The Internet is full of hoaxes, for example, the girl with three boobs. So when I heard about scientists who had created a seaweed that tastes like bacon, I initially filed it in the “more Internet bullshit” folder and moved on. But when my high-school science teacher Neil Mackie noted it on Facebook (yeah, I am that kind of nerd, keeping in touch with my science teacher 35 years after the fact), I succumbed to the realization that something truly evil had happened.
To appreciate my horror, you must understand that I would make a terrible Jew and the world’s worst Muslim. Ignoring for a moment that I don’t believe Yahweh or Allah exist, I believe that among the greatest teachings of Jesus of Nazareth was the one that said “pork chops are OK.” I know, he didn’t really say that in so many words, but by tossing out the old law, we get tacos al pastor, Easter ham and stuffed pork chops. We get lard for our pie crusts (and yes, it must be lard not Crisco).
But above all, we get bacon. Not that loin cut that the Brits refer to as bacon, broiled and served with a stewed tomato as part of the Great British Breakfast. Nor that Canadian back bacon, which isn’t bad, but like most things Canadian is distinguished mostly by not being exactly American. No, we get the hickory-smoked goodness of all-American sowbelly (yes, my Southern friends, I know the tiny difference between the two, but seriously, that sentence is artistically beautiful, and therefore, is true in its own right).
I will leave it to the hipsters out there to pontificate on how to cook it, what the best kind is and precisely where to buy it. I don’t care. It’s one of life’s small and affordable luxuries. I will probably never own a 1920 Rolls Royce Phantom (clearly the most beautiful car ever made; sorry, Duesenberg, a close second). But bacon, well, it’s in the shopping cart every week.
I have done most of the cooking in my house for the past 25 years. In that time, I have learned that the great Julia Child was right. Go ahead and have whatever it is the doctor has warned against, the real thing, not a substitute. Just a little. One fried chicken wing is not going to give you a heart attack, and one strip of bacon every so often isn’t going to give you a stroke.
I grew up in Colorado in the 1970s, and so I was exposed to the health foods bullshit long before most people. I remember people offering me carob chips, lying through their teeth when they said, “It tastes just like chocolate.” No, it fucking doesn’t.
And there are no superfoods. Sorry. “Large, long-term studies (randomized, controlled trials) funded primarily by NIH have generally found that antioxidant supplements have no beneficial effects.” Vitamin pills are more or less useless. In general, dietary supplements are expensive and often sold fraudulently. At best, you enjoy the placebo effect.
Bearing all this in mind, along come these scientists with their bacon-tasting seaweed. I will admit, I have not eaten any. I will accept their word that it tastes of bacon, that I would not hate it, that it could be The Next Big Thing. I don’t damned want any. I want the real thing.
And that’s getting harder and harder. Your “vodka” is made from grapes, and it comes from France. The salesman talks about Wi-Fi in the car, but ignores the fact that it is underpowered and ugly. Windows 10 won’t be as good as XP was, but you can’t do anything about it. And now, your bacon is really seaweed.
The 21st century is going to be a great big long pain in the ass for people who don’t want ersatz anything. We are going to be fobbed off with “just as good as” while paying “even more for.” I still believe in progress, but it isn’t as easy as it used to be.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.