Huw Oliver was a lifelong vegetarian until lockdown – not by choice, but out of hippyish family custom. Twenty-five years of no meat. Then he got stuck in a house with a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore. Desperate to inject some sort of excitement into his life, he has decided to cook and eat every available meat for the very first time. To his intestines (and his dad): sorry. This is Meat, Reviewed.
Week two: bacon sandwich
My kitchen reeks of the morning after: the Saturday or Sunday post house party. Everything’s a haze, then your genial pal Tom comes in wielding a spatula. ‘Huw, mate,’ he says, ‘bacon sarnie?’ ‘Think I’ll pass, mate. Just the buttered roll, please.’
Just the buttered roll. This is how I’ve been living life for more than a quarter of a century. I’ve passed up hangover remedy after hangover remedy, all in the name of sticking by an unenforced rule my little sister long ago scoffed at. To me, that smoky aroma, and the sizzling pitter-patter that goes with it, connote comfort, love, reassurance. Sweet-toned Tommy boy poking his head round the door, saying: mate, you sure you don’t want any?
The prep Part-back, part-streaky, my rashers resemble super-thick insoles – size three or four – or floppy, overstretched earlobes. I brown them in butter, turning them from deep red via greyish pink to a decades-strong Costa del Sol tan. The smell is intoxicating. I tip the pan and the lobes wobble out into the soft clutch of my specially chosen, liberally Lurpaked bap.
The guilt factor I squirt on ketchup and hum ‘Piggy’ by Nine Inch Nails. It’s not meant as a slight to chickens, but I feel much more morally compromised eating pork than I did trying a bit of roast bird. I think of the cute, hairy, goth piglets at Stepney City Farm. I think of their squeals. I continue to sing NIN – ‘Nothing can stop me now ’cause I don’t care any more’ – and try to blot out the shame.
First impressions Immediately, I’m dazzled. The velvety bun, the tart ketchup and the fragrant rashers combine in melt-in-the-mouth harmony. The bacon is firm but not chewy, and cooked to a light crunch. The fat’s a little stringy, but the burnt speckles are exquisite.
The meat of the matter To be fair to Quorn, its faux bacon tastes quite similar. But it can’t mimic the irregularity of the cut – the way the rasher splays luxuriantly over the roll – and the gorgeous crisp of the exterior. It’s warm, supple and utterly moreish. And when teamed with a double-bagged cup of milky tea, it’s next-level lush.
Aftertaste Salty, savoury, meaty umami has always eluded me but I think I may finally have pinned the bugger down. In this heavenly moment, inner-city piglets are the last thing on my mind.
Verdict? The next time kind ol’ Tom whips round with a spatula, it’ll be a yes from me. Outstanding. 8.5/10.
Next week The perfect steak
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