Every once in a while a new product comes on the market that is so revolutionary it will change your life. When this happens, I feel that this public forum needs to be used in order to spread the Word so that no one’s life will be untouched by this glory. Yes, you guessed it: I am talking about Lowrey’s Bacon Curls Microwave Pork Rinds.
Let me back up just a moment. I have spoken before about my clinically relevant relationship with food. From that post, you might get the impression that I am an omnivore and will eat almost anything. This is almost true, but not quite. For example, I don’t really like mushrooms. I like the earthy flavor of them well enough, but I have this psychological dislike of chewing a fungus that is genetically almost exactly similar to jock itch. The same goes for most shellfish (clams, oysters, scallops) which feel rubbery and look like globs of boogers.
That said, I acknowledge that on a gut level a lot of what you like is what you grew up with, and a lot of what you don’t like is what you didn’t grow up with. I grew up eating things that most people (in the south) think are nasty. I like gefilte fish which is, if you stop and think about it, yucky little globs of ground up trash fish floating in gelatin. I like whitefish, which stares up at you from the plate. I love love love chopped liver, which is exactly what it sounds like. I used to love love love tongue, until one day I saw an actual cow’s tongue in my grandmother’s refrigerator, about the size of a loaf of rye bread, curled up as if it were licking something, with taste buds prominent and obvious, ready for slicing. Although I would probably still enjoy the flavor and texture, as I used to, I can’t quit thinking about that image.
I didn’t grow up with a lot of traditional Southern foods in my home, despite having spent my early, formative years (up until fourth grade) in the states of Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas. Just about everything Southern is pig related. Pork, ham, and bacon are all staples of primary importance here, up there with bread and milk and toilet paper. Even green beans are pork products, having been boiled along with fat back for the taste. I’ve mentioned before that I grew up Jewish. Although my parents never kept kosher, my grandparents on both sides did, and it just didn’t occur to my parents to cook pork chops or buy a ham because it wasn’t what they grew up with.
All of which is to say that I never encountered a pork rind until I was a grownup. I was initially flabbergasted by them, and never could really understand the appeal of fried pig skin that for reasons unclear to me somehow puffed up like and was sold in the same aisle as a Cheeto. This (going back to my initial ‘it’s what you grew up with’ statement) is all despite the fact that I know lots of people who eat and love gribenes (GRIH-buh-ness) which is essentially the same thing as pork rinds, only they aren’t puffy and they are made out of chicken or duck skin and served with onions, as all good food should be.
So, on to Lowrey’s Bacon Curls Microwave Pork Rinds. Despite the fact that I have never actually purchased a bag of pork rinds for my own personal eating (though I have tried them, and will admit that they aren’t terrible), after twenty-two years of adult living in the south I have come to recognize and accept them as a normal snack food. I expect to see them in big, clear bags on the snack aisle, just like I expect to see tortilla chips.
Yesterday, I went for a depressing hospital visit at Athens Regional with my friend and co-worker, Diane. (But for going to see a new baby, is there any such thing as a non-depressing hospital visit?) Afterwards, Diane and I went to the Varsity for its unique culinary delights, and then we stopped at Fred’s to get paper towels for the office. As I was checking out, there amongst the Tic-Tacs and gum, I saw the package of Microwave Pork Rinds. It looked for all the world like a pack of microwave popcorn. I said to the cashier, “What is this? Is this pork rind flavored popcorn?”
His face lit up like a five year old asked to explain about his Matchbox Car collection. “They are awesome! You know how when you are making pork rinds they are these little flat things, and then when you cook them they get all big and puffy like the pork rinds we know and love?” (Actually, I had no idea, but I smiled and nodded and maybe even said, “Sure” so as not to interrupt this reverent flow.) “Well this lets the microwave do what the oven normally does. And the best part is they are warm and….” At this point he got a very blissful look on his face and his eyes rolled heavenward as he relived the microwave-warmed freshly puffed pork rind experience in his mind.
Naturally, I bought three bags.
Last night, I broke open a package and tried it out. I was instructed to unfold the package, shake it five or six times, and then microwave it on high until it quit expanding. I did, we poured out the contents on to the counter. They tasted like warm pork rinds. Granted, I am not a pork rind connoisseur, but they tasted, more or less, like pork rinds to me, only warm, and between the four people in my family we ate maybe a third of what was in the bag.
But my skeptical, cynical Yankee palate should not be the deciding factor. I want each and every one of you to get that blissed out look the clerk at Fred’s had. If you can’t make it to the Athens Fred’s, you can find it on Amazon. Let me know what you think. We’ll discuss it over a bowl of borscht.