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October 30, 2009

Craving Bacon? Gastronomy gets gluttonous

Behold, the true breakfast of champions—a chocolate donut covered with slices of bacon, bacon-infused waffles, and a bacon cinnamon roll, all washed down with a bacon maple latte. You might as well wipe your face with a slab of bacon and get out some of those stray bacon bits with some bacon floss when you’re finished. That is, if your heart is still beating.

Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon.

If you can get past your love of Wilbur, the outcries of the Rabbinical Assembly, and possibly your fear of death, you may realize that the savory, salty smokiness of bacon is a force to be reckoned with. To put it simply, bacon makes food taste better. Just ask the contestants on Top Chef or the owner of Voodoo Donuts in Seattle, the originator of the aforementioned chocolate bacon donut. Or call the Vosges Chocolate Company and inquire about their chocolate bacon bar. They will all preach the gospel of bacon and how it makes the world a better place. Though I could probably wax rhapsodic about bacon for days on end, my true subject is the borderline immoral indulgence it represents. Bacon will simply help tell that story.

The concept of extremely, usually absurdly, overindulgent food is becoming a bit of a food trend. Maybe it’s not so much a trend as a culinary revolution, a gastronomic coup d’état. OK, so it’s more of a niche for some very passionate individuals. Regardless of the title, this phenomenon has been popping up all over the foodie radar for the past few years. And though the “add bacon” movement is probably the most prominent example of such overindulgence, it is only the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg lettuce, that is, stuffed with mozzarella sticks, onion rings, chicken fingers, pickles, barbecue sauce, and some prosciutto.

The so-called nexus of overindulgence is without a doubt thiswhyyourefat.com. Since February, the site, supposedly where “dreams become heart attacks,” has been collecting and glorifying the latest and greatest in food that might kill you. Almost immediately after its creation, it was generating one million unique visitors intent on re-creating “Tempura Fried Cheesecake” or the intricate “Thunder Dome: three stacks of bacon, sausage, elk meat, onions and cheese between tortillas all topped with sour cream, two fried eggs and scallions”…which brings a tear to my eye.

Amongst the various deep-fried butter balls, corn dog pizzas, and jalapeño popper casseroles, one particularly terrible creation on the site rose to prominence. This is where bacon comes back into the game—the almighty “Bacon Explosion.” Despite its fear-inducing description (“two pounds of bacon woven through and around two pounds of sausage and slathered in barbecue sauce”), it was soon featured in the New York Times and Daily Telegraph, had a Wikipedia article created in its honor, and now retails for $29.99 online.

There are many fairly direct copycats of This Is Why You’re Fat, all helping to propagate the mantra of overindulgence. However some sites, such as fancyfastfood.com take on food-coma inducing decadance from another angle by attempting to legitimize bad food that already exists. Fancy Fast Food, with their motto of “Yeah it’s still bad for you—but see how good it can look!” demonstrates how upscale cuisine can be created using exclusively fast food items. Some fine examples are “Le Chicken McConfit” (McNuggets) and the “Boston Krème Brûlée" (Dunkin’ Donuts). Though the dishes seem high-end, their contents are anything but. I would like to quote President Obama in saying: “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

So ultimately, is the quasi-religious devotion to overindulgence yet another of the many factors leading to America’s demise? Most likely. Is that a bad thing? Not really. For every single calorie that any of these dishes has, the sheer pleasure that it will bring to its consumer is at least tenfold. Nobody advocates eating these things every moment of every day. Sometimes a little overindulgence is just what you need.

So is a little bacon.

With chocolate.