Thursday, April 3, 2014

Stop fakin' my bacon

I have a bone to pick. OK, maybe not a bone, because bacon doesn't have a bone. But I'm pissed off, and the thing I'm pissed off about is bacon.

I'm a fan of bacon. I won't go so far as to say my identity is wrapped up in the love of bacon like some people claim theirs is, but I like some tasty, lean bacon. The adjectives are important there.

I grew up in Iowa. Lots of filthy, vicious pigs also grow up in Iowa, and then they become bacon. Some years when I was a kid we made our own bacon and hams. Dad charged us older kids with rubbing the salt into the raw pork until the skin peeled off our hands and the burning became unbearable. It was worth every bit of pain after the meat had cured, and Mom had fried it up in her old cast iron skillet. That level of bacon is not available at the grocery store.

My friend Piano Man makes his own bacon for a big birthday bash he throws every year. It is a religious experience, the taste of this bacon. His bacon is real meat, not fat with a bit of lean meat painted on. It tastes like home, this bacon.

I really do know good bacon, and most of what is available at the grocery store is not what I would consider good bacon. It's OK bacon, if that's all you've got to eat, but a lot of it is more than 50% fat. Some more than 75%. It's disgusting. Like the difference between Wonder Bread and homemade whole-grain artisan bread fresh from the oven. Or the difference between Chips Ahoy cookies eaten with a Capri Sun and a pan of Toll House cookies, hot and fresh, eaten with a glass of cold milk.

But, hey. I'm too lazy to make my own bacon, so I buy what I can tolerate. I sometimes spend 15-20 minutes pulling open the little cardboard windows on the various brands of bacon, looking for a package that's lean enough to be called meat, and I almost always buy the high-end bacon simply because it's leaner than the cheap shit.

So I was surprised when I opened the little window on a package of cheap Kroger-brand bacon and saw how lean it was. I was even a little suspicious, so I pulled the window out and peeked down the length of the slices. It was lean all the way down. Good deal! I bought it.

And I was still pleasantly surprised when I opened it to fry up for brunch when my son Drake and his roommate K were here. I pulled off the first piece and found out it wasn't really a piece. It was half a piece .... but that's OK. The other half was apparently there. Same with the second slice: 2 halves. And the third.

I didn't give a shit if the entire package came in half slices. It was lovely and lean.

Then I got to the fourth slice, which happened to be whole. And looked like this.

Not so much lean meat there. In fact, the entire rest of the package was mostly slices of fat. Somebody had taken the time to put the lean parts of cheater slices under the window to hide what made up the bulk of the pound of bacon.

Thanks a lot, Kroger. You just lost a bacon customer. Not an entire customer, because where else am I going to shop? But I will never buy your bacon again. Fool me once, I'll post about you on my fucking blog. You don't get a second chance.

I am so fucking sick of people trying to rip me off with stupid ploys like this. Did they think I wouldn't notice all that fat? Did they think I wouldn't notice those first 3 slices of bacon weren't whole slices? Is it worth all this to sell me just one pound of bacon, when I could conceivably buy 2 or 3 pounds a month if the product lived up to the promise under the little window? Why is the second pound I might purchase not as important as the first?

It's short sighted and deceptive and mean. I wish I could take my business to another market, but the fact is, I can't afford the up-scale grocery stores out in the suburbs. And besides, there's no guarantee they're any less deceptive.

I am going to join a CSA this summer, and buy whatever fresh vegetables I don't grow myself from a Marianist coop just a few blocks away. That's $400 for 4 months of weekly deliveries of whatever is in season. And that's more than $400 I won't be spending at Kroger. But I will be supporting a group of friendly young people who work their asses off in their gardens, and who have to care about the quality of their products or they won't survive. I wrote about buying produce from them last year here.

I also buy raw milk and farm eggs every 2 weeks in a coop. Coraline loves to drive with me the hour or so it takes to get to the farm and meet the cows. Every time I pour her a glass of milk she says, "Thank you for this milk, cows. I love you."

When it comes to eating out, I rarely go to a chain restaurant. Only if somebody else makes the plans and insists. Otherwise, I eat at places where I know the owner or know the owner lives in town and runs the business. I might pay a little more, but I eat a whole lot better.

I recognize that I'm privileged. This is not poverty-level food. I can afford to pay $5/gallon for my milk and $2.50/dozen for my eggs, and I can pay ahead for my CSA, because I only have to buy food for myself. And I consider myself lucky to live in the city, because I save money by living here, and I've actually found more opportunities to buy local.

OK, I went off on a rant. Not the first time; not the last. That bacon just pissed me off. It represents every corporation that wants to take my money without giving me the product I was promised. It represents how little they care whether I'll buy their product again, because they'll just fool the next 200 people who buy their brand of bacon this week.

And it pisses me off because those first 3 cobbled together slices of bacon really made me want some good lean bacon .... an entire pound of lean bacon. It's not right, to cheat like that. Especially with something as delicious as bacon. Only an asshole would conceive of that.

So I'm considering buying a slab of pork belly from a local butcher and making my own damn bacon from now on. Kroger can go fuck themselves on one more product I used to buy from them. First milk, then eggs, then fresh vegetables, and now bacon.

The moral is this: I don't care what you do to the pig, but do not fuck with my bacon, fatheads. Do not fuck with my bacon.

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