“The Bacon Paradox: Danger and Desire in the Twentieth Century” by Mark Johnson
For centuries, bacon faced intense scrutiny from dieticians, doctors, religious leaders, and social commentators. In addition to its prohibition by multiple major religions, people did not always consider bacon exceptionally tasty. At times, they viewed it as downright objectionable, appropriate only for the poor, specifically enslaved and impoverished laborers. By the late twentieth century, after centuries of disapproval, bacon seemed doomed. In 1977, at the height of American concerns over dietary fat and chemical additives, the USDA considered banning bacon. While it had always been uncouth to eat bacon, medical experts and food writers portrayed it as especially threatening to white, urban and suburban, middle-class workers with desk jobs. In other words, bacon no longer served any purpose, or so it seemed. When cultural elites portrayed bacon as unsuitable, they also hinted at bacon’s revival. In this talk, I will explore the range of ways Americans talked about and portrayed bacon in the twentieth century.
Dr. Mark A. Johnson is a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where teaches courses on American History, the U. S. South, African American History, and food studies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Alabama. Previously, he authored An Irresistible History of Alabama Barbecue: From Wood Pit to White Sauce and Rough Tactics: Black Performance in Political Spectacle, 1877-1932. Currently, he’s working on a cultural history of bacon titled American Bacon: The History of a Food Phenomenon.