Profs & Pints Nashville: Looking Back at Bacon-Door tickets remain available.

By Profs and Pints (other events)

Wednesday, November 16 2022 6:30 PM 9:00 PM CST

Advance ticket sales have ended but plenty of additional tickets remain available at the door.

Profs and Pints Nashville presents: “Looking Back at Bacon,” a social history of one of our nation’s guiltiest pleasures, with Mark A. Johnson, lecturer in history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and author of the forthcoming book American Bacon: The History of a Food Phenomenon.

Get ready for a scholarly talk that’s going to sizzle.

Food historian Mark Johnson is coming Nashville’s Fait La Force taproom to talk about bacon and America’s conflicted and shifting relationship with it. If you have never delved into “microhistory,” which uses the history of very specific things to tell broader stories and offer big insights, you’re in for a treat.

Once a mundane breakfast staple, bacon is now regarded as a symbol, a pop-culture phenomenon, and culinary powerhouse. Our obsession with it, Dr. Johnson will explain, defies simple taste in terms of its chemical makeup of fat, salt, and protein, and provides insight into our ever-changing relationship with the industrial food system.

You’ll learn from this talk, which traces the history of bacon from the nineteenth century to the present moment, how bacon has been both a mundane staple and luxurious indulgence, both the cheapest part of the pig and the most expensive. It has received the blame for obesity and cancer and been lauded as the solution to both those conditions.

In 1977, the U. S. Department of Agriculture almost banned bacon, as it is full of the fat and cholesterol that doctors had started linking to heart disease and obesity and with nitrates that chemists had been linking with cancer. Policymakers characterized bacon as the “most dangerous food in the supermarket.” Trying to keep sales alive at a time of fear of fat, bacon producers sought to follow dietary trends, marketing bacon as uniform, efficient, convenient, lean, and scientifically processed. The effort to maintain its status as a staple food failed miserably, however.

What helped revive bacon was the Atkins diet of the 1990s and 2000s and then the emergence of bacon consumption as a gesture of rebellion against the industrial food system, dietary advice, and the puritanical views of diet and health that our nation had generally held since the nineteenth century. Independent bacon producers achieved great success in generating demand by linking bacon to fat, craftsmanship, indulgence, and luxury and marketing it as a weekend treat and guilty pleasure. With bacon prices soaring, the consumption of it reinforced their class privilege and bourgeois tastes.

The story of bacon in America sheds light on how a culture that worries so much about nutrition and health also has so many problems with chronic illness. You’ll love taking in the knowledge served up by Dr. Johnson, who teaches courses on food, race, and culture and is the author of An Irresistible History of Alabama Barbecue. (Advance tickets: $12. Doors: $15, or $13 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later. Please allow yourself time to place any orders and get seated and settled in.)

Image: Bacon lovers were featured in a 1946 Dupont cellophane ad boasting of how well the clear wrap shows off the meat’s leanness.