International Bacon Day

And how did you celebrate this past long-weekend, bacon lovers? Did you spend some time at the cottage, swimming in the lake or sunbathing with family and friends? Did you go camping or hiking? Or perhaps did you stay home, reading peacefully on the front porch in the morning and barbecuing in the back yard later in the day?

Though it’s often a sign that summer is coming to a close (and the most ominous sign of back to school season) the long weekend at the beginning of September might be one of my favourite weekends of the year.

International Bacon Day

Of course, it’s not just the promise of cooler Autumn days and the excitement of new classes that makes this weekend extra-special, not is it just Labour Day (which takes place the first Monday of September in the United States and here in Canada). Nope, the other reason that this weekend is so special is that the Saturday of the Labour Day weekend is one of the most important North American holidays for Bacon Lovers: International Bacon Day.

The Origin of International Bacon Day

This tasty end-of-the-summer holiday was founded in 2000 by a bunch of graduate students in Bedford, MASS. Three students – Alexa Haflord, Seth Rittenhouse and Evan Salim – decided that bacon was so delicious it deserved its own holiday. They started a blog and celebrated that first bacon day cooking and eating their favourite food. Since it’s inception, the holiday has spread all over the United States and up to Canada. Participants in the annual International Bacon Day celebrations often chant “bacon is a vegetable!” to indicate their love and appreciation for this most perfect meat.

International Bacon Day Celebrations

Every city that recognizes International Bacon Day has a unique way of celebrating the occasion. The most important part of the celebrations, however, is the cooking and eating of bacon. As long as you have this covered, there is nothing stopping you from having your own International Bacon Day wherever you are!

This year, I celebrated International Bacon Day by combining two of my favourite foods in the entire universe: I whipped up a huge batch of super mac and cheese – which is not only loaded with rich cheese goodness, but also features smoked bacon, veggies, and crunchy bacon crumbs – for me and my friends. There was something about the combination of comfort food and bacon that seemed just about perfect – saying goodbye to all the great fun that was summer, and welcoming in the new start of Autumn.

Iowa Officially Declares Bacon Day

Well, Iowa is starting to look a lot like heaven on earth for bacon lovers. Aside from the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, (an event which happened last Saturday, and which we’ll give you the full details on in a different post), the state legislature decided to name February 26th the state’s Official Bacon Day. We think that every day should be named an Official Bacon Day, but one day is a good start. More info, and the full text of this historic and ground-breaking declaration, follows after the jump.

A Day That Will Go Down in History

Iowa is a bacon-happy place. Nearly 5% of their state’s income comes from the production of it, and they are the U.S.’s biggest producers of pork products. It’s no surprise that they’d host what is probably the biggest bacon festival in the country, and that their state legislature would be so happy to promote it.

Even so, the declaration shows to what extent the state is bacon-crazy. They even say that Iowa is famous for bacon – “nature’s perfect food”! Here’s what the state officials officially put onto the record when they declared Saturday, February 26th, Official Bacon Day:

“WHEREAS, the people of Maine have lobster, the people of Idaho grow great potatoes, and the folks of Texas make great chili, we Iowans have bacon —nature’s perfect food; and WHEREAS, whether plain or apple-wood smoked, whether store-bought or artisan-made, bacon is a meat for any meal; and WHEREAS, as America’s top pork producer, Iowa stands tall as the nation’s source of high-quality bacon; and WHEREAS, the 4th annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival is set for Saturday, February 26, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in Des Moines; NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, That the House of Representatives recognizes February 26, 2011, as Iowa Bacon Day and invites all Iowans to take part in the festival and to celebrate bacon.”

Iowa: An Inspiration For Us All

Surely this is a declaration that we can all be inspired by. We should also struggle to have it implemented wherever we live. After all, Canada has a lot of great bacon and bacon products – we are the home of Maple Leaf Foods, for instance – and we really need to recognize the importance of bacon to our national economy. And to our national mood! What food can make the long and cold mornings of our winters even bearable? The only food that could do this, is – as the Iowans say – “nature’s perfect food.” BACON.

It Shall Hereafter Be Known As The Day of Bacon

So, what are we going to do about it? I would like you to spend some time thinking about how important bacon is to your life. If you feel as strongly about as bacon as I do, please call your government representative and ask them – no, tell them! – that we need an official bacon day in Canada. In the meantime, to endure the pain of having to wait for this announcement, I recommend eating some bacon.

Science Explains Why We Love Bacon

Science Explains Why We Love Bacon

Why Do We Love Bacon?

You’d think that due to its longstanding appeal, scientists would have long ago figured out why we like it so much. But it was only recently that we found a convincing – and sciency! – reason for why bacon is so delicious.

Elin Roberts, a “science communication manager,” (I’m not quite sure what that is) spoke to the Daily Telegraph about bacon’s enduring appeal. As Ms Roberts says, “The smell of sizzling bacon in a pan is enough to tempt even the staunchest of vegetarians. There’s something deeper going on inside. It’s not just the idea of a tasty snack. There is some complex chemistry going on.”

Science Explains Why We Love Bacon

Apparently it all has to do with the Maillard reaction, which is when reduced sugars react with amino acids under heat. As they do, they produce a wide range of molecules that vary in flavour and smell. It is one of the reactions that produces the flavour of toasted bread, roasted coffee, chocolate and caramel. In fact, this reaction is at the basis of the flavour industry.

I’ll let Ms Roberts take over: “Meat is made of mostly protein and water. Inside the protein, it’s made up of building blocks we call amino acids. But also, you need some fat. Anyone who’s been on a diet knows if you take all the fat from the meat, it just doesn’t taste the same. We need some of the fat to give it the flavour. Fats mean that there are some reducing sugars in there as well. When it’s really hot – that’s when the Maillard reaction starts.

With all of those various molecules being created, the air above your frying pan or around your stove is soon filled with various smells. These form that complex scent that is difficult to describe, but that most people find so appealing. This also explains why adding sugar to your bacon can make it taste better: you are improving the chances that the Maillard reaction will occur between some sugar and the proteins in the meat.

The next time you are cooking up your bacon, remember to thank the Maillard reaction. Without it, we wouldn’t have that bacon-y flavour to enjoy

Bacon, Science and Protein = Our Love for Bacon

Here at the Republic of Bacon, we love to offer you proof that your love of bacon is not just in your head. It’s a scientific fact that bacon is delicious. We’ve already talked a little about why the cooking of bacon makes it delicious. But what about before the cooking – does bacon start out delicious? The answer, of course, is yes. And the reason is because of the special way that bacon is prepared: its curing.

Meat, if you didn’t know, is largely made up of animal protein and the associated fat. Strangely enough, though, protein, on its own, does not have a lot of flavour. As we mentioned before, what gives meat its flavour are the by-products of protein – those thousands of flavourful amino acids – when it is broken down. Although there is always some natural breakdown of proteins before any cooking begins, the process is accelerated by cooking. Hence, the deliciousness of browned meat.

But bacon’s secret weapon – what makes it potentially even more delicious than other meats – is the curing that is used in bacon’s preparation. Curing is done in many ways, but the most common are dry and wet curing. Most of the bacon we eat today is wet cured, which means it has been prepared in a brine (salt water) solution. Although this was originally meant to help make bacon last longer, it is now largely done to make bacon taste better.

The reason it improves bacon’s flavour is because curing helps start bacon’s protein breakdown sooner. In particular, the brine solutions helps increase the concentration of the amino acid glutamic acid. And glutamic acid has been associated with that delicious, meaty flavour that we all love.

As well, the fats in bacon also break down in the curing process into thousands of different chemicals. Some of these natural chemicals are what give other foods their particular flavours: apple, melon, citrus and butter. These are combined with the caramel flavours that are naturally produced when meats are browned. The overall result is the complex, endlessly captivating scent and flavour of bacon.

And with so many different flavour notes, it is no wonder that bacon works so well with so many different foods. Pairing bacon with the sweetness of apples and melons, for instance, brings those flavour notes in bacon out.

So, there you have it: further proof that bacon is delicious. But you didn’t need that, you can tell already! But if you have any bacon-doubters in your life, be sure to tell them why they need to give bacon a second chance.

Why is it that other foods need to be wrapped, stuffed or injected with bacon to make it better? Curious little bit to think about. What else do you think bacon would be fantastic with?