The Sandwich Century: #3 – The Bacon Sandwich

English cuisine’s reputations for being bland and flavorless is not entirely justified.  Sure, the things they do to vegetables should be prosecutable at the Hague, but there are plenty of dishes in the British national menu that are quite tasty.  The problem with them isn’t that they’re bland; the problem is that they’re incredibly unhealthful.  Scotch eggs, toad-in-the-hole, and the tendency of Scotsmen to not eat anything unless it’s been deep-fried for several hours all contribute to the bottom line that the British bottom line is broadening by the decade.  The typical football hooligan is now just as fat, if not fatter, than his American counterpart, and God bless them for it.  This tends to run head-on into another contemporary British culinary tendency:  despite the fact that England is the home of the sandwich as we know it, in recent years, what citizens of the U.K. are willing to consider a sandwich falls well below what we Americans would find acceptable outside the boundaries of an Appalachian trailer park.

We’ll have more on this as the Sandwich Century progresses, but for now, we hop from Australia to the land Australians were kicked out of for a delicious bacon sandwich.  While in America, we tend to name sandwiches after some central ingredient, a bacon sandwich is just that:  bacon and bread.  No fucking around here:  just bacon and bread.  I am generally not on board with the recent, internet-driven fetishization of bacon; it’s part of a typical contemporary tendency to suck all the joy out of a good thing by applying overkill until it becomes annoying.  Bacon, though, well, fuck:  bacon is delicious.  Is it delicious enough to support an entire sandwich on its own?  Let’s find out.

THE SANDWICH: The bacon sandwich, or “bacon butty” as it’s known by British people who are trying to embarrass us, is a staple of pub cuisine:  simple, delicious, and fatal.  (Although, curiously, there seems to be an attempt, based on several websites I consulted for research, to claim that this is actually a healthful meal.  The argument is based on some kind of protein vs. carbs thing, but I’m not buying it.  For one thing, it tastes too good to be good for you.)  Combined with a pint of stout, this seems like the basis of a face-punching good time.

THE INGREDIENTS: Crusty white bread, toasted.  Bacon.  (I cooked it in butter, as suggested by various recipe sites, and my heart stopped several times just frying it.  I also added some pepper to pretend that I was actually preparing food.)  The only other ingredient is HP sauce as a dressing.  Apparently there is some Yorkshire v. Lancashire controversy in the U.K., the former preferring their butty made with crispy bacon and the former choosing it soft and sauceless; in this, I must side with the Yorkies.

THE TASTE TEST: Look, folks, I’m not going to lie to you:  all this is is bacon and toast.  On the other hand, this is bacon and toast, and who doesn’t like bacon and toast?  Crazy people, that’s who.  It’s no secret that on the taste spectrum, I’m a great one for the savories; this thing is already deep in the red, savory-wise, and the addition of HP sauce, my second-favorite condiment after mustard, pushes it well past ‘ultra-savory’ and into the area known as ‘savory as fuck’.  The great contradiction of food arises in this sandwich:  it is extraordinarily delicious, but eating it brings you one giant leap closer to the grave.  No one lives forever, though, and this is a leap I was more than willing to make.

3 SHOTS LICKED so far.

  1. Nigel Richardson
    02/22/2011 at 10:41 AM

    No no no. The bread must be untoasted and that soft crust, bleached, supermarket stuff that you can twist and stomp and then watch return to its original shape. Wonderbread or Mother’s Pride or KwikSave Chemobread or something equally generic.

    Also British and American bacon are different too – what you call “bacon” we call “streaky bacon”. What we call “bacon”, you call “back bacon”. Either can be used so I don’t know why I mentioned it.

    I’ve never known anyone fry bacon in butter, but the bread is usually buttered so the cholesterol level probably balances out.

    And tomato ketchup is the preferred sauce. (HP is reserved for cleaning the family silverware.) A sprinkling of cigarette ash is optional.

    • LP
      02/22/2011 at 7:00 PM

      Acutally, it’s in Canada they call it “back bacon”. In America, we call it “Canadian bacon”, or, if we want to be even more precise, “ham”.

    • AussieGal
      02/24/2011 at 4:16 AM

      Nigel, I don’t know if it’s a regional thing, but my father is originally from Nottingham and my mother from Liverpool and in both their families the sauce of choice was HP. And the frying medium used when they were kids was apparently dripping (still not entirely sure what that is, and I don’t think I want to know!). Otherwise, I was raised on the sanger as you described. Untoasted, buttered white bread. Bacon here in Australia isn’t a patch on what you get over in the UK though.


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