Taste it virgin

All You Can Eat

When my friend Charles told me about bacon salt, I started to jump up and down, shouting, “Dude. That is totally awesome!” I was pretty darn excited.

I immediately tried it on a hamburger, French fries, a pork chop, split pea soup, and straight up. It tastes like bacon and sure is cheaper and easier than frying up a pan. I did that too, just to see what bacon salt on bacon would taste like. I didn’t think it was possible, but there was too much bacon action going on there. The bacon salt dominated and made it hard to taste the real bacon. I would’ve never thought that I would dislike the most extreme bacon experience possible. It just tasted artificial and forced.

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photo / ninjapoodles Creative Commons licensed: Attribution Mmmm…bacony 

I thought back to all of the items that I had seasoned with bacon salt – all things that might normally have bacon on them. So in the name of science, I put bacon salt on cereal, bread, ice cream, and pad thai. Everything tasted like bacon, which was great, but I didn’t want my ice cream to taste like bacon. It reminded me of a fried Snickers bar I once had. The fried Snickers bar was surrounded by lovely batter and was an exciting novelty. But it was just that: a novelty. I found myself wanting a regular Snickers. Bacon salt has a similar effect.

It goes beyond topping a burger with a few slices of bacon – it goes where bacon rarely dares. Sure you can crumble bacon up and put it in a burger or in a salad. But there’s something different about bacon salt. It’s almost subversive. You can’t see it or even sense a texture. Only the flavor comes through. This is partially one of the good things behind it. Since it arrived, I have continued to use it on various foods, but not as much as I thought I would in the beginning. “I’m going to put it on everything!” came out of my mouth as I was ordering it online.

But a strange thing happened when I really thought about bacon salt. I became a taste apologist. It seems exaggerated, but I felt like bacon salt symbolized an attack on taste.

I feel the same way when my father puts Tony Chachere’s seasoning on everything and even more so when watching someone put Tabasco on everything before even tasting it. A surprising number of people want everything they eat to taste the same. I can sympathize. It’s hard to go beyond something that you already know to be tasty. I always get the fried fish, macaroni and cheese, and fried okra at Luby’s.

I’m also an Austinite. I love queso. But where do you draw the line? When does it detract from a dish? My gut answer is NEVER! But think about it. Where do you stop? Parmesan, Gouda, Emmentaler, and Swiss all want to join the party. Same with hot sauce – there are so many brands other than Tabasco. My personal favorite is Trappy’s Red Devil sauce. It doesn’t overpower food. Or I might be going out on a limb here: How about going without sauce or cheese or bacon salt? It’s nice to taste what you’re eating every now and then. Otherwise, it would be more cost effective to eat bread with Tabasco, queso, and bacon salt. (Don’t worry, I’m going to try this soon and will most likely regret making fun of it.)

Garnishing can also be a way of gently slipping into new foods. I avoided raw oysters for most of my life. It was a texture thing. The fact that they look like giant loogies contributed. When I finally dared to slurp one down, an oyster was presented to me with horseradish, salt, a lemon slice, and hot sauce. I was about to face a long-time fear, I wanted to taste every bit of it and find out what all the hoopla was about so I asked for a clean one. Hot damn, that oyster was good. When I had one with horseradish, all it tasted like was horseradish. It seemed pointless to spend money on fresh oysters, shuck them, and then not taste them.

To sauce or not to sauce isn’t simple. Where do you draw the line between a sauce or an accompaniment that complements a taste and one that covers it up? It’s all up to personal taste. Some might be militant about simple and focused flavor. In my opinion, this would be unfortunate because some of the best flavors come from a delicate balance of ingredients and textures.

Fine food doesn’t have to cost a lot but is about this very balance. Too much mustard on your corn dog will give you crunchy mustard on a stick. Even though that sounds good (and I am going to try to develop such a thing) if you pay for a corn dog, you should expect to taste a corn dog. Taste that oyster, hot dog, and Snickers bar, not Tabasco or bacon salt. Wait, what am I saying? It’s called bacon salt. I take everything back. It’s awesome.