It’s fun to watch foodies freak-out when mainstream restaurants adopt their over-the-top food combinations. Writing in Time Magazine, Josh Ozersky hyperventilates that family-style restaurant Denny’s has launched a bacon menu called “Baconalia” featuring items like bacon sundaes, bacon pancakes and bacon meatloaf. It’s all very Top Chef meets Middle America.
Frankly, none of it sounds very appetizing to me but Ozersky isn’t actually critical of how things taste at the family restaurants; he’s clear that this sort of food creativity has no place at Denny’s.
Bacon has enjoyed a renaissance in the last several years. No longer just a partner to eggs and pancakes in the morning, bacon can be found in the most curious places (dipped in chocolate or blended into vanilla ice cream seem the most common combinations lately). Adding salty bacon to sweet confections was the hot new culinary trick a couple of years ago (I recall a lot of bacon ice creams in the first season of Top Chef). Foodies swooned for these creations; praised chefs for thinking outside the box and for skillfully crafting whole new flavor profiles.
Well…apparently now, bacon is soooo last year. And Denny’s is soooo unworthy of such foodie behavior, at least according to Ozersky who can barley hide his horror that normal Americans might actually enjoy these bacon-filled dishes. And he’s quick to say that Denny’s is behind the curve on this whole bacon craze:
This promotion, like so many in recent years, is a cheap attempt to milk a bacon fad that, in reality, ended years ago…At one time it might have seemed vaguely outrageous, but now it’s just a standby, a last resort when they can’t think of anything else. Bacon may have ceased being something cool to talk about, but it stayed something wonderful to eat. And Denny’s could easily be tapping into the true greatness of bacon, which is among America’s greatest and oldest gifts to the world.
But then Ozersky gets to the real ummm…meat of the matter. The bacon that Denny’s is using, you see, isn’t refined enough…or expensive enough. And…try not to laugh…it can’t be called by name:
Denny’s is just coming up with zany recipes using cheap, waterlogged bacon, bacon that doesn’t even have a name, bacon that I am willing to bet was cured using injection and puncture brining, and that is cut as thin as a cat’s ear. Which is a shame since, in many ways, we are living in a golden age of bacon. We have more and better bacon, available by mail to everyone, than at any time previous, and new ones are emerging all the time. To say you’re doing a bacon promotion and use just generic food-service slices is like having a baby-naming ceremony and then asking for suggestions from the crowd. Bacon deserves better!
Oh boy. Someone get this guy a cocktail…or a book about something other than food! Bacon without a name! It’s tragic!!
Ozersky (who has written a book about the history of burgers and is currently working on a book about KFC) continues his article by educating us about bacon; its many flavors and textures, where it comes from and which heritage beasts create the best tasting bacon. He then says “real bacon enthusiasts” (read: people who don’t eat at Denny’s) usually have “three or four bacons on hand for different occasions.”
I never thought it could happen, but this guy has fully turned me off bacon-possibly for good. And that’s what foodies do, turn people off eating. To them, eating is a religion with strict rules of conduct. It is a serious matter and only serious people should muck around in the food world.
What Denny’s did was sin and not once but twice.
Denny’s rose above its station — taking a foodie concept and bringing it to Middle America. Second, they demystified a foodie trick — reworking American classics with a modern twist.
Interestingly, Ozersky works as a writer for Rachel Ray — the food network personality who is regularly the target of foodie attacks. To many foodies, Ray’s Food Network show 30-Minute Meals is an affront to real food lovers who think a meal prepared in anything less than 7-days isn’t worth a taste test.
I wonder what Ozersky has to say about his boss’s shortcut weeknight dinner recipes. I’m a fan of the show…but I’ve never seen Ms. Ray call her bacon by name before throwing it in the pan.