Is there really such a thing as too much bacon?
In a warehouse on the outskirts of Toronto, a YouTube star is shouting an expletive at the top of his lungs. The piercing sound ricochets through the building, over the cameras and the Teflon frying pans that have been arranged around the set kitchen.
I gasp at the sound of it, immediately scanning the room to see what’s wrong. But the men who are part of the YouTube channel’s crew sip Red Bulls nonchalantly without looking up from their phones and the cameramen hardly fl i nch. T he swearing isn’t news to them. This is how Harley Morenstein gets into character.
“Aaaaand,” drawls a man over the scream, motioning like a conductor in front of an orchestra that the YouTube live stream is about to start. “Three, two,” he declares, pointing his index finger to the ceiling while mouthing the word “one.” Suddenly, Morenstein’s expression fades into the menacing smirk that has become his signature. It is the same disposition he has combined with bacon strips and obscenities to earn his YouTube channel Epic Meal Time over seven million subscribers since debuting in 2010.
While a lot has changed in the seven years since Epic Meal Time began infiltrating YouTube’s airwaves with expletives and cured strips of pork, the show has not. Certainly, there’s something comforting about a template that continues to work, but the dishes that helped propel the channel to internet superstardom haven’t aged well. Instead of serving as a fun reminder of how far internet cooking has come, Epic Meal Time’s classic videos have since been swallowed up in the hum of viral internet foods they helped create. Recipes for a TurBaconEpic, which involves five types of poultry in a pig wrapped in bacon and assembled with something called “meat glue” and garnished with Baconators, or a 71,000 calorie Fast Food Lasagna wrapped in bacon strips and smeared in a gallon of Big Mac Sauce, have become somewhat commonplace in the culinary world of extremes. Just as people use the brand name “Kleenex” to refer to all tissues, bacon-lovers flock to the countless bacon-laden spoofs that Epic Meal Time inspired without bothering to think about the company that created the trend.
More than any other cooking show, Epic Meal Time introduced the idea that the gluttonous consumption of bacon can be used as a personality trait. Shortly after the show found mainstream success, fans of the YouTube channel began sporting T- shirts emblazoned with “BaconStrips&” in five separate rows of font. Seeking to capitalize on bacon’s sudden viral popularity, chefs around the world started adding bacon to everything. Entire restaurants, like Epic Bacon Nation in Toronto, were erected in the name of shoving bacon into a food’s every possible orifice. And Vancouver and Ottawa both hosted bacon food festivals exclusively dedicated to the serving of the cured meat.
In Epic Meal Time’s heyday, it wasn’t hard to convince people that bacon was worthy of culinary cult status. Not only is the trifecta of salt, fat and crunch found in each
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING IS ABSOLUTELY TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING.
glistening strip near impossible to resist, but the timing also couldn’t have been better. In the beginning, Epic Meal Time coasted on the prevailing nutritional wisdom that low carb, high- protein diets were a healthy choice. Suddenly, eating bacon wasn’t just delicious; it also made you more interesting and it could be justified through accepted nutritional wisdom. Of course, we took this too-good-to-be-true promise too far. The last seven years have been spent overdosing on bacon. From grilled cheese wrapped in bacon, to bacon brownies, bacon cronuts and bacon milkshakes, there is almost no trendy food that the cured pork hasn’t touched. But instead of imbuing foods with delicious salty and smoky bacon flavour, the ingredient has become synonymous with gluttonous, trend- driven food culture. With every viral, bacon-laden milkshake that gets funnelled into a chilled glass, the classic breakfast food is cemented as a symbol of all the worst aspects of food culture.
The fallout of our collective bacon obsession doesn’t end at milkshake shops and an- noying food videos. Increased demand has also made bacon more expensive. Statistics Canada has reported that the price of bacon has increased from $5.16 per 500 grams in 2013 to $ 6.79 in 2017, an increase of 27 per cent. This is a shame, because before its corruption, bacon was a wonderful food. And it isn’t the first time we’ve ruined a food with overconsumption. Overfishing of oysters has meant that today only one per cent of the oysters that were in the ocean 100 years ago remain. Since oysters act as natural vacuum cleaners, their absence has led to murky, unfiltered waters and sick sea life. An insatiable hunger for hamburgers and steaks has led to the deforestation of the Amazonian rainforest, massive global CO2 emissions and, according to some experts, increased cancer risk.
Overconsumption of bacon has also been linked to increased cancer risk. The Global Burden of Disease Project, an independent research organization, estimated that 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat. In 2015, the World Health Organization urged people to stop eating bacon after finding that the cured pork is a group one carcinogen, putting it in the same category of cancer risk as asbestos and tobacco. But even the bonechilling health warnings haven’t deterred foodies from slathering on bacon strips. Instead of getting old like the Epic Meal Time videos that inspired the trend, the moreis-more bacon mentality has continued to thrive. In trying to stand-out in a sea of overthe-top cooking videos, chefs and restaurateurs have begun to see bacon as a culinary safety net. Add it to a dish and customers will at least want to try – whatever it is you’re making.
Ultimately, with so much global unrest, shouldn’t we just let people have their bacon if that’s what they want? Sure. But in overdoing it we’ve ruined what was once a perfect indulgence. Instead of continuing to gorge on bacon until each package costs $ 20 and cancer kills all of us, we should let bacon’s demise be a lesson for the next time we encounter a perfect food.
Too much of a good thing is absolutely too much of a good thing. And in our search for comfort in the food we eat, we need all the perfect foods we can get.