Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Bacon Sandwich Quest

What with it being January, and the television schedules being filled with inspirational personal stories of gallant battles against the bulge (or slightly exploitative nonsense bordering on obese voyeurism depending on your point of view), and this being an Olympic year, and the Olympic year in which the games return to Britain no less, thoughts inevitably turn to sport, and diet, and exercise and suchlike. And bacon. Or at least mine do. I do a bit of exercise and sport and that, but bacon is a far more interesting topic so is what I'm going to focus on.

Bacon sandwiches specifically. I was contemplating the bacon sandwich as I ate my first of 2012. How it's one of the simplest yet one of the finest British dishes. In purest form only two ingredients are necessary, just bacon and bread. Butter, HP sauce, sometimes tomatoes or mushrooms can be welcome but none are pre-requisites.

How I eat rather a lot of them, but not one has featured on the blog. They're almost always eaten at home, or on the hoof. Grabbed from a van on an industrial estate and munched in the car, or picked up from a greasy spoon and eaten at the computer, greasy fingers tainting the keys. This rarely produces enough material for a fully fledged blog post, but the bacon sandwich really is worth celebrating.

A good bacon sandwich beats almost any other food for instant, delicious, satisfying gratification. The perfect blend of tasty, salty meat and soft, doughy carb. Commonly acknowledged as the game-changer for many a lapsed vegetarian, it's the humble bacon butty that lures them back in.

So this year I'm going to be celebrating the bacon sandwich by way of the matrix of bacon. Each and every sandwich I consume (unless I get bored and give up, I make no promises) will be awarded a score out of thirty based on the following criteria.

Bacon (marks out of 10)

Believe it or not, bacon is quite important in bacon sandwiches. Quantity, quality and flavour. How many rashers? How thickly cut? How does it taste? Smoked or unsmoked? Bland or piggy? Too salty? Has it been cooked properly? Is the fat crisp but the meat moist? Is any of it burned or wobbly or foamy? Is it back bacon, or some other cut?

Bread (marks out of 5)

The second most important factor. Is it white? Is it soft? If not then what the hell is it, and is it a viable alternative? Is it a roll or sliced? What is the texture like? Slightly doughy and chewy or more open and airy? Any crusts or crustiness? How large is the bap, barm or roll or how thick is the slice? Is there much in the way of flavour?

Accompaniments (marks out of 5)

There may be none. More likely there will be HP sauce and perhaps butter. If so is the HP HP, or some other sort of brown? If not HP is it an adequate substitute? If the bread is buttered is it actually so, or has it been storked? I will consider tomatoes and mushrooms accompaniments, for the simple reason that I sometimes like them in my bacon sandwich. Anything more and it's no longer a bacon sandwich. The dividing line is whether you'd have the accompaniment on its own in a standalone sandwich. For egg or sausage the answer is yes, for tomatoes or mushrooms no (and if you thought yes then you're shit at breakfast).

Value (marks out of 5)

Value rather than price. There is a crucial difference. Value takes into account the price relative to the quality and size of the sandwich, rather than price alone. If the sarnie only costs a quid but is totally rubbish it won't score highly.

Service (marks out of 5)

It might seem a little strange to award marks for service. It's not something I cover in great detail in restaurant reviews, so why does it matter when scoring a bacon sandwich? It's about the time and the place. Bacon sandwich time is often dark and miserable, often at stupid o'clock in the morning in a corner of some godforsaken industrial estate, often in the midst of a long and tedious drive. Purveyors of porcine goodness can provide a little cheer. A friendly smile, a few warm words, idle chat about the foul weather, it's all worthwhile. I'll also lump the method of packaging into this category. Paper bag? Bag with paper plate? Serviette provided?

So there we have it, marks out of 30. I'll probably post a bacon quest update on a monthly basis, and come December, continued interest on my part permitting, we'll see where I had the best bacon sandwich of 2012. And I might get them a medal or something. In honour of the Olympics.


Correen said...

Your making me hungry now and it's made me remember there's a cafe across from my house which does bacon butties. Will have to pop there for one tomorrow or Friday... Your scoring system seems similar to our flat cap scoring game on Boxing day. Looking forward to more bacon related posts!

bagpus said...

Hmmm bacon butties.
If you're ever in Cheltenham (OK so it's way way from the M62) highly recommend the van in the Wickes carpark on Tewkesbury road - amazing breakfast butties of all descriptions! Once a year I help run a festival at the racecourse, and in the build up week we breakfast on these regularly.

freerangegirl said...

Love the butty critique, the best ones almost alway come from vans in my experience. The funniest thing is Barefoot Contessas British episode where she then recreates a bacon sandwich in the states, she calls it a BLT without the LT and the result is a sorry sight!

San said...

Oo, bacon butties. Scope for disagreement :)

Never had a BB with sauce (red or brown). Will have to remedy that. Daddies, not HP, is brown sauce of choice here.

Tomatoes make great standalone sandwiches. Wife likes them made several hours ago so they've gone squidgy; I like tomato and Marmite.

Always thought the ratio of bacon:bread was important as well.

Dave said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Correen - more bacon posts will be forthcoming! Flat cap scoring game? Sounds intriguing.

bagpus - I used to travel past Cheltenham on the M5 regularly, but alas no longer :(

freerangegirl - agree that vans are often king of bacon butties. Never seen Barefoot Contessa but I'm sure I've heard about her messing up British classics... will check it out.

San - plenty of scope for debate here! Daddies is also good, someone else reminded me of it on Twitter too. You're right about bacon:bread ratio, I didn't mention that but will certainly be taking it into account. Do you mean fresh tomatoes or tinned? I'd eat the former on its own in a sandwich, but greasy spoons usually use tinned.

San said...

I meant fresh tomatoes. I probably got confused. It happens :)

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