The spectacular rise in popularity of pork belly over the last few years has always perplexed me.
As a pork-loving Filipino, pork belly is a cut of meat that I know well and have enjoyed for a long time. I’ve come to appreciate it even more after marrying into a pork-loving Chinese family.
Before it cost $18 a plate in high-end restaurants, pork belly was a humble cut of meat. It is not pig stomach but literally the belly of the pig. And yes, that is the same place where bacon comes from. Some people describe pork belly as uncured bacon, but this cut of pork is actually a lot fattier. For pork belly, the ideal ratio is basically half fat, half meat. This much fat freaks out a lot of people, but many others love its lusciousness.
I was reminded of the ascendance of pork belly while listening to a radio interview with “New Yorker” writer Dana Goodyear.
She was promoting her new book, “Anything That Moves.” The book explores how foods that Americans once considered gross are now celebrated as high cuisine.
One of her comments in particular stuck with me. She said, “The high and low have converged. Elite dining in America now is being substantially reshaped by the foods of poverty or the foods of desperation.”
What does it mean when food that poor people eat out of necessity becomes a food of choice among richer people? Is this discovery or slumming?