Today I learned a startling but benign fact: Australian Shepherds (the dogs) are not in fact Australian, but American. That has nothing to do with anything, but I am curator of pointless facts and thus fascinated to discover this.

If you want the backstory — which isn’t the point but is certainly interesting — it’s understood that the dogs originally came from the Basque region of the Pyrenees Mountains, where French and Spanish cultures meet and become another thing entirely. Their ancestors came to Australia at first, and then to America, where the breed developed into what it is today.

(I’m being very vague about that because I came by this information from the internet and I am not a professional dog-fact checker, so, caveat lector. “Caveat lector” is basically Latin for “don’t believe everything you read,” which is perhaps not the most comforting thing to see in a newspaper, but recall that this is a mere wisp of a food column, not a hard news story.)

One assumes the dogs came with actual Basque humans who had reasons for all the traveling, but that’s getting even further off topic. My point is that it seems like facts — or at least our understanding of them — change almost daily, and it’s hard to keep up with them. I can’t tell how much of this is attributed to the reality that I’m getting older, or if it’s that society is going through changes that are altering our fundamental cultural perceptions... or both... or something else.

For instance, when I was a kid, we were taught that when Marie Antoinette (aka the last Queen of France) heard that the peasants were starving because they had no bread, she said, “Let them eat cake.” Further, we were led to understand she said it because she didn’t care at all if the peasants starved.

Then some years later, the story changed: everywhere you read about her, it was declared that she was naive and so sheltered she barely knew that peasants existed and had no idea they were starving. The silly thing assumed that if they were out of bread, surely they had baskets and baskets of cake (likely brioche, a sweet, luxury item in those days) they could eat instead, and she was puzzled as to why they didn’t think of it themselves.

Then maybe a decade after THAT, perceptions changed yet AGAIN, and everyone decided that Marie really did mean it in a nasty, mocking way, and wasn’t even simply dismissing the poor, but grinding them down beneath her silk-shod heel with gleeful cruelty.

THEN, I went to the Wikipedia page for her (not an unimpeachable source, but better than nothing) and now historians agree that probably she never said anything of the kind at all. You gotta hand it to ol’ Marie: she’s been dead for over 200 years and people are still talking about her. It’s always something new with that broad.

In another aside that is still about changing perceptions, I remember the era when, if my body did something weird — sneezed multiple times in a row, popped a joint that made a loud noise, excreted an unexpected substance from an unexpected area — I would say, “Huh! Well, I guess that’s just an unusual but perfectly normal thing my health is doing today!” and get on with it. Whereas today if any of that happens, I become quietly but completely convinced the Angel of Death is hovering at my shoulder.

Speaking of things that will surely summon death AND are part of an evolving cultural conversation, bacon has been an intermittently hot topic for some time. I mean, inasmuch as bacon ever leaves our notice long enough to “return” as a hot topic. Saying bacon ever left is like saying water has gone out of fashion.

Several years ago I was confronted in an online magazine with the headline “DOES BACON BELONG ON CUPCAKES?” The fact that it was accompanied by pictures and recipes of same pretty well answered itself, but for those of us who have no agenda to sell things, the question remains: does it?

From the standpoint of morals, decency and public health, absolutely not. From the point of reckless desire, taste buds and the selfish human id, absolutely and then some. Toss some French fries up there while you’re at it. The question is really more about whether or not it’s currently fashionable to put it on cupcakes. (Answer: well, it isn’t NOT fashionable, so.)

Which brings us, finally, to Christmas and this week’s recipe. I freely admit this is just something from a TikTok video I bumped into, but of course, anything with bacon covers a multitude of sins. (Also, if you’re tired of baking and tensed up at the word “cupcakes,” relax and keep reading.)

Let us say you are at a loss for something to bring to a Christmas Eve party, for which you have been tasked with bringing a meat-based dish (so that the potluck buffet isn’t just cheese balls and potato chips).

You really don’t feel like going to the store and fighting through the 3,947 other people — whom you literally never see the other 11 months of the year, but crowd every commercial building you walk into — just to get a bunch of stuff from that one recipe you found that’s probably impressive but suddenly feels way too complicated.

Or, I don’t know, maybe you’re just making something for your family to snack on while you get Christmas dinner ready. This week’s recipe might well not even entail a trip to the store. Did you buy extra bacon Just In Case? Do you keep a box of Club crackers (Townhouse or even Ritz will do in a pinch, in my opinion) around at all times? Do you have leftover BBQ seasoning from the summer, or maybe acquired some in the office gift exchange? Congratulations, you can stay put!

There’s no set amount of stuff, because the bacon-to-crackers ratio is going to be arbitrary anyway, and I’m not asking you to measure out brown sugar by quarter teaspoons per cracker because I am not a psychopath. Just go with it. You know what you like, and what everyone is apt to like (hint: the correct answer is “more.”)

I really suggest you make as many of these as you can. If they start running out faster than you get to enjoy any, loudly inform people, “Did you know Marie Antoinette invented bacon as a reward for her Australian Shepherds?”

Every word of that is a lie, but it’ll distract people long enough for you to grab a fistful and run away. Keep them all for yourself — none for that guy hovering at your shoulder.

Candied Hot Bacon Crackers

(barely adapted from that one guy on TikTok)

  • 1 box Captain’s Wafers crackers
  • 1 package bacon (NOT thick cut)
  • 1 box brown sugar (dark is always best, but use what you can find)
  • Your favorite BBQ seasoning mix/rub
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper; if using foil, lightly grease with nonstick spray. Cut each slice of bacon into four segments. Line up crackers on baking sheet, close but not touching. Add a piece of bacon to each. Sprinkle each cracker/bacon combo as generously as you’d like with the brown sugar. (I mean, c’mon. It’s Christmas. Don’t Scrooge it here.) Sprinkle with your BBQ seasoning (again, as much as you’d like) and follow with the red pepper flakes if using (ditto). Bake for 25-30 minutes or until it looks like something you’d risk burning your mouth to eat. Remove from oven and cool (don’t burn your mouth!). Serve.