470: Bacon, the gateway meat

I've been a vegetarian for 22 years.

Well, technically not a vegetarian, so much as a fishatarian, as I do occasionally eat seafood. Most people still think of that as a vegetarian, so it was just easier to use 'vegetarian' as shorthand.

Anyhoo, aside from the aforementioned seafood, for most of my life I haven't eaten meat. Nope, not even chicken. I don't know why but people always still think you eat chicken, too. "But what about Thanksgiving? I mean, you still eat turkey, right?" No, no I don't.

But, what about when you smell bacon?

Bacon smells amazing, everyone knows that.

There was this one time about 12 years ago when I did try to eat meat again for a few months. I have always struggled with fatigue and I hoped that eating meat would help. You know, protein, iron, all that business. You can definitely get all you need from a veggie diet, but I thought I would give it a try, since I am a lazy vegetarian and had never made  an effort to get enough protein (until this year when I started lifting weights.)

So I tried to eat meat. Yes, tried. But after years of not eating it, well,  it kind of freaked me out! The texture, the taste, the thought of *what it actually is*.  It always just felt like i was chewing on someone's thigh.  (And not in a good way.) I could handle chicken sometimes. Beef, no.

Bacon? You bet your sweet ass I ate bacon.

After a while it was the only meat I was still eating. And I didn't feel any less tired. So I stopped eating meat again. No big deal.

Being a vegetarian was mostly habit by this time. I started off my vegetarian career as a 16 year old who had just read Animal Liberation. Frankly, that would turn most people off of meat for a while if they were willing to read it. But I did still wear leather, so it wasn't all for animal welfare reasons. It was complicated. It was kind of a cultural thing as well, I was hanging out with people in their 20's who had been vegetarians for several years, and it just sort of rubbed off. It never felt like a sacrifice or anything, it was just something I didn't eat anymore. I didn't want it or crave it or miss it , even though I was always a big meat-eater.  I mean, I still loved the smell of bacon, but it just didn't occur to me to eat it anymore. I figured I would always be a vegetarian, er, fishatarian.

So it was habit, a social thing and kind of an identity thing, though I was never militant or preachy.  Different strokes, you know?

Then about two months ago something inside me changed and I was like, you know what? I think it's time to eat meat again. And again, it's kind of complicated. Part of it is that I do lift weights now and I want more protein options. Part of it is willingness to let go of my identity as a vegetarian to find out what really works best for my body. And if I'm being honest, the biggest part of it is this weird deep exorcism of a painful relationship from when I first became a vegetarian. I know, it's weird.

So this year when Thanksgiving was coming up, I was pretty sure I would have turkey for the first time in over 20 years. But the day came and went and I just didn't want it. I *could* have it, I was *willing* to have it, I just didn't want it. So I waited.

I waited until last Thursday when I went to my friend Alison's open house at her lovely business Supple Apothecary. She was like, "Honey, you gotta try the candied bacon!" And I was like, "If I ate bacon I would be all over it!" About an hour of mingling later (and no, I wasn't drinking!) Stuart and I were standing by the food and,knowing that I have been ready to try eating meat again, he was like "The bacon *is* REALLY GOOD."

I looked at. All glistening and chewy-looking and crispylike. And I thought, you know what? I WANT SOME.

So I ate a piece. And it was so frigging delicious. And then I ate some more.

And you know what? I didn't instantly become a bad person. The world didn't crumble, I was still me and it was all good. In fact, I felt giddy! I felt, kind of...free.

And now pretty much all I want to do is eat candied bacon. Stuart came home from grocery shopping on Friday and sing-songed "I bought you some BACON!" And he made me some candied bacon for breakfast on Saturday. And it was still amazing. And I wanted some the next day, so he made me some for dinner. And I wanted some today but he was like, "Honey, we are out of bacon" and I was like "Well BUY MORE BACON THEN" and he made me some  for dinner. He is being most accommodating about my new habit.

Who knows how long this will last, or what other meats I might try to eat again. But for now I am eating the hell out of some bacon. I'm pretty much being Ron Swanson about it, "Give me ALL THE BACON YOU HAVE."

Oh, here's how you make candied bacon:

Preheat oven to 400. Dredge bacon slices in brown sugar. Use regular or thick cut, fancypants smoked kind or regular old red-package-kind, whatever. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Crack some peppercorns over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the slices are your favorite level of brown and amazing and crispy and chewy and crack-like. Eat with your bacon-eating fingers.


(Vegetarians, please do not send me hate mail. Thanks a million.)




The Baconater