Why the Internet loves bacon*
There is a topic that has been wrapping itself around the Web's collective consciousness for some time. And within the last year or so, this meme has become so potent that it can no longer be ignored.
The sizzling phenomenon? Bacon.
If the innumerable blog posts about the salt-cured meat are to be believed, bacon can be added to just about any food, used in place of cotton and leather, and is enshrined on restroom blow-dryers around the country.
What can bacon do? Apparently, it can serve as a lampshade, an iPhone carrying case, a watch, an alarm clock or the building blocks for a creepy-looking "bacon man" shrine. Are people actually carrying around bacon briefcases? Let's hope not.
A meme -- the flavor of the week that propagates quickly through e-mail and chatter on social networks -- can come in many forms: a feline that speaks with poor grammar (Lolcats), a goofy '80s pop singer (RickRoll) or a chubby kid bopping to a Romanian dance song (Numa Numa).
Bacon is as popular as any. Even as I was writing this piece, I was interrupted by a Twitter update containing a link to a photo of a bacon bra.
Yet, no matter how many new bacon products spring up, it seems as though a new one is always a day away -- waiting to delight StumbleUpon users, provide a chuckle for Diggers and appear in dozens of Twitter feeds.
Not that Twitter needs any more fodder for bacon chatter. A common complaint about the short-blogging service is that it's just an avenue for people to tell the world what they're having for lunch. Unsurprisingly, you'll find ...
... tweets practically every minute about bacon sandwiches, bacon burgers and "kimichi stew with bacon." The latter caught the attention of Denny's Twitter account, according to @eldevine.
"I said bacon in my tweet and now denny's is following me," wrote the Twitter user who goes by the name DJ Divine.
It's hard to believe that @DennysGrandSlam is following every person who mentions bacon. But the number of users the account is following is indeed growing quite rapidly.
It seems that no one is immune to the bacon craving. Kevin Rose tweeted a link to Bacolicio.us in December -- a simple tool that places an image of a slab of bacon on top of any Web page (Here's a baconated version of the L.A. Times Tech Blog.)
At the South by Southwest interactive, music and film festivals in Austin, Tex., two models for the geek-erotic photo site Suicide Girls flaunted their new bacon tattoos. And while much of the techie world was at South by Southwest, San Francisco's BaconCamp was competing for the West Coast conference spotlight.
Food bloggers are seeing intense demand for weird bacon recipes. Popular ones include deep-fried bacon with gravy, candied bacon (Lou, a restaurant on Vine Street in L.A., has this on the menu, and the owner estimates that 60% of patrons order it), a bacon-flavored chocolate bar, a chicken stuffed inside of a duck which is then stuffed inside of a turkey and finally wrapped in bacon (called turbaconducken), cheesy bacon rolls, a bacon-cheese-pizza burger and some ungodly hybrid known only as Bacon Explosion. There's even bacon paste, in a squeeze bottle (that turned out to be an April Fool's joke).
The food item seems to be more popular on the Net than the actor who shares his last name with the meat -- results for a Google search for pages containing the word "bacon" without "kevin" far outnumber those for "Kevin Bacon."
But the trend isn't exclusive to Internet culture. Culinary experts say there's a noticeable trend toward pork products, especially bacon.
"I don't know anybody who doesn't love the taste of bacon," said Bonny Giardina, a chef instructor and studio manager for the Hipcook school in L.A. "It's an easy way to make food taste amazing. . . . Every thing tastes better with bacon."
Even some vegetarians find the taste of bacon almost irresistible, experts say. It's a topic that has been addressed before in food publications.
"My sister-in-law, she's vegan. She eats bacon," said Tina Hashioka, director of the Epicurean School of Culinary Arts in West Hollywood and Anaheim. "I really think a lot of vegetarians eat bacon."
Giardina agrees. She says that vegetarians "always say, 'The hardest thing I have to give up,' or, they say, 'The one thing I haven't totally given up is bacon.'"
Regarding the general bacon craze, Anne Smith, owner and director of the L.A.-based New School of Cooking, says the pork explosion may be an offshoot of the trend toward more localized eating. The "slow food" movement, as its called, lends itself to pig meat because the animals can be raised just about anywhere.
The slow food movement "was developed as the antithesis to fast food," Smith said. Her school is preparing to offer a class on cooking with pork.
While bacon by itself still carries a fairly negative stigma -- "Oh God, that's so much fat!" Giardina said mockingly -- it's still the snack of choice for many meat-hungry, cooking-skill-lacking people.
So, why not curl up with a good book -- might I suggest the Baconcyclopedia -- and fry up a plate of crispy bacon.
UPDATED, 8:55 a.m: Though it sounded delicious and less unlikely than, say, a bacon lampshade, the Squeez Bacon paste turned out to be an April Fool's gag from ThinkGeek. Good one!
-- Mark Milian