If you asked a group of Americans to talk about their favorite foods, bacon would surely come up often in the conversation. Most people love bacon so much that they don’t even bother to stop and think about where the idea for such a delicious food came from. It turns out that bacon has a history as rich as its flavor.
While it’s believed that pigs were domesticated from wild boars more than 10,000 years ago, the first noticeable mention of anything in history resembling bacon comes from China around the time when the Shang dynasty was in control. The Chinese were ahead of their time, salt-curing pork bellies as far back as 1500 B.C. Ancient Romans enjoyed a rough, early form of boiled bacon, which was cut from the shoulder of a pig and made with dried figs.
Of course, neither ancient culture actually referred to their creations as “bacon” (the Roman dish was called “petaso”). It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that “bacoun” became common nomenclature, at that time referring to all varieties of pork. The word was derived from prior Germanic and French words meaning “back”, presumably implying meat being cut from that area of the pig. Finally, by the 17th century, the term “bacon” settled into its modern use, describing specifically, salted and smoked pork belly.
By this time, bacon had become a popular food with European peasants, who would show off the more desirable smoked variety as a symbol of their wealth. In 1770, a man named John Harris became the father of industrial bacon, producing it in large quantities for the masses. The town he hailed from, Wiltshire, England, continues to be known as the bacon capital of the world.
Bacon became an American staple as well, with bacon fat widely used as the dominant cooking oil until World War II. Psychologist and marketer Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud and original American “spinmaster”, worked with the Beech-Nut Packing Company to establish bacon as a breakfast staple in the newly minted “most important meal of the day”. In 1924, Oscar Mayer delivered pre-packaged, pre-sliced bacon to the American people for the first time.
There’s an interesting story behind the phrase “bring home the bacon”, which has been in use for as long as “bacoun” has been. The common saying hasn’t always been synonymous with providing for one’s family, as it is today. In the 12th century, married men in the town of Dunmow, Essex were invited to pledge that they hadn’t fought with their wives for a full year. In return, they’d receive a salted side of pork, and the town’s respect for their kindness and patience along with it. Dunmow continues a form of the “bringing home the bacon” ceremony to this day.
At Broadbent’s we dry-cure and slow-smoke bacon the way it used to be made, before highly processed, manufactured food became the norm. Experience the time-tested succulent taste of bacon the old-fashioned way by ordering one of our delicious varieties today.