This is a call to the world to stop it with the bacon already.
I’m talking to you, 32-year-old man with the bacon billfold.
And you, sorority sister in the GOT BACON? tee.
And especially you, the guy who actually paid money for that bottle of Bakon [sic] Vodka.
I know your reasonings—I’ve seen the bumper stickers—but I’m here to refute the claim that “everything is better with bacon.” In fact, everything is not better with bacon. Whoever told you that was lying. And if you’ve tasted a vodka Collins made with bacon vodka and thought, “Now this is what a cocktail should taste like,” then you were lying to yourself. And you should apologize.
Same goes for you, people who buy those bacon-chocolate bars. Chocolate and bacon together does not taste good. It tastes like a mistake. If you were at a campfire, making s’mores, and the chocolate fell into the fire, and you dug into the ashes to fish it out—that’s what chocolate-and-bacon tastes like. And you know it tastes like this, because humans have taste buds, and yet you eat it anyway. Was anybody eating it 15 years ago? No. But it would have tasted exactly the same way back then. So it’s not bacon-and-chocolate that has changed. It’s you.
But it’s not your fault. There’s a reason you’ve allowed yourself to be bacon-brainwashed. His name is George W. Bush. You ran to bacon when he took office and started tapping your phone line. You found bacon comforting and distracting. Before you knew it you were starting blogs called Bacon Freak and the Bacon Show.
That, anyway, was the half-baked theory I ran by Angela Celio Doyle, clinical associate at the eating and weight disorders program of the University of Chicago.
She wasn’t buying it. “I certainly don’t believe that there’s anything pathological about this,” she said. But for my question as to why bacon—and not, say, Chex Mix—has captured the attention of food obsessives, Doyle did offer an insight. “There have been studies about the way that certain foods trigger certain areas of the brain,” she said. “These foods can trigger certain good feelings. So I wonder if there is a biochemical basis for really enjoying the taste of bacon.”
Another type of food that triggers good feelings, according to Doyle: anything fatty. Like chocolate.
So that may explain the bacon-chocolate thing. But not the bacon pajamas. And not the bacon alarm clock that cooks bacon next to you while you sleep. To explain those things, I called Andre Pluess, cofounder of the upcoming Baconfest Chicago in April and this week’s sold-out Baconfest Preview Cook-off at the Publican. (Actually, I called cofounder Seth Zurer first, but he was at the hospital waiting for his wife to deliver their kid. No doubt that baby is now swaddled in a bacon blanket, if not in bacon itself.)
Why bacon? I asked Pluess.
“I’ve just never encountered a food in my life that I feel so passionately about,” he said.
But why not just eat the bacon? Why do we have to have a festival with bacon sculptors and bacon poets—a festival that Pluess says will result in a “two-day bacon rave”?
“Bacon screams to me: You must give me a platform,” he said. “We want to mobilize our love of bacon into something that will create a communal sense of celebration around it.” He said this as if a communal celebration of bacon didn’t already exist—as if there weren’t panties with the phrase I heart bacon written across the ass. Or a heralded version of bacon that is thick, ketchupy and can be squeezed out of a tube. Or a website dedicated to bacon haikus.
“The thing about bacon that I think is so powerful is the sensory memory that so many people have of their first waft of bacon,” Pluess continued. When he was growing up, “the aroma of bacon was the most comforting thing…it was sort of like a pied piper.”
Has Pluess forgotten where the pied piper leads? I think all you bacon fiends have. But it’s time to wake up and save yourselves. Go to the Bacon Cook-off (if you can finagle a ticket). Break out your bacon sweaters and have a Merry Bacon Christmas. But when Baconfest comes around in the spring, let’s not make it a fest so much as a wake. A goodbye party, before we send this overblown trend over the edge. There are plenty of other worthy foods out there, and at this point it’s either the bacon or us.