Bacon. Few can resist it’s unique taste and smell. Even in tough economic times, Americans still consume more than 700 million pounds annually. It’s a once unhealthy luxury that has become a staple in many households and eateries.
It’s reported that some 70% of bacon consumed is at the breakfast table, and breakfast is the most common meal whereas bacon is eaten as a side dish. For lunch and dinner, this salty meat is often used as a condiment or “extra” on burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and more. As millions of people have put it, bacon makes everything taste better.
Even people trying to limit “bad” eating can’t seem to kick the bacon habit. Sixty-eight percent of bacon’s calories come from fat, and each ounce contributes about 30 milligrams of cholesterol (half of which is saturated). Yet, we chomp away, throwing caution to the wind. Some of us don’t care about bacon’s potential effects, while others need to have that one guilty pleasure… and bacon trumps all.
Jason Mosely (of Mr. Bacon Pants) put it best when he said:
Bacon is our symbol of freedom in the fight to eat what we want.
But just how did this so-not-good-for-us food become so popular that in nearly every American restaurant there’s at least one dish that shines a spotlight on the cured meat?
For years, Americans saw toast and coffee as the traditional, “real” breakfast. That is until, in the 1920s, public relations expert Edward Bernays – nephew of Sigmund Freud – set out to change our mindset in order to increase the sale of bacon. His method? Survey physicians and publish their agreement that a hearty breakfast was better than a light one. Doctors needn’t say that bacon was good; Bernays just needed to connect the word “hearty” from the surveys to the same word used in advertisements.
While Americans were hesitant at first, Berney’s expertise in manipulation helped convince millions that bacon and eggs was the only true American breakfast. Sales of bacon products increased, and consistently climbed.
Bacon’s immense popularity (referred to as ‘bacon mania’) is based on it’s unique taste and smell. According to Arun Gupta of The Indypendent, bacon possesses six ingredient types of umami (savoriness), which makes it addictive. He explained that bacon has a high flavor profile that creates a “one-of-a-kind product that has no taste substitute.”
Dr. David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating, notes how the standard joke in the restaurant chain industry goes, “When in doubt, throw cheese and bacon on it.” And, it’s true. Throughout the years, more dishes in diners and restaurants include bacon as a flavor ingredient.
While we can credit Bernays for the initial hard push of bacon into our shopping carts, it’s our senses that keep us wanting for more. Quite possibly more so than any of Bernay’s other “babies” during his psychological product pushing. He also helped promote tobacco, Ivory Soap, water flouridation, and Dixie Cups. Yet, searches on the Internet will bring up more bacon fandom than all these other products combined.
While bacon is served in most every non-vegetarian restaurant, and continues to hit home dining tables regularly, eating the cured meat just isn’t enough for true bacon fans. The mania continues, calling for companies to create bacon mints, lollipops, air fresheners and, yes, bacon-flavored gum.
You could say it was psychological manipulation that brought bacon to the table, but that it’s our own psyche that keeps it there.
How about you? Are you just a bacon fan? Or does your life, as you know it, depend upon it’s existence?