I recently gave up bacon and it was easy. That might seem like a treasonous thing to read on a site that’s ostensibly named after the pursuit of the perfect form of bacon, but rest assured the abstinence wasn’t motivated by a flirtation with vegetarianism (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Nor was it down to straight up health reasons (equally virtuous). Rather, I’ve traded rashers of smoked pork belly for seductively thin slices of a cured and smoked ham known as speck. And I’m sorry to say: Bacon simply can’t compete with speck when it comes to the snobbish pursuit of higher taste.
There seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle over the precise origin of speck. Some carnivorous historians point to an Italian heritage; others flag up Germanic roots (and a name that, through translation, unhelpfully comes out as “bacon”). Everyone, understandably, wants to claim it as their own! But wherever speck was truly conceived, it has now been available in higher-end markets for a minute and you deserve to bring some home and revel in the way it delivers all the smokey indulgence of bacon but rounds it out with a sophisticated sweetness from the juniper berries used in its curing process. Imagining bacon crossed with gravlax wouldn’t be an entirely inaccurate way to describe the taste.
Embracing speck makes me think back to a younger, more optimistic version of myself that for a while would insist on ordering Jack Daniel’s at a bar under the illusion that I was sophisticatedly drinking whisky while my comparatively lowbrow friends were swilling down slopwater domestic beers. Then I chanced across an establishment that offered up a properly curated selection of whiskeys—complete with indicators about place of origin and age! Faced with such an alien menu, I used the naive tactic of ordering the second cheapest drink listed. But it only took a cursory sniff and sip to become struck by the revelation that I’d previously been drinking garbage all those years.
Well, that’s kinda how it is with the great bacon to speck graduation. Both meats hail from the same grand family, but speck is like bacon’s suave older relative who can do all of the things bacon can but with a more refined flare. If you substitute bacon for speck in a recipe, you’ll still get the same satisfyingly smokey infusion—just minus all that rendered fat gushing out (which, let’s be honest, most times you’re ultimately throwing down the sink anyway even though you’re not meant to). Making egg cups for brunch? Trade out bacon for speck and marvel at the less oily results. Rustling up some home fries? Let speck pep up those potatoes. Also, a svelte slice of speck on a breakfast sandwich is divine.
In fact, maybe it’s time we all started the day off with the uncomplicated delight of a plate of speck, freshly-baked bread, and French butter paired with a honeyed 18-year-aged whisky from the Orkney Islands. It’s the grown up thing to do.