First published by Kate Lawson on May 13, 2010

Do you suppose if bacon were called anything but bacon that we'd love it as much? Say the word to anyone other than a vegetarian and watch the response: We adore it. Quite simply, bacon is meat candy.

Ari Weinzweig, co-owner of Zingerman's Deli and Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, loves bacon so much he wrote a book about it. Alex Young, four-time James Beard-nominated chef and chef/co-owner of Zingerman's Roadhouse, says he eats bacon every day, and Iron Chef Michael Symon, whoowns Roast restaurant in the Westin Book Cadillac, has flying pigs tattooed on his chest. If that doesn't say love, what does?

There's a definite bacon boom in the culinary world, and these days, you can find its smoky flavor in everything from dips and breads to seasonings and candy bars.

Chefs and home cooks are going whole hog, folding bacon into muffin and waffle batters, wrapping it around seafood and chicken livers, saving the fat to enhance stir fries and to make chocolate gravy (a Southern favorite), and dipping the crispy cooked strips in melted chocolate to really gild the swine.

Bacon also has had its share of taking it on the chin because of its high sodium, fat and caloriecontent. But compare that to a hot dog or hamburger or even a glazed doughnut, and bacon looks like health food.

But here's the real debate: Is bacon a meat or a seasoning? Both, argue bacon lovers. Serve the salty strips as a breakfast side, crumbled over a salad or pasta or sprinkle the cooked bits on a sundae and bacon is arguably manna from heaven.

"I look at bacon as fine wine," Weinzweig says. "You need to have more than just one in your repertoire."

Weinzweig's self-published book, "Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon," is designed to educate cooks on how to use different bacons. The book covers the wide variety of artisanal bacons found throughout the country and how they differ from mass-market versions.

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