If the lesson of Burger King’s introduction of a 510-calories Bacon Sundae last week are any indication, the Consumer Republic can look forward to heaping spoonfuls of tasty-but-bad-for-you treats in the short term. The healthy-eating finger-waggers and naysayers have brought out the foodie-backlashers and free-market flagwavers in force and it’s all free publicity in the bank for Burger King’s marketing department.
In reviewing the treat for Esquire’s “Eat Like a Man” blog the day that the concoction actually rolled out last week, Elizabeth Gunnison writes that it “has been the source of much nervous tittering, liberal hand-wringing, and cool dismissiveness these past few days. I'm pretty sure I heard Michelle Obama say this would be as good a breakfast as any, so I stopped by my local BK this morning to check it out.”
While Mrs. Obama said nothing of the kind, plenty of other bloggers have been weighing in on the “limited-time” offer that Burger King itself describes as “sweet and savory made with cool, creamy and velvety vanilla soft serve, chocolate fudge and smooth caramel, made to order with our new thick hardwood smoked bacon.”
Dallas Observer “Complaint Desk” blogger Scott Reitz got the first Bacon Sundae ever made at the Mockingbird Lane Burger King (although it took a whopping three minutes to put together) and lives to tell the tale of a drink that’s “surprisingly good in that nostalgic childhood memory kind of way, until you got a bite with bacon in it. And then like all traumatic things the pain fades and you find yourself pushing more ice cream around with your spoon as a precursor to another bite.”
Huffington Post food critic Peter Garrow, who blogs that the “worst experience I've ever had with bacon was definitely the Bacon Shake from Jack in the Box,” takes us on a spoonful-by-spoonful review of BK’s offering and concludes that “this guy, the one who hates bacon in sweet things, ate the entire sundae and didn't have to hold his breath while doing so. In fact he quite liked it, and gives it 7/10.”
NPR.com “Monkey See” blogger Linda Holmes expends some mental calories reacting to a “hilarious blog post (hilarious in a different way than I think is intended) at The Atlantic, pointing out that the bacon sundae is ‘pandering’ and ‘passe.’” Adam Martin indeed talks to some people and cites sources who agree that “everybody knows bacon-decorated desserts are so totally over” and accuses BK of taking “something already played out among foodies and [selling] it to the rest of us on the assumption that we weren't paying attention."
C’mon, says Holmes, “nobody who is eating at Burger King is trying to be on trend, unless they are somehow eating there ironically, in which case they deserve to be disappointed.”
Esquire’s Gunnison’s own assessment? “Meh.” Although she objects to those who would use the treat as an indication that civilization has gone to the (hot) dogs, the drink itself is “basically just your standard Burger King sundae with a little bacon on top.”
Bacon evidently hits on some primal gustatory longings, according to a piece by EverydayHealth.com senior editor Annie Hauser that looks at the science behind why some of us evidently can’t get enough of it.
“Our bodies are hardwired to crave the taste of fat and protein, but why bacon specifically? It turns out, there's a complex chemical reaction occurring between bacon's amino acids and sugars when it is fried called the Maillard reaction, which appeals to our sense of smell,” Hauser writes. Not to mention that sizzling bacon might evoke olfactory-evoked recall -- “the scientific term for an emotional connection to a certain smell.”
CNN’s Kat Kinsman cites several other examples of porcine desserts –- from the creations of high-end chefs to Jack In The Box’s bacon milkshake -- and admits to adding to the “glut” with a recipe for Bacon-Bourbon Brownies with Pecans in Food & Wine last year. Then Kinsman offers a recipe for Boozy, Nutty, Buttermilk Bacon Ice Cream that makes the BK offering look like tofu ice cream by comparison.
“The outrage over the bacon sundae -- obesity is America’s No. 1 health issue; how could they? -- is misplaced,” writes Marsha Mercer on InsideNoVA.com. “Fast food is a business. The marketplace -- that’s all of us -- will decide whether Burger King is smokin’ or flaming out.”
Truth is that there seems to be at least as many blogs defending the item as there are those that attack it. Perhaps more. Either way, it provides the writers with an easy excuse to indulge in the guilty pleasure. But not this boy; not at this time of the morning, at any rate. It’s too early for caramel syrup.