Bacon seems to be the most talked about food in America right now, and the salty, fatty goodie is showing up in some very unexpected places–like maple-glazed doughnuts, or bacon-wrapped matzoh balls, bacon in ice cream–and the outrageousness goes on.
Bacon, of course, was a staple in the Civil War Soldiers diet, as well as at home on the farm, where hog butchering was a community event. Cpl. Theodore Wolbach (in “Camp and Field”) mentions that on their march to Vicksburg, the Union soldiers passed piles of Bacon left behind, and stabbed it up with their bayonets as they marched.
“Bringing home the bacon” has come to mean providing income. The origin of that phrase, however, is explained as a practice of a parish church in England by the English Breakfast Society (yes, there is one!) . When a man could swear to the congregation that he had not quarreled with his wife for a whole year, he was rewarded with a side of bacon. That puts a different twist on the phrase–marital harmony rather than providing income, and probably is not what Helen Reddy meant in 1964 when she sang, “I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan.”
Despite the current day interest in bacon pastries, I was surprised to encounter one of those “nothing new under the sun” moments, when I was perusing some Civil War recipes and found a recipe for Bacon Roll Pudding. The recipe was printed in 1864 in Godey’s Lady’s Book , and included in that wonderful cookbook I recently downloaded to my Kindle–Civil War Recipes: Receipts from the Pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book edited by Lilly May Spaulding and John Spaulding.
A few translations:
Two pounds of flour = about 3 1/3 cups
Make into a stiff dough= Mix the flour with 1/2-1 Cup butter and a little water, adding the water by the spoonful and working with hands until it adheres, but is still very stiff. It will be hard to roll out, but will hold the ingredients better than a thinner dough.
Cloth= Cheesecloth or light muslin–tie with clean white string.
The method of boiling puddings in a cloth was very common, and derived from the American’s English ancestors. Pudding could mean either dessert (plum pudding, which is boiled) or a sidedish (Yorkshire pudding, which is baked).
The word pudding includes a wide variety of things that we call by other names, but I did not expect to find an apple-onion-bacon pudding among them. (More about puddings)