Ok, that title is a little misleading. Please don’t get me wrong, I fucking love bacon. I love bacon as much as Elise Andrew fucking loves science. My love for bacon is the main (and only) reason that I think I’d get along famously with Jim Gaffigan, who spends a few minutes during his “King Baby” stand-up special waxing poetic on the virtues and magic of the food.
But there’s a line in his bit that irks me. A line that tugs at the logical coattails of my Literature-teacher brain (my brain is very formally dressed in this metaphor), and insists that I share my position with the world. That line is as follows:
“Do you want to know how good bacon is? To improve other food, they wrap it in bacon.”
I know it sounds stupid, but I have a problem with that statement. Mind you, not the practical execution of it – I love a good bacon-wrapped fillet – but rather the logical fallacy inherent therein.
Gaffigan proceeds: “If it weren’t for bacon, we wouldn’t know what a water-chestnut is.”
Fair point, really. No one has ever ordered a stir-fry and wished for more of those weird little crunchy bits. I mean, even the title of this article I found about them seems to be mocking their very existence.
But more to the point, his line reminds me of a conversation that I had with one of my students not too long ago. See, as a teacher, I try to get to know my students interests, and every so often theirs happen to overlap (albeit slightly) with my own. A few weeks ago I struck up a conversation with a student whom I knew shared my interest in cooking. When asked about his favorite recent culinary creation, he began talking about Brussels sprouts, much to my revulsion.
Given that I’m terrible at hiding my emotions, especially when it comes to food, he read my expression, and immediately launched into a all-out defense of his newly-discovered recipe, which involved sprouts cooked in bacon fat, and served with bacon crumbles. I admitted that the bacon part of the recipe sounded good, and seeing no need to defend himself any further he concluded with the simple cliche “bacon makes everything better.”
There it is.
You’ve seen the commercials (thanks, Denny’s), the t-shirts (triple XL will cost you an extra 2 bucks) and (hopefully) have felt the wave of the bacon-borne cultural phenomenon. I have. And I love it. Again, bacon is fucking awesome. But that’s my food-brain talking.
My teacher brain get’s pissed when it sees things like this:
I hate this for the simple fact that it’s a mass-produced and disseminated logical fallacy. More specifically it’s a hasty generalization.
Allow me to explain.
A hasty generalization is a logical fallacy in which a conclusion is reached without considering all variables. In this case, the generalization is as follows: Bacon is delicious, and it can go with other foods, therefor bacon makes everything better.
Besides the fact that the nerds over at NPR proved that this statement is scientifically unfounded, it’s just a blatant lie.
Let’s try a few scenarios.
Say I put a piece of bacon on a pile of my springer spaniel’s shit. Did I make that shit better? Nope. It’s still shit, and I ruined a good piece of bacon.
Not enough proof?
I put a piece of bacon on Hitler. Did I make Hitler better? Of course not. AND, since he was a vegetarian, he would probably be angry that I put a slab of pig fat on him. There goes my day.
Hopefully you just realized that I’m using a logical fallacy to argue my point. Frustrating, isn’t it? Do you see what I’m dealing with?
So – in an attempt at clarity – let’s return to the case of the Brussels Sprouts (also the name of the worst Sherlock Holmes case ever written).
When my student argued that bacon made the vegetable better, what he really meant – and what the “bacon makes EVERYTHING better” cliche means – is that the bacon is good, and the other thing seemed good BECAUSE OF the bacon. Remove the bacon, and the other things is still the other thing. The Brussels Sprouts are still just brussels sprouts, Hitler is still Hitler, and dog shit is still dog shit.
Bacon has no magic flavor amplification powers. Sure, it’s salty, but if nothing else, the addition of bacon to most foods serves to overwhelm rather than amplify the other flavors.
Not that overwhelming other flavors is a bad thing. In the case of the Brussels sprouts, the natural flavor of the sprouts NEEDS to be overwhelmed to make them palatable. Which is where the bacon comes in. But does that make the sprouts themselves better?
Given two plates, one of Brussel sprouts, water chestnusts or any other such bacon-added food, and the second of simple, sizzling, griddled bacon, I’d – personally – take the bacon off the second plate any day. After all, that’s what I really wanted in the first place.
Let’s not forget the other aspect of the argument; the inference that everyone agrees with the cliche. There are legions of people (let’s say, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, vegertarians, vegans, people who care about their health, people with pork or nitrite allergies, and my sister in law) for whom the addition of bacon would ruin any meal. To them, the assumption that “bacon makes everything (or anything for that matter) better” would be wholly untrue, and – in many cases – altogether offensive.
So rather than disseminating the fallacy any further, let’s do away with “bacon makes everythign better” and go with something more accurate. Here are some options:
- “bacon is good”
- “I enjoy bacon”
- “the addition of bacon to other foods enhances my enjoyment of the dish as a whole”
- “bacon: yum”
- “bacon: no offense, but I like it”
Fuck it. I’m going to go make some bacon.