I am one of the co-hosts of the Grannies on Safari internationally syndicated travel show, and I have traveled the world. There is a food item I look for wherever we travel - bacon! And in most places I have found it or a variation of bacon that hits the spot. Some say I am addicted to this meat and well...okay...I am! NO apologies. There is something about this smoky, crunchy (I like it fully cooked), meaty and fatty piece of meat that soothes all my senses. I'm drooling right now...seriously!
This food is one the most addictive and delicious ever, add it to anything - vegetables, hamburgers, wrap it around chicken, beef etc., and you've really got something there!
I've done some research on where bacon comes from on a pig, and I try not to think about what has to happen to these adorable creatures so that many of us can enjoy bacon. I found it's better for me to just think of something else as I chew away.
But when I am in Africa and on a safari, and they tell me my meal for the evening is wart hog, or in Europe and its wild boar, I must admit I don't get too upset. When I see them running around in the "Bushveld" in South Africa with their little tails up in the air, and there are so many of them, I think of myself as just one of the other carnivores helping the environment. After all, they are food for lions, leopards and cheetahs too.
I live in Chicago and know that it was the meat processing capital of this country. So it makes sense that bacon reigns king here. For the past six years I kept reading about Baconfest Chicago, and knew I just had to be there, but each year the date rolled around and we were out of town shooting one of our travel shows for PBS, and missed it. But this year we didn't!
In order to be sure we had a good seat I called one of the founders -Seth Zurer (the others are Michael Griggs and Andre VonBaconvitch) - and asked if we could come and "review" the event; it was sold out and I really wanted to be sure we got in. I told him I was doing "research" on bacon and their festival, and we needed to be there to sample the "wares." This was the 6th annual event and boy was it crowded. Pat Johnson, the other co-host of Grannies on Safari, went with me, and when you read her blog below you can see that although I had to convince her to go, she was more than happy to have attended. Our photographer Kevin Connor had no complaints either - he loved bacon.
I had never tasted so many incarnations of bacon and enjoyed them all. These guys knew their stuff - everything revolved around bacon, and some of the most famous chefs were there with their take on how to incorporate bacon into a creative dish. This was a gourmet event and well worth the cost to get in. I even purchased a bottle of bacon hot sauce and still enjoy it today! The event was also a fundraiser for the Chicago Food Depository and funds from a raffle netted them more than $75,000.
Needless to say, I am hooked and plan on attending in April 2015 the 7th Annual Baconfest Chicago, at the UIC Forum. It was so successful, and given that 4,000 people attended in 2014, I think it's going to be scheduled for the entire weekend. We very much endorse this event especially if you love bacon, and hopefully the pictures below will generate a desire for you to attend next year.
Did you know there are more than 41 (+) festivals celebrating bacon in the USA? The largest festival is the Blue Ribbon Baconfest in Des Moines, Iowa. More than 12,000 people attended in 2014. To find the nearest festival in your area, check out this link, and happy eating!
Now Pat has some words to say about Baconfest Chicago too. Read her blog below. I can honestly say she is a real fan now!
Becoming a bacon connoisseur.
BACON: AN INTERNATIONAL FEAST
I admit it. I love bacon. I am fond of it as a breakfast food and usually order it with that meal at a restaurant. In my defense, I do not buy bacon in the supermarket for home consumption. I'd eat more and that would be too, too much. I'm just being honest about it. Hopefully my internist will not see this blog and my statin prescriptions will continue to be filled.
Recently I was dragged (Regina made me come), kicking and screaming to the sixth annual "Baconfest in Chicago" where I learned that there are a thousand and one ways to enjoy this staple of the American diet. I observed and tasted my way through dozens of restaurant offerings and discovered that bacon is not just a breakfast accompaniment, but also a perfect addition to all manner of recipes for many kinds of gastronomical indulgences. I met chefs there who happily admitted to really enjoying the conjuring up of tasty bacon delights for their participation in the festival.
I was really intrigued: no, excited, by the number of samples featuring desserts. OK, I have a sweet tooth. The selections offered were creative and innovative and included confections that were fried, baked and frozen, and all made with bacon - cookies, frosted donuts, ice cream, and cupcakes. I didn't sample them all. That's the truth; but I did bite into more than I care to admit to.
Baconfest Chicago attracted over the two-day period thousands of bacon foodies who appeared to really enjoy the smells and tastes of this very popular food. Well, I did too. I got my fill of bacon that day for sure, but I'm looking forward to attending next year - after all, someone has to eat all that bacon!
Eating a BLT and enjoying all of it.