We can all agree Burger King's summer-special bacon sundae is passé, but it's worse than that: The cynicism of putting the thing on the chain's menu, especially years after the bacon-as-dessert trend's popularity peaked, is outright insulting. Regardless of how it might taste (we'll get to that in a minute), the product is just such obvious pandering, a clumsy and manipulative stab at trend-chasing. And, honestly, a bacon sundae's not even a good novelty item.
At first we were only bemused, and a little surprised that BK would think this would catch on three years after bacon-for-dessert trend pieces started showing up literally everywhere and five years after with-it food blogs like Grub Street declared the bacon trend dead. Even The Wall Street Journal applied its business lingo to the trend's end in 2010, with writer Katy McLaughlin declaring that "we are in the midst of a bacon bubble," and that it was bursting. But a chat with friend and former colleague Helen Rosner, now a senior Web editor at Saveur, has moved us past bemusement and into rage.
"It's not the bacon that's the problem," Rosner said over IM. "It's the lazy assumption that putting the word 'bacon' in the name of a product ensures that you'll get mountains of breathless media coverage: OMG! They put bacon on a sundae!!!!!11!!eleven!!! It's dehumanizing." As another friend-of-a-friend said, "you know BK has just been focus grouping this for 2 years and that's why it's so late." Nobody likes to feel pandered to.
Bacon is a classic food, and the combination of its smoky, salty, umami flavor with sweets such as maple syrup is as well-regarded as pancakes for breakfast. But you can't force it. Let's go back to that Journal article and hear from James Beard award-winning chef John Currence: "It's like cussing," Currence told McLaughlin. "It's easy, it's effective, it always gets a cocked eyebrow, but it just doesn't belong in church."
Burger King is far from church, but the chain's very appeal as a goofy junk-food emporium means just adding bacon to a thing -- even to a sweet thing -- isn't nearly enough of a novelty. After all, this is the chain that brought us chicken fries and the Slipknot-knock-off metal band that advertised them. It also gave us the pizza burger, a family-sized monstrosity that you cut up and serve like a pie. These are good novelty items because they were actually novel, as in, nobody was doing them. A bacon sundae just takes something already played out among foodies and sells it to the rest of us on the assumption that we weren't paying attention.
And let's not forget that there's a strong chance this thing will suck. Rosner pointed out that "part of the appeal [of bacon as a dessert] is the crispness, and the fact that at high heats the fat in bacon becomes creamy and lush, instead of thick and greasy. Cold bacon is just slimy and disgusting." Having experienced cold bacon in a cocktail once, we can confirm: Cold bacon, especially wet, is gross. And so is the King's latest attempt to convert cured pork belly, ice cream, and market research into cash.