365 Days of Bacon

One student at our kids’ school lives in a commune. No joke. A free-spirited, idealistic, bread-kneading, Birkenstock-wearing, throwback commune. This is salient as it epitomizes the fringes of Sonoma County. It embodies the ideological and physical demarcation known as “West County.” West County is home to Sonoma’s great and storied cool climate vineyards. Rugged, visually stunning, and sparsely populated, West County is also its own zany principality corralled beside the big-box-store sentiment of greater Santa Rosa. Its citizens are anti-establishment, mushroom foraging, hemp cloth weaving, sometimes glass blowers. I expect to catch hell for that sweeping, bigoted half-truth. But you get my drift, one billowing waft of cannabis. This deeply entrenched, hippie vibe oozes into more gentrified neighborhoods as insidiously as a Karl Marx smart phone app. Bartering for goods is as common as homegrown tomatoes and backyard beehives. And it’s to our advantage to embrace world’s oldest sales medium. Consider a friend who makes homemade bacon. I know! You’d think home-jarred green beans or peach jam represent the apotheosis of granny arts, but homemade bacon takes it to a new level. Alas, this master smoker is not a commercial operation. He can’t sell his bacon. But he can trade. I swapped a bottle of pinot and a dozen biscotti for a giant slab of spice cured, vacuum sealed bacon. Frankly, it’s embarrassing to exploit an artisan’s ill-conceived, provincial naiveté. But it tastes so good.

On day one of bacon, I sautéed shaved brussel sprouts in a milky pool of savory bacon renderings. The salty, crisp chunks of sizzling pork negated any possible health benefit of fresh veg. On day two of bacon, I crumbled chewy bacon bursts atop roasted butternut squash soup. The curing spices offset the caramelized sweetness of the root vegetables. On day three of bacon, I used sweating bacon hunks as the base of a soul satisfying beef Bolognese. The bacon melted off enough lard that I didn’t need to add additional oil. And we haven’t even resorted to traditional bacon slices yet. That’s a Sunday morning project.

My pork pro quo is testament to the enduring allure of all parts piggy. Full disclosure: there’s no legitimate wine tie-in here. I’m simply gloating about my bacon acquisition. I suppose this is the appropriate place to inform readers that Bruliam Wines has been selected to pour at Pigs and Pinot 2014. Foodies and pinotphiles who adore pinot and relish pork should consider purchasing tickets. It’s sure to be delicious. But even an epic pulled pork bahn mi can’t dethrone Circe’s mythic enchantment if she’s hawking homemade bacon.

Our final gift of 2013:  the first person to post a comment and tell us how Circe is linked to bacon will win $250 to the charity of your choice.  If you're reading this in your email or feed reader, you can click here to post a comment on our site.