Postaday2011: Bacon

What a wonderful topic, so much so that I decided to choose this one rather than waffle on about my day. So what does bacon mean to me? Sad to say I love the stuff, pork in general that is. Maybe there is something about that smell of roasting pork, like a farm-yard, one of my family said… but he is a vegetarian, or the crunch of well crackled crackling. The comforting smell of a boiling gammon joint with cloves that fills the house with the promise of a feast later on. Maybe it is the memory of  those full English breakfasts you just have to have when you are on holiday? Whatever it is, bacon is a firm favourite in our house.

Bacon, or rather pork, has been  favoured since medieval times and there are many sayings attached to the humble pig that have their origins back then. A pig in a poke, saving one’s bacon, bringing home the bacon, it is also attached to letting the cat out of the bag. There is always the cold shoulder and chewing the fat. Pork was the meat you would most likely find in people’s homes back then so it stands to reason why many expressions are based round the humble pig.

I have to add though that a piggy bank and a salt pig have absolutely nothing to do with the farmyard animal. They were originally pots made from a clay called pygg and the cute piggy bank has developed from the word not the animal. Same goes for the salt pig, a clay pot for holding salt, clay is known to keep things cool and dry.

Lets start with a pig in a poke –  a poke was a course bag made of a sacking like material that young pigs were carried to market in, but letting the cat out of the bag comes from dubious people who would know that piglets were fast and once let out of the bag almost impossible to catch, these ruthless men would often substitute a cat for a pig or the runt of the litter, knowing they would be well out of the way before the bag was opened.

Saving one’s bacon – is to have a narrow escape or to be rescued from something dreadful unhurt. In the 17th century, bacon was another name for the spoils of beggars, thieves or highwaymen so it was important to save it.. Bringing home the bacon then is obvious but there is a story from country fairs where a small pig was greased and let loose, contestants were blind folded and anyone able to catch and hold the pig would be, yes you’ve guessed it, bringing home the bacon.

Chewing the fat and the cold shoulder are opposite ends of the meaning scale. To chew the fat would be among friends where a piece of fat pork would be cut off and chewed as they shared an evening of discussion or entertainment but should those folk outstay their welcome they would only get the cold shoulder… Great aren’t they? There must be loads more but those are the only ones I can recall at the moment.

As for my family, most of them love bacon. The humble bacon sandwich has always been a favourite, with or without mustard. My kids love it wrapped round sausages but I think it is the boiled ham that is so very versatile. I remember my mother saying once that you can ‘eat all of the pig apart from his squeak’ and I think that is right. Mind you, I’m not that keen on eating some parts  but my dog was! I stick to gammon, bacon and the like and once the joint has been boiled the dishes it can be included in are many. Cold ham salad, chicken and ham pies, Fritata, Quiche, omelet, added to cheese sauce, fried crisp for mushroom soup and salad toppings, the list is endless. Then the water can be used to as a stock to add to soups, especially leek and potato soup…

The wonderful smell of bacon and cloves brings back memories of Christmases past and I think there is little that can surpass that wonderful smell. I guess that it is more important to me today because I have little or no sense of smell so because bacon has such a strong and distinctive smell with all those memories connected to it, it is the one I would remember best of all.  I think that would make definitely make me an advocate to the humble pig, don’t you?


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Huh…I had never heard of a salt pig but I didn’t know a piggy bank wasn’t derived from a pig at all! Interesting!
    This was very informative….it’s always fun to find out the meaning behind all these sayings! Thanks for the info.! 🙂

    • 2

      wordangell said,

      Hi Sharon, a salt pig is just a clay pot with a side hole near the top for taking pinches of salt. I love mine. I love searching out silly things, a mine of useless information, me. M

  2. 3

    I never knew about piggy banks! My goodness you live and learn… 🙂

    I love bacon butties and bacon and onion suet roll hmmmm

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