David Sax • Toronto, ON
David Sax is the author of Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen
The Fuzz discovered bacon at summer camp, as did many of us. By “The Fuzz,” I mean my younger brother, and by “us,” I mean Jews. Camp Walden, in eastern Ontario, wasn’t explicitly Jewish, but with its Friday night services and in-cabin hairdryer fights, Jewishness was certainly implicit. The dining hall didn’t serve any pork products, but that didn’t mean that pork couldn’t be found within the bounds of camp.
Swine was generally confined to the world of the Trippers, a ragtag group of misfits who ran the canoe tripping program. They were wild-eyed, long-haired, bearded, and rugged. They lived in the woods for most of the summer, threw hatchets for fun (among their less narcotic pursuits) and held the lives of a dozen kids at a time in their hands, including mine and my brother’s. They were badass pirates of the lakes and provincial parks, and when it came to pork, they were both pimp and pusher.
Out there, in the woods, as the sun rose over a misty lake, our sore, wet, hungry bodies rose to the distinct perfume of frying bacon. The Tripper would remove the package of Maple Leaf bacon from the food barrel, slice open the plastic wrapping with a hunting knife, and peel off strip after pink strip, laying each in a banged up skillet to pop and sizzle. That bacon was an alarm clock packed with salt and protein ready to help us greet the day.
The Fuzz and others’ baconlust was nurtured by another tradition at Walden called Early Morning Ski, when the ski staff would wake at the crack of dawn every few weeks and allow a small group of water skiers to hit the lake when it was a still sheet of glass, following it up with a campfire breakfast featuring all you could eat bacon.
“What’s not to understand?” a kid in my cabin named Craig once said when I asked why on earth he’d wake up at 6 am. “All-You-Can-Eat-Fucking-Bacon!”
The love affair with bacon didn’t take for me. It’s okay, and I appreciate it on a club sandwich, but I’d much rather eat ham or sausage. But The Fuzz fell hard. As he hit puberty, my skinny little brother would come home from school and fry up a few strips as a snack. Years before bacon became a standard condiment and even a foodie punchline, he was putting it on his pizza, crumbling into salad and tossing it into pasta.
My skinny brother disappeared before my eyes, growing beyond my own height and weight, as he sat there, pounding strips of bacon, drooling like Homer Simpson while watching The Simpsons on television. I could blame the trippers for getting my brother hooked, but who was I kidding. Bacon finds its addicts one way or another. And once it does, they are powerless to resist.