Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Exploring bacon's surprising dark side

Yummy indeed, but not without flaws

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Get ready to sizzle with excitement, because tomorrow is International Bacon Day.

Held the first Saturday before Labour Day, it was, as far as I can tell, created by a group of bacon-loving graduate students in Bedford, Mass., who wanted a special day to celebrate all things bacon.

In anticipation of this day, Ford this week announced customers who buy its Fiesta subcompact can, if they have the appetite, go whole hog and have their new vehicles swaddled in one of four vinyl wraps depicting delicious strips of bacon-y goodness.

As regular readers are aware, if I am known for anything -- other than being the owner of some spectacularly ill-behaved dogs -- I am known for my obsessive devotion to the world's most beloved breakfast food.

Typically, whenever I attend a charity event, someone, out of the sheer goodness of their heart, will present me with a package of bacon or -- like the wonderful folks from Sysco Food Services of Winnipeg at a gala dinner I hosted -- a suitcase-sized carton containing five kilograms of bacon.

On the downside, I have also run afoul of my buddy Bob, the publisher of this paper, who has kindly pointed out that, just perhaps, I have written a few too many vehemently pro-bacon columns, if you can imagine that.

Which is why today, on the eve of Bacon's Big Day, wielding the Spatula of Journalism, I am going to flip over this burning issue and take an unbiased look at (cue eerie theme music) the Dark Side of Bacon.

For starters, dozens of colleagues and readers emailed me copies of alarming news stories warning that bacon potentially played a sinister role in more than 200 cases of illness reported among people who ate the "Cronut Burger" -- a cheeseburger with a hybrid croissant-doughnut bun -- at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

As it turns out, according to Toronto Public Health, a dollop of tainted "maple bacon jam" was to blame.

Even more recently, according to a news report I am holding in my greasy hands, famed rocker Ozzy Osbourne was almost scorched this week by his love of bacon. "Ozzy starts kitchen blaze while frying bacon," shrieked the headline on an online story stating Ozzy was unscathed after fire crews raced to his L.A. home when bacon he was cooking for a sandwich burst into flames.

But, as we prepare for International Bacon Day -- and you can visit for 10 ways to celebrate -- I am forced to share a terrifying true tale of how paying tribute to something as wonderful as bacon can go horribly wrong.

I discovered this story on the website of J&D Foods, a Seattle-based company dedicated to (why not?) making all things taste like bacon. The company was founded by two "bacontrepreneurs" named Justin Esch and David Lefkow and, over the years, I have written extensively about their tasty line of products.

Since July 2007, these barons of bacon have given the world such essential items as Bacon Salt, Bacon Popcorn, Bacon Lip Balm, Bacon Gravy, Baconlube ("the world's first bacon-flavoured massage oil and personal lubricant"), Bacon Shaving Cream ("the highest quality meat-scented shaving cream on the market today"), and the Bacon Coffin, a 99-kilogram, 18-gauge steel casket painted to resemble a sizzling strip of bacon.

My favourite product is a gooey spread called Baconnaise, a jar of which is sitting in my pantry as I write these words. It was launched at a nightclub with a no-holds-barred charity wrestling match held in 2,721 kilograms of mayonnaise and featuring a main event in which the combatants were a guy dressed in a seven-foot bacon suit and a guy dressed as a giant jar of mayonnaise.

What could go wrong, right? Well, according to their website, pretty much everything.

"We had no idea what (2,721 kilograms) of mayonnaise actually looked like," they confess, noting it was delivered in huge steel drums that had to be carted down a rickety and narrow wooden staircase. "It took about eight guys per drum and there were six drums. Backs were almost broken, and hernias were surely suffered."

After filling the ring with mayo, a wardrobe malfunction worthy of Janet Jackson occurred. "The Giant Bacon costume we had literally came apart in about three seconds under the weight of the mayonnaise," they state. "The wrestler in the costume didn't realize this, and only had tighty-whitey underwear on underneath."

To cap things off, "we wrestled our underage intern vs. the Seattle Mudhens women's rugby team, and he apparently invited his mom and aunt to the event. They were pretty upset with us -- and the intern not only didn't show up for work on Monday, he was never heard from again."

So, yes, I admit everything has a dark side. But I think, if we are honest enough to look deep inside ourselves, we will find a gaping hole -- and, if we can find the courage, we will fill that gaping hole with bacon.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2013 A2

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