Britain’s Pride: The Bacon Sandwich

By Tim Hayward

Published on April 1, 2011

The bacon sandwich is essentially nothing but pork, bread, and salt, the same way that "God Save the Queen" is just words and a tune. Though we Brits claim roast beef and Yorkshire pudding or fish and chips as our national dish, neither has an ancient provenance. The family pig, on the other hand, preserved in the salt that surrounds our island, slapped between two slices of bread, and dubbed a butty, a piece, a wedge, a doorstep, a sanger, or a sarnie, depending on your region of origin, is older than our monarchy, and probably more important to us.

The bacon sandwich is one of the few truly egalitarian foods, served in the most unhygienic of greasy spoon cafes and greedily unwrapped from fine linen on freezing grouse moors, from the northernmost reaches of Scotland to England's Cornish peninsula. It is the corrupting nemesis of vegetarians and a sovereign hangover cure. There are opinions aplenty on the type of bread to be used, ketchup or brown sauce, smoked or unsmoked bacon, the possible addition of an egg, and a million other variations. To have a favorite version is one of the Englishman's most dearly held liberties, yet the bacon sandwich in any form unifies the nation.

Chef Fergus Henderson has long championed such simple British food. At St. John Bar and Restaurant in London, he serves what I regard as the ur-bacon sandwich: smoked back bacon from Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs on thick slices of grilled white bread. Of course, Henderson has a theory about its appeal: "We all react the same way to the smell of frying bacon. Rather like chocolate produces the same endorphins as falling in love does, bacon speaks to us all. Once slipped between white, crusty bread and smeared with brown sauce… now we're talking!" —Tim Hayward, editor of Fire & Knives



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