From Bacon to Baconlube: When Food Becomes Symbolic

Some food memes last just long enough to clutter your kitchen with canning boilers or honey extractors or gnarly discs of kombucha SCOBY. Others hang on longer than anyone could have predicted.

Take the implausible longevity of a cupcake revival that began in the late 1990s. Or the doughnut’s ability to stay semiwarm, if not exactly hot, sprinkled with a postmodern irony that’s been around so long it’s starting to look merely sincere.

And then, of course, there’s bacon. Subscriptions to bacon-of-the-month clubs were prime gifts five Christmases ago, back when early-adopter bartenders were using bacon as swizzles, and it seemed like every high-end pastry chef in America was coating it in single-estate chocolate. Bacon has slipped since then. Like revivalist cupcakes, which began as accessories of urban indulgence and ended up in plastic-domed 24-packs at Costco, bacon has come a long way from heritage flights at bistro brunches, but it hasn’t gone away.

When bacon slid off the pages of glossy food magazines, it landed, for instance, in the ThinkGeek catalog as a cute plush character who can talk, the ultimate cube accessory for nerds, the way glittery bottles of Orbitz (“the drink with balls,” a sort of drinkable lava lamp) were in the late '90s. These days bacon is an important motif in the jokey impulse buys at Urban Outfitters, as neckties, candy, and dental floss.

Thing is, when food becomes totemic it loses its power as food. Distilled into pure symbol, it lands on the shitpile of ephemera that crowds our apartments—though it’s ephemera with a purpose. Like cherries on rockabilly clothing or stylized martini glasses for urban swingers, bacon serves as a kind of name tag for self-identity, celebrating dudedom in all its subtle variations: techie dudedom, stoner dudedom, even chicks in full embrace of dudedom.

They embrace bacon as something delicious and dangerous, the thing moms insist must be eaten in moderation, so salty, crisp, and fatty, so toxic with low-density lipoproteins, an artery-clogged superculture can mostly only regard it through a plateglass window of longing. It’s risky. Like sex.

Which brings us to the newest evidence of bacon as the ultimate dude accessory, Baconlube. Its manufacturer, J&D’s Foods, Inc., of Seattle (the company that gave America BaconSalt and Baconnaise), describes it as “the world’s first bacon-flavored personal lubricant."

Does Baconlube smell sharp like hickory smoke, or sweet and soft like applewood? I can't say—J&D's so-called “bacontrepreneurs," who go by plain old Justin and Dave, just like a couple of regular guys—were too busy bacontrepreneuring, apparently, to return a call.

Besides, how it smells, or tastes, is mostly beside the point. Baconlube’s probably never going to be anything more than a prop for dudes eager to stroke their own egos.

Image source: thinkgeek.com