Sunday, March 15, 2009

14 March 2009: Bacon

I'd have preferred to call this entry "The Ubiquity of Bacon" but for no good reason I have an unwritten rule of one-word titles where possible.

So I gave up bacon for Lent. This will come as a surprise to those of you who (1)know how I feel about bacon or (2)didn't know it was Lent. (Hint: that was what the pancake thing was about a couple of weeks ago).

It came as a surprise to me, too. We were eating pancakes of various descriptions on pancake day (well, American and British) along with much syrup, strawberry sauce, jif-substitute lemon, sugar and of course bacon, when for some reason it popped into my head to think: "what could I give up for Lent that would be something of a sacrifice without being life-threatening?" Chocolate is a frequent answer for many people, but not for me - I can happily live without it, especially the Hershey's nonsense they sell over here (seriously, it makes cardboard taste good and, come to think of it, doesn't have the fibre content of cardboard). So, what else?

Immediate answer: bacon. No question, no contest. That's something I probably could do with eating a great deal less of, and something that might, genuinely, prove an interesting challenge. And, of course, it will save us having to spend six dollars per half pound for not-great-quality imported back bacon from Jungle Jim's.

Of course, it's not the first time I've given something up for Lent. In 1995 (as certain readers of this blog will recall, Gareth), I gave up Pink Floyd for lent. Which all went darn well - I even bought a Floyd CD during this period and did not play it - until Maundy Thursday rolled along and off we went to Spring Harvest. First night, walking towards the Big Top tent, and what are they using to test the sound system? 'Marooned', track four from the previous year's album The Division Bell. Well, what was I to do? Spring Harvest, of all places, were loudly, deliberately breaking my fast.

And so that was it for my giving up something for Lent. I've never even really thought about it since. But for some reason, it came up in my mind, I made the mistake of voicing it, and that was that. No bacon for 40 days. Until Easter. (Except for feast days, of course: well, why do you think there are actually more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter? Sunday is suddenly yum yum bacon day.)

So it led me to think a little more: why now? Why after all these years am I being serious(ish) about a Lent fast? And I think it's this: for years I was in churches with an overtone of tradition, where Lent was observed in terms of sermons and liturgy if not in terms of abstinence practices. And so there was always a pressure - a slight legalistic tendency - to say that giving up something for Lent is the Right Thing To Do. It's just a hint of 'works' theology, just a background whiff of doing something to earn the favour of an angry God. And even after time in churches where there was no - or almost no - traditional church calendar observations, the feeling was still there: no way was I going to cede to the pressure (albeit almost non-existent) of fasting from something because that was the right thing to do. Instead, I'd eat more chocolate. And wear a tee-shirt to church. Because I'm under grace not law, right?

So what happened? Am I older and more beaten down by the institutionalised church? Has Christendom finally got me? I don't think so, perhaps the opposite. Here in the US there's little observance of Lent aside from the Catholic tradition, a few of the more established denominations and (of course) Mardi Gras down in New Orleans. There's no pressure here at all, not a hint, not a whiff. And so, the actual value of a Lent fast came and got me: it's a discipline of giving something up perhaps just to provide opportunities for me to remember why I'm giving it up. So each time I think about having bacon sandwiches for lunch, or on a baked potato, I can think, "no, I'm not eating bacon right now, because..." and thus begins a thought process on a slightly higher plane than the usual "why did Gallagher just stop scoring for Argyle, now maybe if they played Fallon a bit deeper..."

Which brings me to my actual point. It's hard to give up bacon for Lent because bacon is everywhere here. I mean that, everywhere. And it's all heavily-fatty streaky bacon: back bacon is restricted to Jungle Jim's, more or less. But everywhere you go and everything you do, bacon will be there. It's like a metaphor for an omnipresent Creator-Almighty or something. To give you some idea:

  • Chili's mini-burgers come with tiny bacon bits on whether you like it or not.
  • Murder-mystery evening features potato skins as a starter: with crumbled bacon on.
  • Visit to friends' house on Thursday featured chicken breast baked with cheese and bacon.
  • Catered sandwich lunch at work featured sandwiches that mostly contained bacon either as main or side ingredient.
  • Bacon is a regular, common extra for any pizza, salad or frankly anything else you might order.

To be honest, I think the hardest part about being a vegetarian here might be that fact that bacon is everywhere here: it is all, and is in all. How Kevin will survive in August remains to be seen.

Perhaps the best approach is that suggested by Bill Bailey:
I'm a postmodern Vegetarian. I eat meat ironically.

Now, whether I can give up Bill Bailey for Lent...

3 comments:

Rob said...

Hmm... Maybe your aim should be to MAKE Kevin eat bacon! He commented on Friday evening that the cheese and bacon baguette i had ordered for my tea (not had a chance to eat before we met for a drink) looked delicious. So I offered him half, but as always he refused!

Becky said...

I just got Bill Bailey tickets for August :-)

Kevin S said...

Oh no! Does Indiana view vegetarians as suspiciously as Texas?! And Rob's baguette did look delicious but I was not tempted.