Culture — 24 October 2011
Notorious P.I.G: What’s America’s Obsession with Pork?

I’ve got no beef with pork.  Though I eat it sparingly, and have no religious or cultural aversion to the other white meat, I personally find that too much of it makes me feel sick. But that’s a Kyles Files thing.  You won’t see me snatching pork out of the next man’s hand.  But lately, I’m feeling like I’m in a real-life “Porky’s Revenge.”  You cannot escape pork…menus are all but thrusting the stuff onto my plate.  A recent trip to Wicker Park’s The Southern yielded a pretty pork-focused menu with pork belly somehow married with a grilled octopus dish I would have otherwise ordered.  The devil’s eggs were dusted with bacon powder.  The burger had shreds of Canadian bacon secreted into the bottom of the bun.  But let’s get back to the devil’s egg dusted in bacon powder? We love pork so much we’re making it into a kind of cocaine now?  And not to pick on The Bedford.  Many restaurants have gone Hogwild all over the city and beyond, throwing pork in wherever there’s an opening.  And even when there isn’t an opening.  Take, for example, this new bacon maple donut dish that has been making the social media rounds in Twitpics and Facebook photos.  Does that really look like a good idea to you?

There’s even pork for people who won’t eat the stuff. My sister tried to coax me into purchasing something called bacon salt, a kosher product for those who feel they are missing out on the craze.  No, I don’t want to know what’s in it.

Seriously, will we re-do the American flag with bacon strips? What part of the game is this?

I put some thought into it and came up with the following pop culture thesis.  We are undergoing difficult times, economically and psychologically in America.  The pig is a simple beast with a robust flavor, and most importantly, it can be very inexpensive compared to its brethern and sistern, beef, lamb and the like.  By spreading this salty, filling meat all over our menus, in our dishes and cupboards, we are embracing simplicity and frugality.  We can (cheaply) feel full all while getting the flavor that sometimes only salt can offer.  Throw in some maple and it’s on like Donkey Kong.

Think I’m just cooking up conspiracy theories?  Only adding to my hypothesis is that the rise in pork seems to be in line with the fall in our collective fortunes.  I just read an article that said 50% of U.S. workers made less than $26,000 in 2010.  Then, I went to a restaurant and felt like the menu was underwritten by the National Pork Board.  You do the math.

What are your thoughts?  Are you on the pork bandwagon?  Or are you also tiring of the porkification of America?

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