Thursday 20 October 2011

The Debate: When Bad is Good

Good food and bad food are such absolute terms. Nevertheless, there are those who might deem sourdough bread, mature Cheddar and pata negra to be good whilst condemning sliced white bread, American cheese slices and processed luncheon meat (Spam) as being bad. That would be a mistake, as without the so-called bad stuff, some of our favourites wouldn't be half as tasty. Not convinced? Well, let's look at some classics that are enhanced by being a little bit bad.

Bacon Sandwich
Foccacia is my favourite bread, but I'd never dream of using it in a bacon sandwich. And nor should other posh breads like sourdough and ciabatta ever be used. Brown bread? You will be if you try using it in a bacon sarnie that I'm going to eat! That's because bacon sandwiches should be made with soft white bread that's pre-sliced and comes out of a plastic bag. At a push, soft white rolls, such as baps or barm cakes, are allowed too.

Amongst burger die-hards, only one cheese belongs in a cheeseburger: American cheese. That's right, those processed cheese slices (like Kraft Singles) that many people don't actually regard as being cheese. So whilst many cheeseburgers may use mature Cheddar, Stilton or Brie, the burger fundamentalist will ignore these real cheeses in favour of their beloved American cheese slice.

Chinese Hot Pot
There are few finer foodie sights than watching a Chinese hot pot in full flow. As a big cauldron of broth bubbles away, all kinds of goodies are thrown in. My favourites include crab legs, prawns, fishballs, thinly cut beef, enoki mushrooms, pak choi and, of course, noodles. However, many hot pot aficionados will eschew these treats, and make a beeline straight for Spam. I'm not kidding; many Chinese prefer Spam (or the Chinese branded Ma Ling Luncheon Meat) above all else in their hot pot.

In terms of these 'bad is good' examples, there is only one that I believe 100% in: the use of soft white bread in a bacon sarnie. When it comes to cheeseburgers, I happen to prefer American cheese but that's only because I'm partially lactose intolerant, and I have trouble with some real cheese. Otherwise, I couldn't give a toss what cheese is used. On the matter of Spam, I'm afraid I'm a bad Chinese in that I'm utterly indifferent to its charms.

Anyway, what do you guys think? Is my stance on bacon sandwiches, complete bollocks? What about the burger fundamentalists and their insistence on American cheese? And then there's the question of Spam – although, personally, I'd sit that one out. The Spam lobby are a vociferous, and at times scary, bunch. I'm more frightened of them than I am of the burger mob! Oh, and whilst we're at it, I'd also love to hear of any further examples of when bad stuff makes good food taste better.



    My dad calls fish cake (yu beng) 'fish spam'.

    There's always a time and a place for so-called 'bad' food; squeezy sriacha sauce underneath the cheese on toast for example. I don't think bacon sandwiches should be exclusively on white though, I rather like it on sour dough.

  2. Totally agree with you on the bacon sandwich front. It has to be white sliced bread from the bag. I'm ok with it being toasted but prefer it as is.

    When it comes to spam in hot pot I find it doesn't take up much flavour and I feel like I'm eating dog food coated in a bit of chilli/garlic. Meh. Prefer the deep fried tofu - drinks the soup base up like a sponge.

    And with the burgers - I prefer the american variety. I love mature cheddar and stilton - but in a burger I find them over powering and too much - I want to taste the MEAT!

  3. Love Spam. Love bacon sandwiches on white bread. Love American cheese on a cheeseburger.

    Actually, I like a lot of nasty things.

  4. Lizzie - bacon sarnie on sourdough? We'll have to agree to disagree. A waste of good bread and good bacon imho.

    Frank - you're a brave man to diss Spam. The Spam-natics will be out in force to take you down.

    Su-Lin - you ought to rename your blog and call it Tamarind, Trash & Thyme!

  5. There is only one way to eat a Bacon sarnie. Thick cut crusty bread, butter and brown sauce. Nuff said.

    With the burger it depends on the meat. If it is a really good burger meat, then no cheese. If it is average to no tasting meat then i like a cheese fix of mature cheddar.

    But spam, a throw back to my childhood of the 70's. I haven't eaten since the early 80's, but it was always with a fried egg. Couldn't imagine it being any other way.

  6. Defo white bread with the bacon. Glad that Pret has recently starting selling them!

    My parents lightly fry spam (always from M&S) with egg and serve it with plain congee and fried dace!

  7. I'll throw in another one. Those artificial red and white crab sticks in hotpot. Complete and utter nonsense. Love it anyway.

    And yes I am a proud member of the Ma Ling mob. Was so addicted to it for a time I had to go cold turkey for a few years just to rebalance...

  8. Mzungu - you bacon sarnie heretic, you! Crusty bread and brown sauce are OK for sausage but imho it's soft white and tomato ketchup all the way for bacon!

    Olivia - fried dace, that's a blast from the past - I've not had that in years!

    GWMG - 'crab' sticks in hot pot, that makes Spam look posh!

  9. Mr N, I am afraid it is you who are mistaken my friend. A bacon sarnie needs that thick cut crusty to soak up all those bacony juices.

  10. Mzungu - I'll think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one!

  11. I completely agree with GWMG: crab sticks are fantastic in everything. It is my 'fake' food of choice.

    And plain, white bread has it's place in the world, I would agree. And when I eat my (turkey) bacon sandwiches, I always have it on plain white...wit a touch of ketchup.

  12. Mr N - It looks that way ......

  13. Mariya - welcome! Can't say I totally agree on crab sticks, but that's the beauty of when bad is good.

  14. I agree with Mr Noodles - we are in the same company as Fatty Slater who ponces on about bacon butties being best with 'plastic bread'. And about the crusty bread argument - I can't agree that the crust helps soak up the juice at all - the juice is soaked up by the fluffy stuff, not the crust, which just... leaves disappointing crumbs.

    I had no idea M&S sold... spam? Do they have to call it 'chopped meat and ham' as Spam have the tm??

  15. sarah c - Spam's posh name is luncheon meat, and I reckon that's what M&S probably call it.