Guest Column – For the love of bacon…

By Ken Fuson from N.W. Iowa Review

If you were going to promote an event in Des Moines, Iowa, and your goal was to sell 8,000 tickets in less than four minutes, who would be your star attraction:

A. Taylor Swift

B. Lady Gaga

C. U2

D. Bruce Springsteen

Actually, you wouldn’t choose any of those, because you, being an Iowan, knows what really sells these days:

E. Bacon

That’s not the name of a rock group – although Hickory Smoked Bacon would be a good one – it’s the stuff you eat. And we apparently can’t get enough of it.

The sixth annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival was held last weekend in the Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. What started out as a lark by a couple of bar owners has become the hottest ticket in the city. Alas, I did not secure a ticket, but I work with someone who did. He said he sampled the following:

*Bacon nachos

*Double bacon corn dog

*Caramel pecan bacon ice cream

*Bacon potato chips

*Chocolate covered bacon

*Bacon Rice Krispy treat

*Something called “man candy,” which was sweet and spicy bacon and definitely needs a new name by next year’s event.

In all, the crowd ate five tons of bacon. According to promoters, tickets were purchased from people in seven different countries and in 39 states.

Oh, to own the heart defibrillator concession.

It seems to make no difference whatsoever that health experts, like those who write for WebMD, say that 68 percent of bacon’s calories come from fat, half of which is unsaturated. Or that the American Institute for Cancer Research says no amount of processed meat (which bacon is) is safe to eat.

We don’t care. We eat it, anyway.

At my church, people were eating so much bacon at Sunday morning breakfast that the ministers had to limit the number of times it was served for financial and health reasons.

The comedian Jim Gaffigan has devoted large segments of his act – which is hilarious, by the way – to his obsession with bacon.

“You wanna know how good bacon is?” he asks. “To improve other food, they wrap it in bacon. If it weren’t for bacon, we wouldn’t even know what a water chestnut is.”

And: “Choking on bacon is like getting murdered by your lover.”

And: “Whenever you’re at a brunch buffet and you see that big metal tray filled with the 4,000 pieces, don’t you almost expect a rainbow to be coming out of it.”

Because I am an investigative columnist, I Googled the word “bacon” and discovered a website called Bacon Today, which is devoted to “daily news on the world of sweet, sweet bacon.”

There, I saw stories on bacon wrapped matzoh balls and chocolate bacon caramel pretzel rods. And, of course, a bacon chocolate martini to wash it all down with.

You can also join the Bacon of the Month Club and order a shirt that says, “Bacon is a Vegetable.”

It’s time for the state of Iowa to take advantage of this.

No other state comes close to Iowa in the number of pigs and hogs raised. We had 19.7 million in May 2012, which is a little more than six pigs for every Iowan. (I ate mine.)

More pigs = more bacon. Quick — print that on a travel brochure.

I have other ideas.

First, we will hold Bacon Fest once a month in various Iowa locations. Second, we will change the Iowa state slogan from – does Iowa even have a state slogan? – to “Bacon Capital of the World.” Third, we will change the state’s nickname from “The Hawkeye State” to “Bacon Lover’s Paradise,” at least until the University of Iowa starts winning more football games.

This could be big. Big, I tell you. The New York Daily News sent a reporter to cover the Bacon Festival in Des Moines. The Huffington Post website wrote about it.

Forget the Grotto of the Redemption, or Terrace Hill, or the birthplace of John Wayne. We’ve got ourselves a winning tourist attraction, and it’s as close as the refrigerator.

So fry up a pound. Don’t do it for yourself. Do it for Iowa’s tourism industry (and the state’s heart surgeons.)

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