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Essay: The Day Bacon Died


The news that World Health Organization scientists linked bacon and other processed meats to cancer shocked the world this week...or maybe it didn’t. 

But it saddened many carnivores, among them Lake Effect essayist Jonathan West:

Years from now, dour faced people will huddle around piles of roughly chopped kale and ask one question.

“Where were you the day bacon died?”

This week, bacon is begging for a do over. 

Bacon has had a great run.  Bacon was the Beonyce to over easy eggs’ Jay-Z.  The BLT?  They don’t call the greatest sandwich of all-time the TLB because bacon earned that title spot, my friends. I’ve seen once militant vegans pour their hemp shakes down the drain as they’ve shoved handfuls of that salty and savory gateway nosh past their Tom’s of Maine toothpaste polished teeth. Who among us hasn’t eaten three pounds of bacon in one sitting just because we can? Okay, that intensely personal admission was embarrassing and I’ll simply have to eat my feelings of shame over a bacon double cheeseburger.

The World Health Organization has made no friends with thick-necked, red-faced men of a certain age who haven’t seen their shoes over their waistline since it was declared that real men didn’t eat quiche (even the ones with the chopped bits of bacon suspended in the eggs and cheese). Putting the words bacon and cancer together in the same sentence might seem like an act of treason, but this is the WHO we’re talking about, not the United States Post Office.  (Oh, and note to self…contact Postmaster General with idea for Porky Pig stamp that tastes like bacon when you lick it.)

The news that bacon and other processed meats like sausages and hot dogs might do the same damage to your body as smoking a carton of Lucky Strikes hurts.  My pancreas.  I’ve never fooled myself into thinking that eating bacon would make it possible for me to finally wear one of those tiny European bathing suits.  No, no…I’m not one of those meat lovers who will defend bacon as some sort of misunderstood health food.  It’s bacon…it's fat from a pig. I get it. But I’m still allowed to cry big salty tears that taste a lot like Rumaki.

This whole kerfuffle creates a real awkward situation for me personally.  You’re not just listening to some random guy who keeps a jar of bacon fat in his fridge because it’s the only reasonable seasoning for a platter of roasted vegetables. I’m what the kids nowadays call your basic Meat Butler. 

What’s a Meat Butler, you say?  I don’t mean to be braggy, but I’m the best.  A lady friend of mine who eats dinner with my family and her husband every Sunday night gave me the title because she believes in my meat skills.  She says things to me like, “I think you should make me a ribeye marinated in butter.”  What am I supposed to say to her when she suggests, “You know what’s a good hors d’oeuvre?  A bowl of bacon.” Now a bunch of doctors and scientists have turned that bowl of bacon into a cesspool of cigarette butts soaked in Diet Coke, shaken with a dash of lead paint and strained through a pair of asbestos boxer shorts.  As the region’s finest meat butler, this new news makes me cringe to think about hunting and tracking a few one pound packages of Cudahy’s side-meat-of-pride.

I read that bacon and cigarettes are now members of the same carcinogen classification group.  But all may not be lost, for I also read that aloe vera belongs to that group, too.  This gives me comfort because I feel that aloe vera is weathering the storm.  And besides, everyone knows that aloe vera doesn't really hurt you.  Unless, of course, you use it as a dip for those bacon stuffed mushroom caps all your friends are begging you to make this weekend.

I’m not quitting you bacon. But I know I’m taking a risk.  You’ll have to pry the last strip of bacon out of my cold dead hand at the end of my days…which, when you think about it probably isn’t too hard to do, what with how slippery my fingers are from my mid afternoon snack of a bacon wrapped filet.

Jonathan West is a Milwaukee writer, actor, and director, who is currently working as the Pfister Narrator at the Pfister Hotel.

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