For the love of bacon
Baconfest Canada celebrates the best part of breakfast
Nothing gets between a pork lover and his bacon.
In a light-hearted 2010 survey conducted by Maple Leaf Foods, 43 per cent of responders preferred bacon over sex. The survey also revealed that one in five men agreed that some days, they simply couldn’t live without bacon.
It’s surprising then that Baconfest Canada, which has been celebrated in various parts of the United States for years, is only now heading north of the border.
But on Sept. 24, bacon will hit Calgary in a big way as Baconfest will celebrate the cured, smoked pork meat like never before.
“Bacon is the perfect, universal meat,” said Tim “Bacon Boss” Tamashiro, chair of Baconfest Canada. “Canada has a bacon named after it, so it makes sense that we should have a festival of bacon.”
Naturally, Baconfest will have all the bacon one can eat. Local businesses like Crave Cupcakes will be on site with their own bacon-inspired offerings. And for those who like a little less animal slaughter with their meals, there will even be a vegetarian bacon sandwich nicknamed “The Hypocrite.”
There will also be various bacon-themed games and even a bacon poetry slam. Organizers say they’re cramming as much bacon as possible into a single day.
“The piece-de-resistance is the harvest bacon eating contest,” Tamashiro gleefully said. “There’s 18 contestants gonna be timed for a five-minute bacon eating contest.”
The contest will take place at noon on the day of and will be the centrepiece of the celebration.
Although the festival aims to be good, cheery fun, bacon itself is a serious matter. There’s more to it than just picking any old bacon up from your grocer’s freezer.
Derek Wilken, who grew up on a swine farm, explained: “Well, you get different cuts from a pig. There’s the thin sliced kind of bacon that you have there or the rounder, what they call Canadian bacon. It depends on what part of the animal you’re harvesting.”
For reference, most Canadian bacon is cut from the pig’s back and hind, while American bacon is cut from the belly and sides. The British on the other hand usually take from the shoulders. There’s also a speciality Italian bacon made from pork cheeks called guanciale. Then from the rest of the pig you get your sausage, chops and other pork meals. The cut of bacon determines its size and shape.
According to Wilken, the best kind of bacon is farm fresh, without all the preservatives. Although hard to find — as most farms will sell the majority of their flock to big conglomerates — it’s worth it.
Wilken also dispelled some myths about our porky pals. For instance, pigs are not the filthy animals many believe them to be. They keep clean, even in the pigpen, and will always try to find the nicest spots to sit down or sleep in, he said.
And while not every pig can be a Wilbur or Babe, they are a species that is brimming with personality.
“You look in the pen and there’s the leaders and the followers,” Wilken said. “Then there’s the curiosity seekers, the mamas.
“Yeah, everyone has their own structured society.”
Wild pigs are another story.
Mean, vicious and very gamey when cooked, Wilken told stories where old kings would hunt wild boars for sport, and more than a few ended with the boar as the victor.
Baconfest began as a fundraising event for Inviti Jazz and Food Festival 2012, but response has been big enough — with over 600 tickets sold already — that Tamashiro hopes to make it an annual event.
The festival will be held at the Bowness Community Centre on Sept. 24, starting at 10 a.m. and tickets will be available at the door.