The End of Baconmania
Our Long Coronary Nightmare Is Almost Over
First, there was Bacon Salt. That was harmless enough. Then came its inevitable progeny, Baconnaise—like Bacon Salt, only with mayonnaise. Then, in quick succession: bacon maple doughnuts; gummi bacon; bacon-flavored lip balm; chocolate-covered bacon; bacolicio.us, a URL add-on for superimposing a photo of a strip of bacon onto any webpage; the Wendy's Baconator (self-explanatory); and the Bacon Explosion, a bacon-wrapped loaf of pork sausage that was the subject of an 1,100-word article in the New York Times. Not to mention bacon vodka, bacon tattoos, the bacon bra, bacon-flavored dental floss, and bacon bandages.
For a while, loving bacon was the anti-foodie food trend: snobbery (what, you don't like BACON? I guess you've never had the good stuff) disguised as egalitarianism (everyone can afford it; everyone loves it). Ostentatiously declaring one's love for, and consuming large quantities of, bacon (and its partner-in-trend, pork belly) became a sign of joie de vivre, an indication that you were spontaneous, fun, up for anything. Suggesting that a battered, deep-fried, bacon-wrapped bacon sandwich might not be the subtlest or most enjoyable food experience, conversely, meant you were a killjoy. And suggesting that massive bacon consumption might have health implications made you a food Nazi—one step up from a granola eater or, worse, a vegan.
Thankfully, baconmania has almost run its course. Trends inevitably go through their phases—early adoption, buzz, general excitement, overexposure—and bacon is in its terminal stage, clinging to relevance, grasping at any opportunity to cash in on its dwindling cachet as its 15 minutes come to an end. (Swine flu is not transmitted via pork consumption, though it doesn't make it sound very appetizing.)
One such opportunity was the recent "Baconopolis!" a Tom Douglas–hosted event at the Tom Douglas–owned Palace Ballroom, featuring Tom Douglas–branded bacon-related door prizes and 10 "bacon-enhanced bites" produced by Tom Douglas Restaurants. Several hundred people paid $20 a head to line up for bites of greasy bacon tempura; bacon-spiked, mayo-based pea salad; miniature bacon, peanut butter, and banana sandwiches; breadless BLTs; and so forth.
The snacks were fine, if totally uninspired—pork and beans may indeed be better with quality bacon, but they're still pork and beans, and if you've had one forkful of carbonara, you've had them all—but after eating 10 supersalty bacon snacks, I felt dehydrated, not deeply fulfilled. Maybe, in different hands, an ingredient like bacon could have been used to gentler effect—I'm thinking Fran's chocolates with salted bacon, say, or miniature bacon waffles with syrup—but Baconopolis! was everything that superfluous exclamation mark implies: loud, flashy, and unsatisfying.
But people weren't really there for the food—they were there to profess, with their presence and by making some noise, their LOVE! OF! BACON! The crowd—well-dressed late-twentysomethings in standard-issue Belltown uniforms (tight jeans and heels for the ladies, polo shirts for the men)—had all the affected enthusiasm of late adopters, like when your parents started texting you 20 times a day or when Seattle hipsters discovered kickball. I like free stuff as much as anyone, but does a $5 bacon wallet and a trio of Tom Douglas–brand spice rubs merit screaming as if you've won the lottery? (One woman, upon winning a bacon-and-eggs shopping bag, screamed so loud she prompted Douglas to quip, "We have a squealer! A BACON squealer!") I get it—bacon tastes good—but it isn't so uniquely delicious, so superlatively perfect, that it needs its own party, much less its own lexicon ("baconopolis," "baconitis," "bactionary," etc.).
Bacon can be wonderful, in its place—as a side order with eggs and grits, for example, or sprinkled over a wilted spinach salad—but there's only so much of it I can (or one should) eat at once, and that's not much. I'll take a nice piece of mellow soft-ripened cheese or a fresh radish dipped in butter—or, hell, a bowl of red beans and rice cooked with plain-old salt pork—over a fatty, greasy hunk of bacon any day.
And soon, so will you. Take off the "I Love Bacon" shirt, cancel your trip to Baconcamp, and go eat a piece of celery. It's over.