One of the things that has stood firm, but no one else ever bothers to question is why people in western countries are so obsessed about bacon in particular. I bet you’ve never thought about that, and to be honest, neither have I. It was only when I read a few articles online that I started thinking about why this might be the case.
Think about it – we virtually worship this particular food. When it’s holy, greasy name is mentioned, we associate it with happiness and we salivate over it. Well, not me particularly as I’m vegetarian, but you know what I’m taking about. Rumour has it that not only does it have an online community dedicated to the love of it, someone even made a dating App for bacon lovers!
After reading through some articles on the internet, I am led to the conclusion that there are only two reasons why we, corporately speaking, are so obsessed about this particular type of food. The first is its taste, well duh, and the second is its marketing, duh again.
Since we are so obsessed with bacon, a team of food scientists actually did some research on the taste of bacon and related it to our body’s natural reaction to it. I bet they did not have any trouble securing funding for such a landmark and crucial study, right?
It has long been accepted in the science of food, aka flavour chemistry, that sometimes a single molecule in any good can evoke a particular specific taste in your brain. Two examples are isoamyl acetate, which is found in bananas and benzaldehyde, which forms the core of the taste in almond. Obviously, the final taste of any food is a combination of different molecules presented in the right ratio, but the ones mentioned are the predominant essential ingredient.
When scientists studied the composition of bacon, they found that there are many compounds which contribute to the overall taste of it. When bacon is cooked, the fatty acids that are present in it break up into compounds such as aldehyde, ketones and furans, each of which add unique flavours to the bacon. But this is not the only thing that contributes to its taste.
Apparently, as one might guess, the type of pig and its typical diet also plays a part in determining how the bacon will finally taste. For example, the Tamworth variety of pigs have huge bellies that contain a lot of fatty acids, while large black hogs have short muscle fibres, which are also delicious in their own right. Doesn’t this sound like wine, cheese or chocolate tasting?
But in addition to this, there are two other things that contribute to its taste. Firstly, the curing salts that are used for bacon production can react with the natural fats in the meat to contribute to its flavour. Finally, the combo of proteins and sugars when bacon is heated also contributes to its aroma. This is often known as the Maillard Reaction.
Now that we have covered the point of taste, let’s now move to the other reason – marketing. Yes, the original people who discovered their love of bacon must have really hyped it up disproportionately until its almost overkill. It is one of those things which everyone does, but no one knows the origins of – very compatible with our modern world, isn’t it?
I hope this brings a little bit of perspective into that obsession you have always had, but never questioned.
Instead of bacon, try these:
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