Bacon and Chocolate: The Backstory

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To me, the most interesting side of any compelling ingredient or food product, aside from deliciousness, is the backstory: How it came to be. How did David Chang devise his great pork belly buns? How did egg creams happen? Invariably, the backstory is full of twists and turns and free associations that are especially inspiring to cooks who like to push the envelope themselves.

I found a really good backstory on the box of Mo's Bacon Bar, a 41 percent milk chocolate bar laced with the unlikely combination of applewood smoked bacon and Alderwood smoked salt. It is at once delicious, satisfying, and odd, and it rides the recent crest of baconmania. Katrina Markoff, owner and chocolatier of Vosges, a line of exotically flavored chocolate, describes the roots of her salt-sweet-smoke theme in her childhood:

I began experimenting with bacon and chocolate at the tender age of 6, while eating chocolate chip pancakes drenched in Aunt Jemima syrup, as children often do. Beside my chocolate-laden cakes laid three strips of sizzlin' bacon, just barely touching a sweet pool of maple syrup. And then, the magic--just a bite of the bacon was too salty and I yearned for the sweet kiss of chocolate and syrup, so I combined the two.

In retrospect, perhaps this was a turning point; for on that plate something magical happened, the beginnings of a combination so ethereal and delicious that it would haunt my thoughts until I found the medium to express it -- chocolate.

I'd say, from the picture on her website. [Curator's note: In a yet better backstory even Sally didn't know, the eponymous Mo is Mo of Ann Arbor, Michigan, the same legendary city of our Behind the Counter locale. A great collaboration, and you can order the bar here.]

There was a good twenty years from this childhood anchoring of a taste memory to it's fulfillment in Mo's Bacon Bar: an inspiring reminder about the slow, mysterious routes of inspiration.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.
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