corby bacon april29.jpg

Photo by shawnzam/FlickrCC


I recently hogged credit for the most popular hors d'oeuvre at a superbly catered wedding: plain strips of bacon, cut into thirds. After overcoming initial surprise that the low stacks were occupying corners of very elegant trays, the guests took as many pieces as they genteely could.

Turns out that my immodesty was not only unbecoming but positively, dare I say, piggish (I certainly dare not say "swinish"). Soon after I wrote a love letter to bacon in The Atlantic, I helped plan a dinner with the same caterer, and surprised her with my request for the first course: plates in the center of each table with just strips of bacon from four American makers. The dinner was extremely elegant. The guests emptied the serving plates.

As I recall, the most popular was from Nodine's, the Connecticut smokehouse near where I grew up and where I was surprised to find bacon I liked even more than the perennial taste-test winner, Nueske's, in Wisconsin. I've since fallen for the bacon of Allan Benton, who makes what many consider to be the South's best country ham. But with its heavyish hickory smoke, it's very different from the more general, and to my mind generally appealing, Nodine's.

When I mentioned to the caterer that of course I was responsible for the surprise hit of the wedding, she with typical graciousness nodded enthusiastically. But I was wrong, and humbled to learn that at the ritual known as the wedding tasting the groom, who has his own superb taste (he arranged an after dinner bourbon tasting, with an artfully designed menu and tasting notes), asked as each dish came out for approval, "Where's the bacon?" For a jokey treat, the caterer, with approval of the family, stuck in the plain bacon at the last minute. All caterers should be so thoughtful--and in the meantime, any caterer can borrow the idea for a non-labor-intensive surefire hit.

While researching my piece, I learned a lot, as I always do, from Ari Weinzweig, who long ago fell in love with bacon and has spent hears chronicled it. He's publishing one of his populist, samizdat-inspired pamphlets soon on bacon, and a note I got today gives advance notice of a "special Anarchist Edition" to be hand-bound in time for a book fair on May 16. If you get your order in pronto (like, by tomorrow), you can get an edition I don't want to miss. It won't be your last chance, as the first paragraph reassuringly says. But given the explosion of bacon interest (not to mention the literal Bacon Explosion, which my friend Pete Wells took flak for writing about on the same day as a long and good piece on the new public-health war on sodium), you'll want to order your copy right away.

I realize that folks might be interested in a special, just-for-fun, limited edition of the Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon book we're working on. This is something we decided to do for the Ann Arbor Book Fair on May 16, so the limited edition will be ready by then. The actual, regular book--which we designed here and are self-publishing formally--comes out in late June or early July, and I think it will sell for about $30. We're only doing the limited version this one time, so now's the time to grab one! It costs $40 (plus, if you're out of town, postage too, I suppose).

Given that I like special, hand-done stuff, limited editions, and obscure collector's items, we thought we'd do this special, pre-release, Anarchist Edition to sell at the annual Book Fair. It seemed appropriate, given my anarchist leanings. As you know, I love these sorts of strange but interesting alternatives to the offerings of the mass-market world. Anyways I started telling a few folks I knew about this and they were into it and wanted to buy a copy, so realized I should share the chance to get the book with other folks (like you!) who I like.

The limited editions are going to be pretty grassroots, but pretty cool. Each book will be numbered and signed. They will be hand-assembled, with silk-screened covers (on Kraft cardboard), and there's an extra preface that goes with the Anarchist Edition, plus an extra recipe. The pages are photo copied in black and white and are hand-bound...actually, "hand-bound" is probably an overstatement. It is more likely that they will be tied with leather thongs. We're having an assembly party on the evening of May 13. These books are likely to be more fragile than a mass-produced book, so I probably wouldn't buy this version with beach reading in mind.

To make a long story short, I'm taking pre-orders on the limited edition. Totally no pressure, but we have to put the order in by Thursday, April 30, so if you or anyone you know wants one (or a few) just for the fun of it, let me know at ari@zingermans.com, and we'll add your copy (or copies) to the list. I'm actually buying a bunch to give as presents.

Either way, thank you to everyone who's helped with information, bacon, editing, insight, and support while I've been working on this thing for the last few years. Many have contributed directly and indirectly to the learning and the work, and I very much appreciate all that has been done! It's always a group effort and none of us gets very far on our own, so thank you!