You’re reaching the end of your appointment as a national bacon critic for ExtraCrispy.com. Please remind us how you got the job last year?
Sixteen hundred people applied for this position, and I got it. Everybody who applied had to do so with a 600-word essay, and that’s not a lot. You have to choose your works wisely. One night, I found myself writing in my head in my sleep and realized I had a bacon story. I invoked Dante and all the things I’d learned in classic literature. I have been, you see, in bacon heaven and in bacon hell. Hell was working as a bartender and server in a restaurant in Brooklyn. It was hell because they had some of the best bacon I’d tasted in my entire life—life-changing bacon, and I think it is for a lot of people, especially vegetarians. The problem was that we weren’t allowed to eat it. They were getting Hampshire pork bellies from upstate, dry-rubbing them and curing them and smoking them in-house. Glorious, expensive; you’re not going to give that to the staff, but we had to serve it and smell it all day long. It was torture.
And bacon heaven?
It was working for Brendan Cahill at that same New York restaurant. He’s famous for inventing what we called “Christmas biscuits”—buttermilk biscuits with rich, white gravy, Sriracha, chives and scallions—red, green and white, and bacon bits on top. Mid-shift during an angry brunch, when you’re filled to the eyeballs with murder, a Christmas biscuit will save your life and restore your respect for humanity.
What have your learned during your appointment?
Bacon is always going to be bacon. It’s like sex; never bad, it’s still bacon. How bad can it be? But this job did not exist before I got it, and figuring it out was half the job. I interviewed other niche critics, like the pot critic in Denver and a barbecue critic in Austin. How do you do this? What’s going to happen to me?
My whole family was worried. “What’s your weight like? What’s your sodium? What’s your cholesterol?”
What’s your favorite bacon?
During my regime, I found that Bill-E’s in Fairhope, Alabama, makes one of the best in America. And the absolute best might be Fermin Iberico bacon from Spain; it had me melting, weak in the knees.
I found that I prefer cured bacon. It’s not like there is actual uncured bacon, but what “uncured” means is that it’s cured without curing salts, pink salt. “No sodium nitrites,” that’s the bacon you want to avoid… If uncured, it’s only good fresh. You can’t leave it in the fridge for three weeks like you would as a bacon critic and also as an idiot.
Being a fair critic also relied on my own cooking skills. My perfect method is 400 degrees in the oven on a wire rack, nested in a sheet tray. You start at 12 minutes and go from there. Everyone likes bacon different: Chewy, soft or crispy. My father enjoys his burned in the fires of Vulcan. When a Roman god is done with it, that’s when Mel Gold knows his bacon is done.
Finally, how’s your weight? How’s your sodium?
DO NOT ASK ME THIS QUESTION. Secondly, I’m fine. I just had a check-in with my doctor, where they tested my liver using a method invented to test the ripeness of cheese, an ultrasonic fibroscan. If a truly damaged, cirrhotic liver is like a 4 to a 5, I’m somewhere between a 0 and a 1.
For a thicker slice, Gold’s complete report can be found here.