Here in Tupper Lake, we take our bacon very seriously. It is doubtless because of our lumberjack heritage.
No matter what time of day we are dining, we can find this undisputed King of all meat products available. Sometimes in the oddest of places.
What is a lumberjack breakfast? In order of essentiality, it is flapjacks, bacon and/or sausage, eggs, potatoes, and toast. It is based on the reality of the strenuous physical work of 19th and 20th century loggers.
Many of them were French-Canadians who settled here during the chaotic times associated with the War of 1812. According to Anita Stewart, influential Canadian culinary author and food activist, much of what we know of this iconic meal was not impeccably recorded. The most accepted inspiration seems to be a meal called Lumberjack's (or Logger's) Breakfast, thought to be served by a Vancouver hotel around 1870. It was "eggs galore, assorted fried pork strips, slabs, and slices, plus flapjacks." If so, it would mean such a substantial meal had already become well-known, and well-named.
"Hearty," says Stewart. "To allow the guys to get into the bush and do the logging -- the tradition of hearty cooking begins with hard outdoor work."
And rightly so. A modern version, at the Denny's chain, is the Lumberjack Slam, which is two pancakes, two eggs, two sausage links, two bacon strips, a grilled ham slice, potatoes (or grits, depending on local tastes), and toast. This is, by modern terms, a whopping 1,313 calories. But back in the day, a real lumberjack would have had up to five meals a day, depending on the day's demands. Their typical breakfast could easily reach 3,000 calories.
According to the archives of The Mendocino Coast Model Railroad and Historical Society:
'Powder Box Pete' could eat three T-bone steaks or seven pork chops. Anna M. Lind, a former cookhouse worker, saw "hungry fallers come into the dining room, sit down at their place at the table, and empty an entire platter of steak onto their plate."
"A working logger such as Dad," Sam Churchill recalled from his boyhood in Clatsop County, Oregon, "could usually handle around nine thousand calories a day of hearty foods including ample servings of pie, cake, cookies, homemade breads and other delicacies."
Lumberjacks often had two raging metabolic demands at the same time. There was the strenuous physical labor, and in winter, keeping their body heat up in below freezing conditions. One British physiology study stated:
"There is probably no harder physical work than lumbering in the forest, particularly in winter." Based on research among woodsmen in eight European countries and Japan, they calculate that chopping a tree at a moderate rate of 35 strokes per minute burns 10 calories per minute. (At 50 strokes per minute - contest speed - usage rises to an astounding 19.3 calories). Bucking burns 8.6 calories per minute (lending scientific corroboration to Anna Linds observation that the fallers and buckers were the biggest eaters); trimming, 8.4; and barking, 8.0. There's no data, unfortunately, on river driving, but "carrying logs" and "dragging logs" burn 12.1 calories per minute! For reference purposes, this compares to 6.1 calories per minute drilling coal, 4.0 laying bricks, 2.0-2.9 at general housework, 2.3 working on an automobile assembly line, and 1.4 sitting at a desk writing an article on an electric typewriter.
While the life of a lumberjack was dangerous, employment came and went, and the pay was not all that high, there was always one attraction that kept loggers coming back: especially when compared to other workers of their time and class, they ate well. “There has seldom been any complain about the quantity of food served in a logging camp,” wrote a government investigator reporting on a 1919 labor conflict. “Serving dishes are kept supplied until everyone has finished.”
Even the earliest accounts of lumberjack meals, which consisted of "beans, pork, and biscuits," relied on the non-negotiable demand for plenty of pork products.
Because Of Bacon
Back in the day, pork was cheap and plentiful and amenable to preservation. North America's Northeastern coast was highly suitable for pig farming; they did not need the acres of grazing land that supported cattle and sheep, since pigs would eat anything. Cured meats like bacon and sausages were especially popular in remote logging camps, where it took a while to develop reliable supply lines.
Tupper Lake continues this tradition with bacon appearing in abundance on many menus in town. This versatile ingredient brings smoky punch to cheese flavors and cream sauces, and contrasts remarkably well with sweet additions like fruit.
Here's the Amado Bakery & Bistro with their wonderful Amado Breakfast: three eggs any style, Amish home fries, house-made bacon or house-made sausage or house-made corned beef hash, short stack butter milk pancakes, toast, butter and house-made jam.
I wouldn't need anything else. All day.
Ohana's 1950's Diner serves a Boss Burger platter which doesn't stop with bacon. This is two 8-ounce burgers stuffed with jalapenos, onion, green pepper, bacon, and your choice of three cheeses. Each burger topped with Michigan sauce, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion rings, and mayo. Served with a load of chili cheese fries. Whew!
Big Tupper Brewing has a number of bacon items, like their Deliciously Marbled: a macaroni and cheese dish with three cheeses and bacon.
They also have two burgers which come with bacon: Headwall, which is two beef patties with cheddar, bacon, tomato and onion; and Underwood, which comes with cheddar, bacon, lettuce and tomato.
Appetizers with bacon? Sure!
Now that I know about The Marketplace Pub & Deli's great shrimp and bacon appetizer, I'm going to be dreaming about it, with those raspberry peach preserves.
Sometimes, too, we just have to think outside the breakfast plate or lunch box.
A Big Finish
A bacon dessert? Certainly. Just stop by the Washboard Laundromat, Donut Shop, and Shenandoah Gift Shop. For all your laundry, donut, and Native American gift needs.
They have the most extraordinary cake donuts with a stunning array of frosting flavors, from berries, peanut butter, chocolate, cinnamon, and maple.
The maple frosted with bits of bacon is a real one of a kind taste treat, with authentic maple and bacon tastes.
Because that's not all there is to bacon in Tupper Lake. We aren't about that wimpy bacon. We tend to offer thick-cut, gourmet-style, bacon on our burgers. And in our macaroni and cheese. And around our shrimp appetizers.
And, on our donuts.
Because we have an incredible heritage to live up to.
Washboard Donut Shop photos courtesy of North Country Public Radio.
This week in ADK news: Bacon!