Culture

Peameal bacon: Toronto's pride and joy

Arriving in Toronto, there was only one thing on my to-eat list - and it wasn't even poutine.

The 'world-famous' peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery caught my attention ever since it featured on Anthony Bourdain's series, The Layover, in which he ticks off as much of the good shit you should actually do in a city within a one or two hour timespan.

With a grand total of 13-hours in Toronto due to my own layover in between flights from Bogota and then to Barcelona, setting achievable goals was important. Hence the peameal bacon being the only one I targeted.

I don't know if you've ever had a layover yourself but they're quite weird. On the one hand, my body needed me to chill the fuck out, have an iced coffee and put my feet up somewhere in the shade. On the bus into Downtown from Pearson International airport, my body was already communicating to me that it couldn't be arsed to start the day on just 3 hours of intermittent sleep.

Usually, my total lack of discipline will allow me to succumb to this early doors, but not then. Not in Toronto. Despite running on fumes, the vast expanse of big cities is something I've always allowed myself to get excited by.

Forcing myself to explore, I did the 1.5 hour Downtown Toronto Walking Tour, drank enough mezcal & beer in the garden of Kensington Market's El Rey Mezcal Bar to forget I was shattered, took a detour through Graffiti Alley, stopped for poutine underneath the CN Tower and even trudged to the opposite side of town to look in the boutique's of the Distillery Market. Carpe diem, and all that jazz.

My pace was somewhat slow as I eventually sauntered down Front Street towards Lower Jarvis Street with the August sun falling on my neck. It was here that I arrived at my destination: St Lawrence Market.

Rebuilt from the rubble after the devastation of The Great Fire of Toronto in 1849, it's been a cornerstone of the city for more than two centuries. More than 'just' an outstanding market, it is a praiseworthy cultural hub, with exhibition spaces and flea markets knitting together the many different yarns of the city together.

As commendable as that all is, it is also the home of the much-coveted peameal bacon sandwich I was yearning for.

Created in the 1970s by Robert & Maurice Biancolin of Carousel Bakery, this simple sandwich has become a staple snack in Canada's largest city. So much so, in fact, that it was named Toronto's signature dish in 2016.

Apparently, Toronto has been affectionately called 'Hogtown' for decades in virtue of the many pork producers that used to inhabit the city. The 'peameal' part of their bacon sandwich originated from workers preserving cuts of back bacon by rolling it a layer of milled split yellow peas.

There's something sacred in the simplicity of a no-nonsense bacon sarnie that has been left untouched by the trappings of modernity. This is a platonic form of bacon and bread, together in perfect harmony.

Left untouched by the trappings of modernity, the fried peameal bacon enveloped in a fluffy white bun and wax paper, with a squirt of the hot-as-a-motherfucker, sinus-clearing mustard approaches the platonic form of the genre.

Seriously though, act with extreme caution with that hot mustard. An everyday squirt onto mine had it knocking on the door of the Scoville scale. Tourists, eh?

food & writing