When I picture a traditional family meal, I picture a standard salad course, followed by a meat entrée, a bread element, some form of vegetable and a dessert to finish. Each component of the meal is discrete; each item is contained in its separate box in the food pyramid. But step outside the dining room, and all this neatness can go into the garbage disposal. I can easily note that, recently, the lines dividing “types” of food has become much more fluid — is this avocado milkshake a dessert or an entrée? Is this basil and watermelon tart sweet or savory?
The popularity of bacon in new and odd places is a fantastic example of this trend. Bacon cupcakes, in fact, no longer raise eyebrows. Typical recipes (such as this one) incorporate cooked bacon pieces, bacon fat, maple syrup, brown sugar and butter cream frosting into one savory and sweet dessert. Each bite brings to mind Saturday morning breakfasts of bacon, sticky with maple syrup that dribbled over from the accompanying French toast. It was a marriage of flavors waiting to happen.
And who can shake the idea of the Elvis sandwich upon hearing about it? Salty peanut butter, gooey banana and crispy bacon strips between two crunchy pieces of bread. Knock back bacon-infused bourbon and you’ve surely got a meal that can satisfy your breakfast, dinner, dessert and happy hour cravings.
But bacon’s growing omnipresence has reached its apotheosis in bacon lollipops. These candies are not coy about their dual nature; they do not taunt you with the cupcake’s and sandwich’s nebulousness. As you enjoy it, you must simply face the facts: the bacon is not simply a garnish meant to “bring out” the flavor of the main ingredients. No excuses: you are actually just eating bacon-flavored candy. So many worlds, all coming together.
Each Bacon Pop, available at Vat 19, is hand-poured with a hard candy base that is dotted with pieces of bacon-flavored soy (according to the information page, the soy bacon bits work better in the hard candy than their meat counterparts). These dichotomous treats come in sets of six, with two of each flavor: honey, BBQ, and maple. According to the website, the last flavor brings to mind hearty pancake breakfasts: fluffy buttermilk stacks beside a pile of sinewy bacon and topped with maple syrup… What sane person could say no to such an idea?
A culinary world of intriguing flavor blends is out there to be discovered. Some culprits have already been found: ripe strawberries with balsamic vinegar and black pepper, chocolate with sea salt or chili pepper flakes, caviar and white chocolate. The list continues. The experimentation reaches from the ranks of haute cuisine, where chefs are playing with mustard ice cream, to the plebeian avenue of the Internet, where average consumers can buy packaged bacon lollipops.
What strange delights yet await? And, once discovered, how long until they join the mainstream — the food blogs, the Food Network shows and the commercially packaged, mass-produced candies? It seems these are all questions that must answered by foraging — either through a cabinet in a five-star kitchen, a pantry in your kitchen or even a dining hall at brunch.