventually she found out too. They got divorced. How not to cheat on your wife. Over bacon???

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About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
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31 Responses to Bacon

  1. Hmm, I’m Yorkshire (York) born and bred, and ive been a vegetarian since 1993; although I did lapse for a couple of months while at UEA. I couldn’t stand the guilt and went back to veggie. 😳. If I miss anything it’s corned beef. Especially corned beef hash.
    Good post and very interesting. Thank you.

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    • Ha! I didn’t know we had so much in common πŸ˜€ Well Yks and veg is an interesting start. York city or outskirts? Do tell.

      Our veg started late 80s, plenty of posts on here when you are bored with trying to complete nano whatsit πŸ˜€

      We lapsed too. We haven’t done for a long time though. No longer an issue. Aaagh! I should write about corned beef hash. Like you, I loved it. What a great meal. It was on Thursdays in our house.

      I’ve written about fish being the main thing I thought about – missed isn’t quite the right word – until I inadvertently ate it. I’ll look up the link and add, but right now, gotta stuff some courgettes πŸ˜€

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  2. Vicky says:

    Funny, I liked the smell of bacon cooking on caravan holidays, it always used to be a holiday breakfast, but I hate the smell of it in my house (and the MH) though, but it is T’s staple breakfast, so I just lock him in the kitchen.
    Many years ago T used to drive for a company that made regular trips to a Dutch bacon company, he became good friends with the Dutch owners, and was forever been given boxes of their products.
    When I was a child, we also had a corned beef hash night too, can’t remember which night though.

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  3. cobbies69 says:

    Bacon butty person, dull I know. When I just biddy kid we used to live next to butcher and we used to help pluck chickens and turkey’s but never allowed to cut meats. too dangerous us little ‘uns.
    I left a message on your roughseas, just to say thank you.. nice read ..;)

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    • Thanks G. I’ll get over to roughseas in a while. It was a while before I was allowed to use the machines. We had one for cooked meat (boiled ham and tongue) and the one for bacon, although, sometimes, both were used for bacon. In the days before you could only use one machine for cooked and one for uncooked otherwise everyone would drop dead on the spot because of food poisoning … Environmental health would have spent their time better chasing up dodgy restaurants.

      I have a gripe about public and environmental health departments πŸ˜€ I don’t think the cling film life has helped anyone.

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  4. bluonthemove says:

    It has been suggested that for many vegetarians bacon is the one thing they most miss. Given your childhood relationship with bacon, I’m not surprised this is not the case for you.

    When my brother used to visit me, I’d usually give him toast for breakfast, all he wanted, whilst frying bacon for myself. He’d smell the bacon and get very irritated with me. I’ve not seen him now for over 10 years, mainly because the vegetarian thing was too much of a problem for me.

    Not an issue for him of of course; as in his universe everyone loves a vegetarian meal. Last time I had a vegetarian meal was, oh yes, 10 years ago.

    Blu

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    • I was so indoctrinated about bacon that I would rarely eat it anywhere apart from home, on the grounds it was never good enough. After leaving home I think I bought it a couple of times, and peered at it suspiciously. So I’d probably weaned myself off it before I became veg. Rump or fillet steak with parsley butter and a good green salad with French dressing was probably one of my early ‘misses’. Once we stopped eating fish, that became the item that I thought about, but ‘miss’ was too strong a word. And after I ate it in Corfu (qv the fish post) I never wanted any again πŸ˜€

      Yeah, I remember your brother. Sounds a bit like the relationship I had with my parents πŸ˜€ Although we did visit them. I find the smell of barbecues on the beach (or anywhere really) the worst. As soon as people put meat on, it just smells like burning flesh. That really makes me cringe, so I can guess where he was coming from with bacon. Just immune to that particular smell.

      My partner always ate toast for breakfast (or eggy bread) as a kid, so ‘missing’ bacon was never an issue for him either.

      I guess if you want meat/fish with every meal then a veg one won’t do it for you, although there are some great ones around, The Waterfront in Gib used to do a great veg wellington, but the chef changed :(. My father was pretty much like that. Claimed he didn’t like salad too but always managed to demolish at least half of it. Always had seconds of veg. I think there is a lot of conditioning about what we eat. In my dad’s case his mother was pretty strapped for cash aka poor, so there was little meat. He was making up for lost time? Who knows.

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      • bluonthemove says:

        No, my brother didn’t find the smell of frying bacon in anyway offensive; quite the opposite, it made him want some.

        As you know, I don’t eat salad either, in part because I don’t like the taste/texture and in part the hygiene issues around eating raw food. In restaurants in the USA you often get a complimentary salad prior to bringing you the food you ordered, I used to eat the tomato, but in the hope their kitchen was ultra clean but never the lettuce.

        I have to say I’ve never had a decent vegetarian meal. If I’m invited to dinner by vegetarians I will always tell them their food was excellent, but only because it would be rude not too. I then stop for a burger on the way home.

        If I’m in the supermarket and non meat pizzas are on special offer I’ll buy them, but will place a couple of rashers of bacon on top of them before cooking. Guess I’m just a lost cause.

        Blu

        n.b. Looks like I’ll be homeless from mid-Jan!!

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        • Haha!! funny I interpreted the bacon smell the wrong way.

          So you wouldn’t make a raw foodist? πŸ˜€ I do like raw veg/salad, but buy organic wherever poss or use what I can grow in the garden. You might remember – I think I wrote it – when we first became veg it was for our health reasons. Too much meat, too many steroids, too many drugs of any type, so I always found that a bigger issue than eating raw veg. Individual choice I suppose. I didn’t eat salad in Nepal though πŸ˜€

          I’ve had one good meal at a friend’s house, ironically similar to the veg wellington at The Waterfront, hers was better though, she was a pretty good cook. Otherwise it tends to be an omnivore’s idea of what veg people eat eg broccoli in cheese sauce, cauliflower in cheese sauce, (both at the same meal) and jacket potatoes. In fact, everyone dishes up cheese, except the one who dished up couscous which I dislike.

          As for meals out, ironically some of the best have been in Spain – Tarragona, MΓ‘laga, Fuengirola, and Torremolinos. All veg restaurants offering extremely good value set meals.

          Fingers crossed on the homeless situation.

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          • bluonthemove says:

            To me, a vegetarian meal is like being served a bowl of cream for dessert. I like cream, bit I see it as a garnish for a fruit pie, a chocolate pud or some kind of sweet sponge cake.

            By itself, as a dessert, its simply incomplete.

            Blu

            n.b. I know you aren’t a dessert eater yourself, however I thought the analogy was worth mentioning.

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          • I can understand the concept of incompletion. I grew up with the same point of view. However nice the veg were, a meal wasn’t a meal without meat/birds/fish.

            You’re right about the dessert eating πŸ˜€ and needless to state I can’t remember the last time I had either dessert or cream, which as you can probably guess, I don’t particularly like either. Although I did like sabayon when I was a child. And trifle!

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  5. EllaDee says:

    American bacon is atrocious – you get half a cremated rasher… but generic American food is a whole other topic… I think too much of a good thing, eating or smelling ruins it. Our previous apartment had a lovely cafe in the corner of the building complex and the constant smell of frying bacon on weekends ruined any affection I had for the aroma, and there are so many other lovely things to have for a weekend breakfast… like my current favourite garlic mushrooms which is the only thing I will name as I could go on forever. I must admit though when hungover (which is rare as I seldom stray from white wine) a good Aussie bacon & egg white bread sandwich with bbq sauce is a magic fix.

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    • I have to say a trip to America for the gastronomic holiday of a lifetime wouldn’t automatically come to mind for omniverous food. Having said that there seem to be some superb veg/vegan restaurants. In fact I ate well in NZ where I found plenty of veg choices, although I usually went for a starter only as the portions were huge.

      I forgot to mention we had an electric frying pan, so while we were setting up my mum would cook some bacon for our breakfast sandwiches. Great advert πŸ˜€

      One of my secretaries often went out on Thursday night to the Bigg Market in Newcastle (UK, twinned with Newcastle Aus) – http://www.pubsnewcastle.co.uk/BiggMarket.html

      Her standard hangover breakfast was a bacon and sausage sandwich washed down with a couple of cokes. Would have made me sick but it always perked her up and she grafted away after that!!

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  6. I like this story. When I used to visit my grandparents there was a little corner shop nearby where the woman that owned it had one of those old fashioned slicing machines. I loved it. It was red and silver and the blade made a swishing noise as it cut slice of meat. I could stand and watch it for hours. Best memory is one that I have just trawled up after reading this – her name was Mrs. Hamson!

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    • Thanks. It was really trying to explain why I have a slightly different perspective on bacon to most people. It might as well have been bread and butter for me, in fact I didn’t usually eat bread and butter or toast for breakfast, seeing as I had lots of bacon πŸ˜€

      Yes, they were red and silver. Probably made by Berkel and Parnell. My dad used to freak the life out of me when he sharpened the blade, which he did a couple of times during the day and when we finished in the evening. The guard would come off and he would fly the wheel around so the blade sent sparks on the sharpening stone. Doubt that would be allowed these days. But in 40 years or so, he retired with all fingers and both hands.

      It did swish you are right. Or woosh, or whatever shh word you choose. I liked the sound of it too. And the prettyily piled up papers full of freshly cut bacon. Ham wasn’t as interesting, but I didn’t like ham much anyway. Hamson is a class name – can’t compete with that.

      I’d better do a (farmhouse) cheese post next.

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      • I’d never thought about sharpening it. Sounds really dangerous! Cheese would be good. I like bacon (sorry) but I like cheese even more!

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        • I think it was. Put it this way, we weren’t allowed to speak to him or go anywhere near while he was doing it. The trouble was, we actually sold so much that he needed to keep sharpening the blades during the day. We obviously bought new from time to time, but you can imagine cutting the bacon with the oil and salt dulled the blade. And of course, sometimes, when he cut a piece of ham he would take off the guard for that too.

          Not much difference between cheese and bacon really, unless the cheese is made with veg rennet they both involve dead animals. But I’ll add that in my post πŸ˜‰ Anyway, I’m writing jury service now so you’ll have to wait for the cheese fix.

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  7. Andrew says:

    I do like bacon very much. In a butty. With lashings of ketchup. A local cafe/restaurant does full English breakfast on a Sunday. We used to go but Mrs. Ha isn’t really in to bacon and eggs. But when I am travelling without her I allow myself a cheese omelette with lots of bacon. I am salivating at the thought. I think Lulu would like bacon too. I must see if we can get bacon flavoured biscuits. πŸ™‚

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    • It was nice at the time. A bit like a boyfriend was nice or fashion was nice. At the time. It formed (roughly) half of my life, but it’s totally irrelevant to me now apart from writing about it. But seriously ketchup on it?????? OK ketchup on sausages with baked beans and chips yes, but not on bacon. Sacrilege.

      I was very picky about what I ate with bacon. I hated quiche lorraine, and bacon and egg pie at school was the pits, so cheese omelette and bacon wouldn’t do it for me. My breakfast was always two rashers and one accompaniment, preferably a veg. Not usually egg. I did forget to add in the post that I would also eat raw smoked bacon. Yet another health hygiene risk. Sort of like cured ham but smoked not cured. I’m still alive (touches wood).

      I can write about bacon till the pigs come home, and to be honest, laugh at other blog posts when people drool about it. I doubt they have ever seen as much bacon in their lives as I have. They won’t have been to the factory either. Or seen the slaughterhouses. It’s not part of my life now and it won’t be. As most (all) of my readers aren’t vegetarian/are British/are old, I thought it would be a different perspective. I don’t always tell people they should live on tofu, seitan and tempeh.

      I can however, wish tempeh was more available so I can marinate it in shoyu/tamari.

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      • Andrew says:

        A case of real women don’t eat quiche perhaps. I shall henceforth defer to you on all matters bacon-related. The ketchup started as a joke. One colleague demanded bacon butties with ketchup before early morning Manco meetings. So someone ordered them. We devoured the lot and it became a tradition. The rest of his diet was massive steaks and red wine. He is still alive. Just. Oh. He is also Welsh. From Neath.

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        • Ha! No just bacon and egg or egg and tomato. I thought I had written the saga of the prawn quiche on here but can’t find it. It is quite wicked, or rather I was. I do like onion quiche. Truth is I haven’t had quiche for years having found someone who does not like that sort of eggy mix.

          I am only an expert on matters bacon-related when it is rolled and Danish. All I know about Irish, Dutch and British is that they were meant to be salty.

          I have eaten my share of bacon and massive steaks. Enough to keep me going for the rest of my life and a third world developing country. I found another Welsh blogger today. Flint though. Old and cranky like the rest of us πŸ˜€

          I wasn’t that keen on bacon sandwiches, but it wasn’t as though I needed bread to pad it out. We did have them on Saturdays on the market though, with a rather trendy electric frying pan. For our breakfast, I mean, as we weren’t licensed as a caff. Personally I think we should have kept it on all day as a sales pitch. I think a few people did ask if they could buy some but we refused because we weren’t a caff, and we knew the local caff owner, so no toe stepping and all that. I suspect we would have cut the legs from under him in terms of sarnies. We were already selling boiled ham to the Jews for their lunch.

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