This sizzlin' episode is all about Bacon. Lia tells us the story National Bacon Day, created by “two nice Jewish girls” inspired by a classic episode of The Simpsons. We hear about the awesomely-named Iowa Porkettes, wives of hog farmers who joined forces in the 1960s to save the pork industry. Finally she asks, as so many have, what’s the deal with “Canadian Bacon”? In our Deep Dish, Anna revisits one of our favorite topics, food trends! We look at how in the last 20 years Bacon became the hottest food craze this side of Pumpkin Spice. This bizarre story starts with 1980s diet culture, and leads to a secret pact between a pork marketing exec and a fast food mogul made at a hotel pool during a 1990’s pork convention in Florida (picture it). Once the Bacon craze started to sizzle, the advertising took a dark turn, moving from positive ads targeting a wide audience, to disturbing negative ones aimed mostly at men. Which makes Anna wonder, is Bacon the gateway meat to toxic masculinity?
Connect with us at @FoodDayPod on Instagram & Twitter, join our Facebook Group, and check out our webpage.
Explore from the show:
Watch Michael Scott risk life and limb for bacon on The Office.
Relive your childhood with this Pork, The Other White Meat ad.
Listen to more about the damage caused by toxic masculinity on Hidden Brain's episode "The Lonely American Man."
Hear a very important Bacon PSA from Ron Swanson on Parks & Rec.
Hi Listeners! Its Lia. And I’m excited to tell you about the new Yumday snack shop. The shop features a curated selection of wholesome snacks from diverse founders of innovative food brands. The tasty treats are from women and people of color who are doing incredible things in the snack space. As well as mission driven and sustainable brands because who doesn’t want to snack for good? So head over to Yumday.co where you can joyfully discover your new favorite snacks and snack makers. And for a limited time, our listeners can use promo code “fooddaypod” to get a discount at checkout. Visit Yumday.co/podcast for details. Happy Snacking!
Hi Everyone! From YumDay and Van Valin Productions, this is “Every Day is a Food Day”
I’m your host, Anna Van Valin.
And I’m your other host, Lia Ballentine. On “Every Day is a Food Day,” we celebrate food stories, from our calendars to our kitchens.
Food stories are people stories, and today’s food stories are sizzlin’.
Because this week, we’re talking about BACON. I’m going to tell you about National Bacon Day, which was started by two nice Jewish girls, chat about Canadian bacon (is it just ham?), get into college bacon parties, and sing the praises of the outstanding Iowa Porkettes.
Then in the Deep Dish, we’re revisiting one of our favorite topics: food trends. I’m going to tell you how a bacon surplus brought on by 80’s fat phobia and a secret pact between fast food chains and the pork industry led to a bacon craze. And ask the foodlisophical question: is bacon the gateway meat to toxic masculinity?
And for more info and resources, check out our show notes and visit us at yumday.co/podcast.
To help other listeners find it, leave a rating and review. Be sure to subscribe and connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @FoodDayPod and join our Facebook group.
THE OFFICE, Michael burns his foot
Michael: No, god!
Jim: Hey, whoa, ok, Michael. It’s Jim. Just say again really loudly what happened.
Michael: Okay, I burned my foot very badly on my Foreman grill and I now need someone to come get me and bring me into work.
Jim: You burned your foot on a Foreman grill?
Michael: I enjoy having breakfast in bed. I like waking up to the smell of bacon, sue me. And since I don’t have a butler, I have to do it myself. So, most nights before I go to bed, I will lay six strips of bacon out on my George Foreman grill. Then I go to sleep. When I wake up, I plug in the grill, I go back to sleep again. Then, I wake up to the smell of crackling bacon. It is delicious, it is good for me. It’s a perfect way to start the day. Today I got up, I stepped onto the grill and I clamped down on my foot, that’s it. I don’t see what’s so hard to believe about that.
Today we are gonna get deep in the grease. We are gunna get sizzlin’.
Gunna get a little crispy.
The belly of the beast. The pork belly that is.
The pork belly!
I apologize. We warm up with puns now. That’s how we do it.
I think the pun warm up is just a beautiful thing.
Alright, Anna, so Bacon Day, National Bacon Day celebrated on December 30th was founded in 1997. By, quote, two nice Jewish girls. Their names are Dania “D” Goodman and Mef “the human Cannonball” Leonard.
Can we be their friends…
I know, I was just thinking that.
Where are they? De and Mef. Call us. Call us. Special guests.
I’m doing some Googling. I think I found you guys...
Girls get ready.We wanna be your friends. Come on Food Day.
We really do. So yeah, these two girls started this day in ‘97, and they did it because they wanted to shake up the winter holiday season by creating this day that they called the Feast of the flesh.
I also wanted to know the story behind two nice, Jewish girls creating a pork day.
Well see, one of the reasons they decided to have this was they had a diverse group of friends, and they wanted to do some kind of celebration in December that was non-denominational and sort of just like a fun gift giving thing, and they thought, Hey, bacon sounds good. Plus were also fans of The Simpsons, Where they got inspired to make this National Bacon Day.
Wait, what's the Simpson's Tie in? In this particular situation.
The episode of The Simpsons, where Homer is sitting at the dining table, getting ready for breakfast and Marge hands him a plate that has bacon and eggs that spell out I love you.
The Simpsons “Bacon Day”
Marge: “And this is for my Huggy Bug in honor of this special day.
Homer: Special day? Oh, what have I forgotten now? She’s getting impatient. Take a stab at it. Happy Bacon Day?
Homer: Honey, please. Just listen to what I have to say.
Marge: Ohhhh….<car starting sound>
So Homer I guess actually made up Bacon Day in this episode.
These ladies were just fulfilling Homer's dream of a bacon day.
What's great is there's... The website that they put up for bacon day is still there. And it goes through a whole thing of like the four commandments for celebrating bacon day. Oh wow. Yeah, which thou shalt eat much bacon.
Thou shalt watch movie starring Kevin Bacon. Movies with bacon in the title, it's another one. Thou must invite to thine Gala as many people as you know. Another fourth commandment was, Thou must get at least one person a gift on bacon day, preferably Mef or Dee. So ladies, I wanna find you because I will send you a gift for Bacon Day. Dania and Mef also have a list of how to celebrate, one of the things that they recommend, which I like is you gotta sneak a kiss under the pork fat mistletoe.
Pork Fat mistletoe? Is it just a sprig of mistletoe dipped in pork fat?
That's my guess. That's like how I would DIY it. It's just like a little greasy piece of mistletoe... Or you could maybe just like hot glue gun, something to mistletoe, maybe a little crispy pork belly on there.
You could take the bacon and try to fold it over and the leaves. Basically a mistletoe sculpture of bacon. That would make anyone wanna make out with you.
That's true. It’s like, Guys, pork fat mistletoe. Now, if you missed celebrating on December 30th since that just passed us, you've got some time to gear up and mark your calendars because there's also International Bacon Day on September 4th, this year.
Widening the scope.
This was started by three grad students, so it seems like college students are just all about starting bacon parties and bacon days...
I think you get to college and you go to the food hall and there's just bacon there.
You know, that is a really good point because gro wing up like... It's not like we ate bacon all the time, it was kind of a special treat... Right. Yeah, I guess when you get to college and you're like, What? I can just grab bacon every day for breakfast. Right, it's like a super cool thing.
Yeah, college grad school is a Mecca for bacon. Carry on.
It is. So these three grad students were from the University of Colorado Boulder, their names were Seth Writtenhouse, Evan Salem, and Alexa Halford, and they decided to have this International Bacon Day celebration on the Saturday before Labor Day. So they kind of got this thing started, reached out, and I guess because they did this, I think it was in the early 2000s, they had a little more of like a social reach, being able to use the internet to spread the word about International Bacon Day.
Yeah, so I think Google kind of picks this one up as more of the Official Bacon Day...
Yeah, I like that, that it's the week before Labor Day, 'cause it's like, that's when you go back to college. Right.
Yeah, so bacon party. Like...
Kick off that semester. Right, guys, bacon party.
Now, what makes it international? Do they just call it that? Or do they have sister celebrations around the world?
They do have the sister celebrations around the world, so these students, I guess we're pretty good at the PR and the marketing of international Bacon Day and joined forces with... There was a group called the Royal bacon society that had posted stuff on Facebook and online to celebrate Bacon Day, and so their Bacon day was, you know, it spread globally in a short amount of time, they did a good job. A good job. University of Colorado, Boulder grad students.
Youth, the youth, the youths... They're not youths. I was in college in 2000. They are not youths. They are the exact same age as me.
And of course, if you just need excuses to eat bacon on other days, there is a National Bacon Lovers day in August, on August 20th. And then March 3rd, you have national Canadian bacon day. I don't know. Does that really count?
Yeah, it's just ham, guys.
Yeah, it's just ham.
Just grilled ham. Mm-hmm.
See, I've read a little bit about Canadian bacon, and I've read this thing that called it pea meal bacon, because it used to be like the pork belly or pork preserved and cured in dried yellow peas, and now they use cornmeal. Is pea meal bacon really Canadian bacon? or is Canadian bacon Just ham? Someone tell us. The internet’s giving me conflicting information.
If anyone knows the secret to Canadian bacon, please tell us. Maybe it's just a trick, they're trying to see if they can get everyone in the world to call ham Canadian bacon... Fell for it... We fell for it. Damn it.
That's good, that's so good. So sneaky.
Alright, so we talked about bacon holidays... Yeah, what other... bacon celebrities? Bacon festivals. What do we got?
Okay, so yeah, there are a ton of bacon festivals. There's a bacon and barrel Festival in Tennessee, my home state, Nashville & Chattanooga. There is a Bacon and Beer Classic, which is actually a touring festival that showcases bacon and craft beer, and this was started by a woman named Kate Levenstein about six years ago, and she does other epic food pop up, so she takes over Stadium and then host like this crazy Bacon and Beer bash. PA has a bacon fest. There's a beer, bacon and music festival in Laurel, MD. There is, here in Texas, bacon bash started in 2012 as a fundraiser, and then I saw that there was an Iowa State bacon Expo that started in 2013, and it's touted as one of the nation's only student-organized bacon festivals.
Where they like. There's enough student-created holidays, we need a festival.
Yeah, we need a real festival. So yeah, Iowa State bacon Expo. It happens, and I was like, why Iowa State? So I did some Googling and I figured out, thanks Google that Iowa is one of the leading producers of pork. I started looking into Iowa and this whole pork economy and pork industry, and I discovered something really interesting.
Oh, tell me.
Okay, so Iowa is the top pork producer in the US today. But that wasn’t always the case. So, back in the 1950s, there was a decline in family farming. Small farms were going away, and unfortunately in Iowa, that also affected pork production. There was also growing concern about the impact of pork on health. Folks, in the city, were starting to question the wholesomeness of pork products, like bacon. So in the 1960s in Iowa, a group of concerned women came together to try to save the Iowa pork economy! And these women were the wives of hog farmers, and they were on a mission to do whatever they could to try to preserve their families’ livelihood. Their way of living. And these women called themselves the Iowa Porkettes!
So, the Iowa Porkettes was started by Jan Johnson, the wife of a hog farmer. As you’d expect, she was really knowledgeable about pork, the pork industry, and she knew all about how to cook with pork. She was on a mission to reclaim pork as a good food that everyone should be able to have and cook, and she also wanted to ensure that their family hog farm could stay in business. So Jan decided to gather this group of women together, who were also the wives of hog farmers, and together they’d find ways to promote pork products in the state. In January 1964, the Iowa Porkettes was officially born. And they had launched with a group of 40 members -- and Jan was the president! The Porkettes became a women’s auxiliary group to the Iowa Pork and Swine Producers Association, and they would go out in the community promoting pork through different events and cooking demonstrations. They also just continued to bring in more members during the year, and by the end of 1964, the Porkettes had over 200 members.
I mean that kind of makes sense to me though because I’m sure that the wives of the hog farmers were also kind of hog farmers themselves. I mean they probably were involved in these operations. That’s why they knew so much about it. And they’re the ones cooking it. Like, they’re the ones making it for their families. That’s kind of what we have talked about before cuz even though women were, quote, just in the kitchen, they are incredibly knowledgeable and they can share that knowledge, and they can fight for, you know, their families and what they want to fight for. so yeah, that’s awesome that 200 women came out of the woodwork, and were like, I know pork.
Right. I know pork and I know how to fix it so lets do this thing. So by the mid-1960s, the Porkettes became a growing group. They were really stepping outside of the farm, outside of their roles as farm wives and were kind of becoming public figures. They were promoting pork at fairs, at markets. In 1965, they organized this thing called the “Pork Queen” contest. It was, you know, sort of like a pageant.
Was it an eating contest?
You know, if it was an eating contest, like I would have signed up for that right away. But this one was kind of like, a little bit like a pageant, you know showcasing your knowledge of pork and the industry and the person that won the contest, who became the “Pork Queen” was kind of a spokesperson for the Porkettes. So, interestingly enough, the Iowa Pork Producers Association still has this contest today! But it’s more like a youth ambassador program. You know, this person that speaks at different fairs and markets and goes to schools and talks about the industry.
That’s really fascinating. Because, you know, there are 4H clubs and like young farmers, young growers associations in high schools and stuff like that. So, that’s a cool way to make sure that women are involved. I mean, I don’t know about forcing them to be in a pageant.
Yeah, I think it’s kind of like more of a scholarship program right now and it’s cool that they still do it today. But you know, as a side group, they kinda needed ways to finance a lot of these programs they were starting. So in addition to the demonstrations, the classes, and events, the “pork queen” contest, the Porkettes also began selling pig-related items at these fairs. In 1976, the Porkettes created their own for-profit company called the Iowa Pig Skin Corporation.
They had merch? There was Porkette merch? I love it.
They had real merch. I think what was interesting was, so not only were they promoting pork as food, but they also tapped into the use of the whole pig. You know, nothing goes to waste. And so, the idea that you can use pork hides, you know the pig skin, to make different items like accessories, garments, furniture, was something else that they were doing. And they started a company that did that.
That’s so cool. They really put their money where their snout is.
Towards the end of the 1970s, at the Porkettes had grown into a group with more than 400 members. They are now super active promoting the pork industry all over the state. They even had a cute mascot called Lady Loinette at their Porkette events.
Okay, whoever does the marketing and the branding at the Porkettes is like, on fire. Lady Loinette. I love how they are giving themselves titles.
Absolutely. I mean they were all over. And it was the Porkettes that really started to create new ways of marketing pork. So At this point, they weren’t just farmers’ wives anymore. They were really driving the promotion and marketing of the industry. They had voices that were being actually heard, and they started to take their place in the pork producers meetings, joining committees, taking on leadership functions, and they just eventually, like merged with the IPPA, the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
You know Shirley Chisolm said that if they won’t give you a seat at the table, pull up a chair. And it sounds like exactly what these women did.
That’s totally it. This expansion of the Porkettes happened alongside the greater Women’s Movement. When Jan Johnson started the Porkettes, her main goal was to do this thing to help her husband and their family farm. But what was really happening, what she seemed to be driving, was this movement of feminism in agriculture. Women were taking the lead. They are the ones pushing farming and its importance. And you know what? They were just as knowledgeable as their husband’s, if not more, because they knew the way the industry worked, they knew what consumers wanted to get. They knew all sides of it!
Right, exactly. They were both the producers and consumers, because they were cooking it for their family.
Mmhmm. so As Porkettes began to attend the producer meetings, they started to challenge the men with their own ideas on how to promote the industry. They were responsible for driving some large scale campaigns, developing new ways to advertise pork products, and just growing the pork industry overall in Iowa. And, eventually, because these Porkettes have claimed their seats at the table UM the organization dissolved 1991, because they had pretty much taken over. It’s kind of a cool thing that the organization, you know, ended. Because there was no need to have the side women’s group. They were now in it.
That’s a great story. It’s a great story just to hear a women being so successful in what they’re trying to do and getting professional recognition. I love that they were coming into their own within this context of the pork industry using their own expertise and at the same time as so many women were coming into their power, right? We're coming into their own. It’s just such a great example of what a movement is.
I mean, they knew what was going on. What was happening in the kitchen and what was happening at home, you know, as a consumer. I mean, I guess in a sense, you could say that they had the chops to get it done.
Yes, worth it. It was all leading to that.
This whole thing was just this.
This whole thing was to get that pun in. And it was worth it. honestly it was worth it.
Oh, I’m glad.
It does not surprise me that there’s this much celebration of bacon
Yeah, I’m not surprised either
Up next in the Deep Dish, I’m going to tell you how the 80’s diet craze and a poolside conspiracy led to bacon on everything. And why this food trend is so manly…
So the other day we had Fat Kid Friday. is what we call it. On Fridays/
#FatKidFriday. On Fridays we tap into our inner fat kid and we order whatever food we want. And I wanted a big a** black and blue burger. But I got the lettuce wrap 'cause you know, I'm health conscious so I got I got the sweet potato fries.
Went for the healthy, healthy option.
I really restrained myself. However, I did ask for bacon on it. And you know, Lia bacon wasn't even an option. I went to the special directions box that I typed in, “Please put bacon on it.”
They're like, this is somebody who knows what she wants.
This is somebody who's been reading and thinking about bacon for a week. To write a podcast episode.
They got the order in and were like, it must be fat kid friday. I like that.
I encourage everyone to tap into their inner fat kid. But putting bacon on your burger - As much as I love it, as much as I like to think, it's my choice. I'm going to tell you that that idea was planted in my head a long time ago.
Oh my gosh, you got Inceptioned?
I got Inceptioned by the National Pork Board.
The Pork Board.
The Pork Board, say with me everyone “Pork Board.” It's hard to say. I've been practicing it all day. Pork Board. That's right. I got bacon Inceptioned by the National Pork Board.
I was really excited to talk about bacon, because it has become such a craze in the last few years, and we've talked about food trends, right.
We've talked about food trends, listeners, if you haven't listened to our pumpkins episode, which is episode 2, check it out... What are you waiting for? It's a great episode. But in the Deep Dish there, we talked about pumpkin spice and how it was tied to what was actually going on in a larger society, and the conclusion that we came to was that food trends are about feelings, and there are reasons why they happen, how they reflect society and what meaning we assign to them. So Bacon is absolutely a food with a fandom, right? and like pumpkin spice, that means that they can find its way into odd foods and flavors and scents and items. So I thought that I would give a little list of weird bacon stuff that I found kind of like we did in pumpkin spice, ready? It's not as extensive, it's not as extensive. But it’s pretty great.
But just as weird.
But just as disturbing. So we've got band-aids, band-aids that look like bacon strips. Bacon scented wrapping paper Bacon vodka, chocolate covered bacon, bacon hot sauce, bacon salt, bacon Cotton candy, bacon soda, bacon pretzel chips, bacon flavor syrup, like what Emma talked about in the maple Bacon latte. Bacon spam, obviously. And bacon lube.
What? Like, lube, lube?
Lube, lube, like not for your tires. Not for your breaks people. Like Bacon lube, yeah so bacon scented and flavored lube.
That is so gross. That’s nasty.
Yeah, it's by a company called Amore Oral. And I don't feel like talking about it anymore. So yeah, people love Bacon and speaking of lube... Oh God, stay with me, stay with me. Okay, Maple Leaf Foods, a Canadian food company, did a study and found that 43% of respondents prefer bacon to sex.
Yes, 43% of respondents would rather be eating bacon... Yeah.
And what's interesting is that 82% of those respondents that would rather be eating bacon believe they are excellent lovers, and so I feel like they're... Like maybe there's a disconnect there?
Yeah, I don't know about that.
But you know what's great about us, you know what's great about America, Lia?
We don't have to choose. We don't have to choose between our bacon and sex, you can have both, you can have one or the other. You can have one right after the other, we got bacon lube.
Right! The lube let's you do both.
That's freedom. Bacon lube is freedom. Oh my God, I think a bald Eagle crying a single tear just flew overhead. It was so beautiful.
BALD EAGLE CRY
I think that proves my point. This is very clearly a food craze. And it’s interesting because it’s kind of like a reverse food trend. Instead of starting out in fancy restaurants and kind of trickling down to the public like most food trends do, this one is a very very common food that kind of got rediscovered in the last 20 years and worked its way up to the high eschilans. So we are going to talk about that. And the other thing we are going to talk about is this is also a gendered food trend.
So we talked about pumpkin spice and how it's been sort of feminized along with other foods like Rose and cupcakes and stuff like that, and the value that we assigned to it, but this one is very masculinized and meat has always been considered more masculine, but this seems to go a little step further. So sometimes gendering things is relatively benign, and sometimes it plays into the most negative aspects of our concepts of gender, and specifically in this case, masculinity. We know how many forces are at work when it comes to food, and I don't just mean like the industry, the processing, the raising it, but there's the government research programs, illegal black market trading, corporate marketing squads, we know that food trends don't just happen. So, our topic for today is, how did this bacon craze happen? And how did it turn into a quote, manly food trend.
Like you and I, it all started in the 80s.
We are 80s kids. Bacon's an 80s kid!
We're 80s kids. It was like us and Punky Brewster and bacon. In the 1980s, a lot of research started coming out about the adverse health effects of fat, particularly saturated fat now. And this triggered a panic over fat and ushered in the era of fat-free food.
Oh yes, I remember that. Everything was like Fat-free, low-fat. All in your face. Yeah, diet food./ Diet foods, everywhere.
Diet foods. So yeah, low fat, fat free, diet soda, skinless meat, no more red meat and so we all just at Snackwells and lived happily ever after. Turns out bacon is two-thirds fat... And sales dropped 35% to 40%. The National Pork Board, which is a trade association with a strong marketing wing that is based in Iowa, like many of the things you mentioned, and they're a big player in the story. And so they say, We got a problem here. There's a problem here alright, what are we gonna do here? Now, not all pork is fatty. So, they decided to focus on less fatty parts of the pig, so like the loins and the chops, and to jump on this boneless, skinless, chicken breast craze. So they decided to tie pork to that trend. So in 1987, they launched a campaign that you might remember called...
“The Other White Meat”! Yes!
Pork: The Other White Meat commercial
Speaker 1: It’s never old, and it’s not what you expect. But it’s up and coming, its right in front of you. It’s the life of the party. The word on the street. It’s in, it’s always in. And it’s about time. It’s where we’re at. It’s what you want. It’s on your mind. It’s in your mouth. It’s pork. And it’s catching on. The other white meat. Taste what’s next.
So this worked, it definitely helped, but it meant that no one was buying the fattiest part of the pig, which was the pork belly, which is where the bacon comes from which meant that the price of pork belly dropped to it as low as 16 cents a pound in the mid 80s.
Yeah. So in the meantime, the fast food industry is having its own issues, because another result of fat phobia was that restaurants, especially food chains, were buying leaner and leaner cuts of meat. Now, meat is bland on its own, it doesn't have much flavor, but muscle acts like a sponge, it soaks up the flavor of whatever is around it, which is why we marinate, we brine, we smoke meat, but the primary place that meat gets its flavor is from fat. So Samin Nosrat, best-selling author of the book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat says “fat is essential for achieving the full spectrum of flavors and textures of good cooking. Simply put, fat carries flavor.” So lean hamburgers, not a lot of taste, and on top of that, on top of not having any fat in the burger is like You want a juicy burger, what do you think the juice is people?
Hello? So on top of not having any fat in these burgers, due to health regulations and E Coli scares, remember the E-coli outbreaks?
Yeah, there was a scare every week. It was bad.
So because of those things, they were required to cook all their burgers well done. So, Lia, how do you think a well-done fatless burger tastes like?
That's like the saddest burger ever. That's so sad.
Nobody was buying these lean burgers. I mean, every said they wanted to be more health conscious and lean stuff, but who’s going to buy that? So the Pork Board becomes aware of this issue that fast food chains are having, and they decide to pivot… They realized people are probably not going to be buying bacon to cook for their families.
But, if they’re out to dinner, and they are buying a double cheese burger, they are probably more likely to be okay with throwing a couple pieces of bacon on it, right?
Thats true. That is very true.
I mean, how many times have you said that to yourself.
You know what? Can you just add bacon.
I’m already eating a burger. I might as well. Might as well, right? So they went with the “might as well” theory. And what they did is they started marketing bacon to restaurants as a “flavor enhancer.”So you put a couple of strips of bacon on the burger, even a tasteless burger. The fat and the salt in the bacon is going to enhance the flavor like a million percent, right? And, side benefit, because bacon had become so cheap, fast food restaurants could buy the cheap bacon and then have premium, bacon burgers, bacon sandwiches, they would make 50-60% off of them.
Wow. That’s a lot of money.
So how did this all coalesce? How did this come to be? Well, if you sad to yourself, I bet it all came together at a hotel pool in Orlando, FL in the early 1990s at a pork convention, you are right. According to an article in Bloomberg News, Larry Cizek, who was the retired head of food service marketing at the Pork Board, was having a drink pool side with the then president of Hardee’s, Bob Autrey. Autrey was complaining that nobody wanted these Lean ass sandwiches that they were selling, and Sysic was complaining that nobody wanted bacon. So, Autrey had a light bulb moment and he said, I'm gonna come up with a sandwich with so much grease dripping down their chin, and then we'll see what they say. Bold statement. Quite graphic.
And that's what they did.
HARDEE’S COMMERCIAL, Frisco Burger
Speaker 1: San Francisco is famous for 3 things. Cable cars, the golden gate bridge, and the delicious sourdough bread. The secret to Hardies new frisco burgers. Introducing Hardie’s Frisco burger. Grilled sourdough bread topped with a thick Hardies quarter pound burger, melted swiss, sizzling bacon, and sliced tomatoes. If you want the best San Francisco has to offer, do yourself a favor and go to Hardies. Hardies.
I remember when that commercial came out because I thought that was like a grown-up very adult premium burger was just a bun. It was on sourdough and you had bacon and look at this, it's like good cheese. It was, you know white cheese, and not, you know, just like really bright yellow American cheese spread all over it.
Yeah, the white cheese does tend to be classier. No it's all the same cheese, guys. I'm pretty sure it's all the same cheese. So the Frisco burger came out from Hardiees in 1992, and some chains picked up the idea as bacon as a flavor enhancer a little bit. Added it to some sandwiches for a limited time,` but you know, it was just no match for fat phobia. Yeah, it was no match for fat phobia and the flavor enhancer thing didn't 100% work because you know food when it goes to restaurants is frozen and then reheated, frozen or reheated bacon doesn’t taste like anything, Right? but the Pork Board was all in on this fast food angle and they had money. So,/ what do they do?
/That's all it takes.
That's what it takes... That's what it takes, man. An idea and some money. We just need the money. Lia. We will get there.
I know. The Pork Board?
The Pork Board. Do they give grants? Yeah, by the way, have we told you how much we love the Pork Board.
We love it. You know, I think we should be the new porkettes.
I think we should be the new porkettes. They are a stand-up organization. We support them, 100%. Pork Board, call us. So What they did was they funded research into developing the cleanest and easiest way for fast food chains to get bacon, to cook bacon like it still tasted like something, they lobbied restaurants to develop bacon-based menu offerings, they funded recipe development and market research and development of other potential pork foods such as pork nuggets, a pork Patty. Bacon balls.
Bacon balls. Like a fried up ball of bacon?
I think it was like chopped up bacon bits reformed into a ball fried. I'm not gonna lie. I'd try it.
/I'd try that too.
But after all of this, they decided that instead of reinventing bacon, they were just gonna keep it simple, so they settled on a bottom line message: put bacon on stuff.
It's genius. So simple.
So simple, right? So with this new and improved microwaveable, reheatable bacon that still tasted like something, fast food chains started adding bacon to tons of items to main dishes to sandwiches and then appetizer side dishes. You got bacon tots. You got bacon nachos. You got bacon chalupas. That really took off in the late 90s, and then Paul Perfillio, the Pork Board's national marketing manager, said that in 2000, “bacon became the third condiment behind salt and pepper.” They got confidence. Pork board has confidence.
What a statement.
Then revered chefs like David Chang started incorporating bacon into some of their dishes, so remember how I said it was this reverse trend?
So the Pork Board, seizing on this momentum, ditched the other white meat slogan and adopted a new slogan, Bacon makes it better. Not wrong.
They're not wrong about that.
Not wrong. So the money came rolling in, the price of pork per pound went from 30 cents to almost a dollar, just in 2016 social media and the internet started birthing foodie culture online and the blogosphere. There started being etsy and all sorts of other things that made bacon a culture thing to have on your wallets and tee shirts etc. And then, 2008, the pinnacle, 11 out of each million babies born in America were named Bacon.
Like first name Bacon?
First name bacon. Yeah, isnt that a crazy journey?
A bacon roller coaster.
It is a little sad to think about the corporate overlords, the back rooms, the pool sides, and the fact that people decided that we were gonna like bacon and then we did.
That we fell for it?
We totally fell for it. Like it's like slap the name pumpkin on a latte all of a sudden it's a fall drink. Man, we are easy, we are so easy. It's kind of interesting though, all the things that they use against us in a way, or all the levers, all the levers that are pulled.
They know exactly what to pull.
They know exactly what to get us, salt and fat.
So by the mid-2000s, everybody was pigging out on bacon. Thank you. Everybody loved bacon, but it started showing up in pop culture as a more masculine trend specifically, and sort of our beloved characters that act as kind of comical archetypes of masculinity. So for example, this paragon of manliness, you might recognize.
I know him.
THE SIMPSONS: Bacon Man lives in a Bacon House
Speaker 1: So, you here for a snack before they roll you back into the ocean?
Homer: Yeah, I’ll have the smiley face breakfast special. But, could you add a bacon nose? Plus bacon hair, bacon mustache, 5 o’clock shadow made of bacon bits, and a bacon body.
Speaker 1: What if I just shoved a pig down your throat? I’m kidding.
Homer: Fine, but the bacon man lives in a bacon house.
Speaker 1: No he doesn’t!
Oh, Homer Simpson.
Classic. And here is another gentleman.
PARKS AND REC, Ron Swanson Bacon PSA
Ron Swanson: My name is Ron Swanson. Due to a world wide grain shortage in the next months, we will be experiencing what experts are calling a bacon shortage. And what I’m calling total f****** b*******. Do not panic. There is time if you act immediately. Procure as much bacon as humanly possible and hide it in as many locations as you can. I, myself have 38 secret spots in these offices alone.
Oh, Ron Swanson.
Parks and Recreation premeriend in 2005 and a love of bacon was a core element to the character of Ron Swanson. That paragon of maleness. And then of course, there’s Michael Scott from the Office we heard from the top of the show. Literally risking life and limb for bacon. So, examples of masculinization of bacon but in a kind of benign, sweet way. By the mid-2000’s, everybody had gotten on the bacon bandwagon, so restaurants were now trying to top each other to become head hog.
We start seeing more and more ridiculous bacon centered foods on menus and a big push in advertising. And they really ran with this whole bacon equals manliness thing. And not in this harmless way as it had been. Right? These aren’t, as you will see, Dad builds a shed, you know Home Depot commercials. There is something much darker. So food advertising has always exploited the words parts of our gender constructs. It tells women we should eat daintily, be health-conscious which means weight conscious, and eat less than what we need. But it tells men they should to eat a lot, eat these heavy foods, don’t care about their health, heavy foods, foods that will make them bigger, and more food than what they need. This plays into Toxic Masculinity. Let me clarify what we mean when we use that term, because it’s not a criticism it’s not “ugh, men are toxic.” It’s a specific definition of masculinity that is considered “toxic” because it is harmful to society at large, and especially to men themselves. It defines masculinity as being violent, unemotional, hyper-sexual, devoid of empathy, and having an overly negative view of women. In his book The Wimp Factor, which I love, psychologist Stephen Ducet, describes it as “defining masculinity as the absence of femininity.” So, a belief that a “real man” is devoid of any characteristics that could be considered traditionally feminine, like vulnerability, empathy, and willingness to ask for and receive help. And also, we don’t treat masculinity as innate, we tell men to Man up or be a “real man.” So that makes being a man something that needs to be achieved, proved and then defended.
Yeah, or you will lose it.
It’s obvious how women end up suffering because of toxic masculinity: in the forms of violence, harassment, discrimination, and disproportionate amount of emotional and domestic labor just to name a few. But like I said it has real concrete negative consequences for men. For example, an emphasis on self-reliance and repression of emotion can result in unstable relationships, isolation, depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. There's a fantastic episode of the podcast Hidden Brain, called The Lonely American Man, which talks about this. A man's belief that his self-worth comes from his ability to dominate or commit violence can lead to injury, incarceration, divorce, death. And specifically the fear of showing weakness or vulnerability is especially dangerous.
A study by the Cleveland Clinic 65% of men say they avoid going to the doctor for as long as possible or altogether, and 37% say they routinely withhold information from their doctors. Men are 10% less likely to wear seatbelts, which means that men die in car accidents three times as much as women. And a study in 2020 by Middlesex University found men were half as likely to wear a mask during the pandemic as women because doing so was considered “shameful” “not cool” and “a sign of weakness.” Food and eating styles get wrapped up in this toxic definition of manliness, too. Do you remember, Lia, when in our pumpkins episode when I told you about my partner’s Starbucks order?
Yes. That people were saying, or the Starbucks barista said something like that was a girly drink?
Yeah, his friend or colleague or whoever he was with, drink shamed him and told him that his drink order was a girl's order/ because soy milk.
/Because he wanted healthy options.
Because it was a sugar-free vanilla soy milk. He's just lactose intolerant people. It's not a gender thing.
You should be thankful that he ordered that.
I thank him. I wanna publicly thank him. I read in a men's magazine an article called “How men eat: it's different from women, it just is”... If you want an example of that, defining masculinity is the opposite of femininity. And, it had quotes from guys that said things like, “A real man doesn't cut a burger in half.”
I gotta say that that is so stressful, like to have your whole identity and your gender hinging on whether you cut a burger in half or not, that feels like a lot of pressure.
Also, “men eat as competition, we eat on dares, we eat the hottest pepper to show our strength.” And my favorite, I don't particularly enjoy sharing except with a woman, and then only on the first two dates or any wedding anniversary after the 10th.
How is he still married?
I was gonna say, I find it very difficult to believe that this guy got to a 10th anniversary or even a second date...
Yeah, that doesn't fly.
With that attitude. So I wanna show you some concrete examples of what I'm talking about in the advertising specifically for bacon-centered products. Are you ready? Okay.
I think so.
So, this first one is from Taco Bell. And listeners, it's the two ladies in a club, and one of them has a bacon Chalupa in her purse.
Taco Bell commercial
Girl 1: This place is great. So many cute guys here. Do you smell bacon?
Girl 2: Oh, yeah. It’s a bacon club Chalupa. Guys love bacon.
Girl 1: Like that’s really gunna work, come on.
Men: Hi, hey, how’s it going?
Girl 2: Hi.
Male 1: What is that you’re wearing? It’s, it’s intoxicating.
Announcer: Taco Bell’s bacon club Chalupa is back. Bacon lovers rejoice.
Male 1: Smells good.
First of all, you can really see how they're now just targeting men, but they're really targeting this as like bacon is a thing men love. She literally says that, and then it has some very old tropes in there of women will trap you, women will trick. You can't trust women. You have to trap a man.
Totally. This is the bait, the bacon bait.
The bacon bait. And that women aren’t trustworthy because they are tricking you and you have to trap a man. And that whole thing. And then also this thing of men are these dumb primitive creatures, the dumb primitive beast that only care about boobs and meat. And I'm not saying they don't care about boobs and meat... many of them, but I don't think it's true that they only care about boobs and meat So that's one example. And then it gets worse.
This next one is from Burger King. And it is a commercial for the Texas double Whopper. With bacon.
It’s important that it is Texas. It starts out with just an average looking guy, sitting in a fancy restaurant with a woman. And the waiter brings him a plate that only has a couple of sprigs of food on it.
Burger King commercial
Speaker 1: I am man. Hear me roar. The number’s too big to ignore. And I’m way too hungry to settle for chick food. Cuz my stomach is starting to growl and I’m going on the prowl for a Texas double whopper. Man, that’s good. Oh, yes. I’m a guy. I’ll admit, I’ve been fed quiche. Wave tofu bye-bye. Now it’s the whopper big fiery. I will eat this meat. Until my innie turns into an outie. I am starved. I am incorrigible. And I got this big burger, beef, bacon, jalapeno, good thing down. Yeah! I am hungry. I am incorrigible. I am man. The Texas Double Whopper. Eat like a man, man.
Woah. /That's a lot.
/So that happened. I mean, There's so much to unpack there. I mean at one point, Listeners, they unfurl a sheet off of a balcony that says I eat meat. So they are not being subtle about this man thing. Man meat. That’s not.. That’s not quite right.. what I meant… Moving on. It's all defining masculinity and being a man, eating like a guy, against feminine stuff or perceived feminine stuff.
The chick food.
Right? He starts out by saying, I'm too hungry to eat chick food. And then it becomes the unruly, disruptive, semi-violent thing that they then push a mini-van off a bridge at, which is like... What is the message there? Domestication is bad, like breaking free of your home, breaking free of child care. Also that there's an appropriation of a woman's anthem.
So to me that feels really egregious, but it's also like... So I was watching that, I was like, do dudes fall for this, that they're like, “Well, f***, Burger King says, If I wanna be a real man, I gotta drop what I'm doing, get that Texas double bacon burger!”
Push a mini van off of an overpass.
Push a mini van off a bridge! Like a man! Okay, so we are getting to this ad from Carl's Jr/Hardee’s - they’re actually the same restaurant chain - for the Bacon 3-Way burger. I’m taking you all down a dark path. And, to set the scene, it takes place in a pristine generic kitchen, and there are three young women who either are porn actresses, or are playing porn actresses, almost entirely naked except for tiny white bikinis and holding burgers.
Carl’s Jr 3-way
Singer: Hey girls, whatcha doing this weekend? We should stay in and have us a three-some. She’s giving her some. They are giving me some. Yeah.
Announcer 1: With bacon strips, bacon jam, and bacon crumbles, it’s a bacon lovers fantasy.
Singer: We havin’ us a threesome. Ménage à trois.
What do you think of that, Lia?
That was disgusting… That’s horrible. It was so awful. It's awful for everyone.
I mean, I don't know who that was for. It's degrading to anyone who would watch that. Unbelievable. Man, all that tells me is that there were no women in any of those meetings, certainly not any women who were in any position where they felt like they could raise a hand and say No. Or that anyone was thinking about what would a woman feel if she watched that.
So We’ve gone from the Taco Bell’s “Men like Bacon,” to Burger King’s Real men eat bacon and girls are gross, to Carl’s Jr’s women are objects to fantasize about pleasuring you, just like this burger. The other thing is, These commercials aren’t old, it’s not like these came out in the 60’s and 70’s and we could be like, Oh man, those days sucked.
“Oh that’s just how it was in my day. .”
Right, it’s not like it was before we knew better. It’s just the times. No, man. The Burger King commercial is from 2007, the Taco Bell commercial is in 2008 and the Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s pornmmercial is from 2016. 4 years ago. 2016, not a great year for women.
Nope. That was a terrible year.
It’s a terrible year to be a women. There havent been a lot of great ones. But that was an especially kick in the tits year. So, the last pornmercial from Hardies. But Lia, there was another commercial we watched from Hardie’s. For the Frisco burger in 1992. The first one we listened to. So compare the one we just heard, with that one.
Where is the friendly old man in the trolley car.
Right? What happened to sourdough.
Yeah, this classy bread. This wonderful bacon.
The white cheese? The wholesome, all audiences focused. You know? Really took a turn. In under 25 years we went from this sort of generic,family friendly, open for all, commercial that had a sandwich with bacon on it, to a male-only target audience, with objectified women in fantasy eating bacon on bacon on bacon. So they really went all-in on the toxic masculinity angle, and the implication that if you’re a real man you don’t like women. So we talked about these aspects of “manliness” men eating as competition, needing to eat these extreme things to prove their masculinity, in fact in the Burger King commercial one of the lyrics to the song is “I will eat this meat until my innie turns into an outie.” Cool dude. That's ridiculous and it’s obviously trying to be a little tongue and cheek, but think about that. I’m a man, so I’m gonna eat until I've distended my digestive system. Till I’ve deformed.
Till I’ve wrecked my body in a weird way. Because that’s what a man does.
And also, this men pressuring each other to be “manly” with their food. So here’s another clip from that national treasure, The Simpsons.
THE SIMPSONS: Butter up that bacon
Homer: Oh, you think you know better than this family, huh? Well as long as you’re in my house, you’ll do what I do and believe what I believe. So butter you bacon.
Boy: Yes, father. Mom, dad, my spiritual quest is over.
Homer: Well I thought, bacon up that sausage boy.
Boy: But Dad, my heart hurts.
So Bart says, “Dad my heart hurts.” So disturbing. Which brings me to my next thing. All of these foods are incredibly unhealthy. Including bacon, bacon is incredibly unhealthy. Bacon's unhealthy, not just because it’s 2/3s fat, but because of the nitrites and the nitrates that are used to cure the bacon for mass production. In 2015, the WHO did a study that found that nitrates and nitrites in processed meat are group 1 carcinogen, and when ingested regularly, are proven to increase the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer by 20%.
Woah. Thats a lot.
It's the same carcinogen group as asbestos. The same guys who are most susceptible to this kind of marketing, who really buy into this definition of manliness and the idea that it has to be proved, are probably also the ones who won’t go to the doctor. So to me, it’s not just theoretically, morally or ethically dangerous. This is literally dangerous.
It will make your heart hurt.
Right? So, I think I just blew our chances at an endorsement from the Pork Board.
Sorry Pork Board. It’s okay.
Okay, I have to bring the message to the people. We still have a long way to go, but in the last 50 years we’ve worked really hard to expand our idea of what feminine is, of what is acceptable for a woman to be and do. But we have not expanded our definition of what men can be and do in the same way. Nobody blinks an eye when a woman wears pants, but Harry Styles puts on a skirt and the whole world melts down.
Right. Everyone is freaking out.
Freaking out. So there is necessary work that needs to be done there. And going back to what we always say, food trends are about feelings and feelings can be manipulated and exploited.
Any of these ads may have passed by you in 20 or 30 seconds and maybe you didn’t notice or you rolled your eyes or it made you a little angry and uncomfortable but moved on. But the fact is that no ad, no trend, no message, no “new thing” just happens. All of these were intentional, and have an impact. And these guys are GOOD.
Yeah they are.
Pork Board ad agencies. I mean they’re whole strategy was, get people to put bacon on stuff, and I told you earlier that when I ordered a burger, I went out of my way to request that they put bacon on it.
You put the bacon on it.
I put the bacon on it. I’m a puppet.
They got you. / They got you.
/Inceptioning. And I know this has all been a little heavy, it’s a lot, it’s a little serious, but the good news is that we can have an awareness of this. We can look for how we are being manipulated. We can detach a food from the way being used to exploit or reinforce systems that don’t work, that hurt people. And then we can choose, do I want to buy into that message? Do I want to buy that product? Do I want to support that company? Do I want to call them out? Do I want to embarrass them on twitter? Start a hashtag. Do I want to take action? We are learning in this show that eaters can make an impact.
So, what impact are we gonna make?
That’s awesome, Anna. Such great questions. I think the awareness is something that we can all start doing. Start asking ourselves these things. Because we can make a difference. Because it’s the stuff that we eat. We can change the system one bite at a time.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me. I know it was a long and winding road. We’ve been through some ugly, dark forests.
Well, you know sometimes you have to go through the darkness.
To get to the light.
To get to the light.
And the light… might be bacon.
Thank you for joining us today for this episode of Every Day is a Food Day!
Be sure to subscribe, and please rate and review the show to help other listeners find it. Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter @FoodDayPod and join our Facebook group. We want to hear from you!
The clips you heard today were from The Office and Parks and Recreation from NBC, The Simpsons from 20th Century Fox?
EDFD is a production of Van Valin Productions and YumDay. It was created by Lia Ballentine and Anna Van Valin. Our production intern is Emma Massey and our Marketing inter is Elaine Oh.
We’ll see you next time...