Bacon is cut from the pig's belly, and is one- to two-thirds fat.
Recently, an old friend who's been a vegetarian for more than 15 years shocked us with a story: Last weekend, she ate bacon. Several strips. Straight out of the frying pan where her boyfriend was cooking it.
This wasn't the first time she'd encountered it sizzling there, in all its glistening glory. But for some reason, this time it overpowered her. She was guilty yet gleeful when she told us that she'd allowed bacon back into her life.
But she's not alone. We've heard this story before from many people. It seems that bacon has a way of awakening carnivorous desires within even some of the preachiest of vegetarians. And we set out to find out why.
We asked some scientists who study how food tantalizes the brain, and sociologists who've looked closely at vegetarianism, about bacon's seductive powers.
Our story was familiar to Johan Lundstrom. He's a scientist who runs a lab at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. He studies how the brain processes sensory information, like smell, for a living. He also told us he had an ex-girlfriend who became an ex-vegetarian once she tasted bacon.
Because bacon is one- to two-thirds fat and also has lots of protein, it speaks to our evolutionary quest for calories, Lundstrom says. And since 90 percent of what we taste is really odor, bacon's aggressive smell delivers a powerful hit to our sense of how good it will taste.
"There's an intimate connection between odor and emotion, and odor and memory," Lundstrom says. "When you pair that with the social atmosphere of weekend breakfast and hunger, bacon is in the perfect position to take advantage of how the brain is wired."
Indeed, the social experience of eating bacon also seems very important, says Donna Maurer, author of Vegetarianism: Movement or Moment? Opportunities to try new foods, like chocolate-covered bacon, with friends might push some vegetarians over the edge.
Bacon has special status in foodie circles, and that too seems to have enhanced its power over wavering vegetarians. Some have dubbed 2011 as the Year of Meat. BaconToday.com is a veritable daily bacon news source. And in New York you can find Bacon-Palooza, an event NPR covered on All Things Considered last year.
We even talked to a vegetarian, Gwen Sharp, about this, who said, "I have long thought if for some reason I ever started eating meat again, I would start with bacon." We also discovered a chapter — from a scholarly food book — titled "'Bacon sandwiches got the better of me:' Meat-eating and vegetarianism in South-East London."
Still, bacon has plenty of thoughtful opponents, among them Jonathan Safran Foer, author of the recent bestselling vegetarian treatise Eating Animals. Even Stephen Colbert was unable to convince Foer to eat bacon.
Sure, it's loaded with fat and salt, and Americans eat far more of it than what's good for the planet. But in the immortal words of Homer (Simpson, not the other one), "Mmmmm. Bacon."
Since I was brought up in a jewish home my mom never served bacon or any pig flesh, so the allure of pork has never been that enticing. In fact, I never liked ham, but I did grow a fondness for bacon. Would desiring bacon be the draw for me to leave my vegetarianism behind? No, no, no, never for bacon. Pigs are far too intelligent, far too much like us for me to ever consider eating them again. In fact, the very first meat I swore off was pig. How about you?
Funny story Keely... I have a friend who is a 'devout' vegan. No processed food that claims to be vegan will he consume until he checks the ingredients carefully to assure himself that there are no animal products included. (You would be amazed at how many items that claim to be vegan, aren't!) BUT, every few months he allows himself to indulge in a big BEEF burger, cheese and all - haha The craving at times is just is too intense for him to withstand. Soooooooooo, he is not a perfect vegan but most of the time he is.
I do think that vegans and vegetarians sometimes 'fall off the wagon' and eat some animal product that is usually taboo to them. I think it happens more than people will admit to and truthfully, I don't think that it is a horrible crime if they do so on occasion. Maybe I'm also excusing myself when I've ordered onion soup that I know is made with beef broth. It's a rare occurrence, but when I'm eating at a diner or some crappy place that has virtually no vegetarian choices to my liking that I will cave-in. I still consider myself a vegetarian even if I go astray once in a blue-moon. Anyone else not perfect on occasion?
I am not vegetarian, but am looking for ways to cut down on the amount of meat we do eat. I don't eat bacon, turkey, or lamb. I also don't eat any shellfish, and not much of the other fish, and no canned meats LOL. (Most of the kids like most of that stuff... only lamb is universally disliked.) I find it fascinating that bacon is the one thing some vegetarians will allow!
Feeding 4 growing children without meat seems an expensive and time consuming task. How do you do it? Do you cut it all out at once or cut certain things out, or make it a by the meal or day thing? Do you use fake meat products? Like.... lost on how to do it practically.