Homemade bacon

I’ve been enjoying Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Big Book Of Meat. It’s incredibly thorough in giving you all the information you need to understand how to buy, prepare and cook meat for the best results; even without any recipes it would be worth owning. I’ve just tried his recipe for curing your own bacon.

Basically, you make a cure mix of salt, sugar, bay, juniper and black pepper, and rub it into a piece of pork belly once a day for five days, pouring off any liquid that gets pulled out of the meat. And that’s it. If you also include saltpetre, it keeps it pink, but I didn’t bother with that. I’m using chunks of it in a beef and Guinness stew – HFW is very keen on the importance of adding bacon to stews – but I fried a couple of scraps to see what it was like, and apart from going white when cooked it tasted just like proper, high quality bacon. Presumably if I’d used saltpetre it would have stayed pink. This is my lump of bacon with a lump cut off it:


I forgot to say: one of the less important things I like about the HFW book is that all the measurements are in metric. In this country, we’ve theoretically been moving to the metric system for the past 40 years, and still everyone uses a mishmash of units – feet and inches for people’s heights, metres for building specs, miles for road distances, pints for beer – and it’s ridiculous. We should just get our collective act together and stop whinging about it. Food is sold in metric units anyway, by law, so why do all cookbooks still have two sets of quantities in all the recipes?

My latest web design bonnet-bee

I was looking through WordPress themes on the Codex. I find it surprising how many people design themes with flexible-width text columns – i.e. ones where the columns get wider and narrower when you resize the browser window. One of the first things you learn when you pick up a book on typography is that if there are too many or too few words per line, the text becomes difficult to read. That’s one of the reasons newspapers divide up their articles into columns; with such small text, columns running the full width of the page would make it very difficult for the reader.

Picking a book at random off my shelves (a biography of Lewis Carroll, as it happens), it has about 13 words a line. On my computer, this blog has about 15 words/line. I can’t control how it will look on other system/browser combinations, but hopefully it doesn’t have many more than that. But this online version of Ulysses, with the browser window at a fairly typical width for me, had 24 words/line; and more if I stretch the window. That’s just silly.

Web design isn’t the same as traditional typography, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. I just can’t see any advantage to flexible-width columns that would make up for the loss of control over how the text looks – and indeed the overall look of the page. Either decide to support people with small screens, or not, but pick a page-width and stick to it. Of course, if useless bloody Internet Explorer supported the max-width property, that would be a good solution, but you have to work with what you’ve got.