The Ultimate Thinking Man's Guide to the Controversial Burger King Bacon Sundae

July 6, 2012 4:12 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
bacon Sundae 2
The last bacon sundae you'll ever eat. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Welcome, everyone, to the cardiovascular equivalent of the last stop on the train. We're gonna be breaking down the Burger King's new Bacon Sundae so your digestive system doesn't have to.

Unless, of course, that's what you want-- and we recommend it. I mean, we don't recommend it terribly strongly, because there are better bacon sundaes out there, but the one you can get at Burger King for pretty darn cheap (more taxing on your thighs than your wallet) is, well, good.

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But its tastiness probably wasn't up for debate. After all, anything that combines crumbled bacon, hot fudge, caramel, and vanilla ice cream has an inherent decadence that nothing-- not even eating nothing but kale for the next five weeks-- could ever take way from it. Oh, and there's even an audacious garnish of a whole bacon slice nestled right next to it, too.

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In the midst of all the buzz and controversy the bacon sundae has generated, one question appears over and over again: "Are they serious?"

That's exactly what Barbara Kahn, marketing professor and fast food stick-in-the-mud at Wharton asked when questioned. "I wasn't sure if this was for real," she told Knowledge@Wharton during an interview, "In the past, [Burger King] would do outrageous things just to get media attention...so my first thought was that this is another attention-getting idea."

Attention-getting is right. The last time I can remember a fast food offering getting this much media derision was KFC's Double Down-- a chicken sandwich that got rid of all that unnecessary bread, replacing it with two big ole chunks of fried chicken. Because of all the outcry, public and critical alike, the BK Bacon Sundae is always on the tip of our tongues-- if not the back of our throats; and maybe that's exactly what they were going for. Sure, some of us will indulge our Freudian death drive/pleasure principle by going to Burger King and trying it out. Others will decry it from the highest, healthiest mountains. But either way, we're talking about it. Either way, we know that Burger King has combined the fattiest things on their menu into one easy-to-eat limited-time (like your current waistline measurement) treat.

But amidst all the buzz about the crass novelty of the sundae, we feel the need to remind you that this isn't the first time that bacon's been added to dessert, and it certainly won't be the last. It just won't feel all that special anymore.

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These are just a few examples. There are so many, too many for just one article. Too many even for a compelling listorial, and that's the strange truth about all of this. Burger King isn't a pioneer when it comes to adding bacon to desserts. In fact, they got there last.

When I think about bacon desserts, I think about Vosges Haut Chocolate, a company that's been expertly adding bacon bits to their chocolate bars for quite some time now. At about $8 a bar, their bar isn't cheap: but it's quite good.

The trend caught on, and pretty soon bacon chocolate bars were ubiquitous enough that they justified a Bacon Chocolate Bar Taste Test by the A.V. Club.

Bacon ice cream is even more ubiquitous. I'm reminded of David Lebovitz's recipe for Candied Bacon Ice Cream, which reigns supreme in my heart as the best darn ice cream I've ever made at home. It's maple-and-brown-sugar based, so it tastes more like a Waffle Runoff ice cream than something new and exciting. But that play on expectations-- that something we think we've never had before gives way to the taste of something comforting and familiar-- is exactly what Lebovitz was playing on.

Heck, there's even a bacon macaron at Bosie Tea Parlor. What more proof do you need that bacon has become such a staple of hip, haute cuisine that it borders on cliche?

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So why, then, is there so much outrage aimed at Burger King for bringing the bacon sundae to a national scale?

Beats me. The Marxist in me says that it's class panic. Like the silk stocking and the name "Charlotte" before it, the bacon confectionary was once a mark of distinction and refinement. Eating it was a sign that you were on the cutting edge. Now, you can get it at Burger King.

Less cynically, Burger King's version is clumsier than the refinement you'd find at Bosie's or from Lebovitz's recipe. Part of the culinary goodness of those recipes comes from candying the bacon. We'd ask Burger King to candy theirs, but not without pointing out the irony that baking brown sugar and butter into bacon, in spite of making it more delicious and more artisanal, also makes it less healthy. In fact, Burger King's sundae is actually on the healthier side of the bacon dessert spectrum for this very reason.

So here we are, confronted with the definitive end of an era of the bacon trend. Like Lana Del Rey playing both Marilyn and Jackie, no one is ever going to be able to do bacon as a dessert again. This isn't the final nail on the coffin-- this is a launching of the coffin into space via rocket ship.

And in the face of this fast-food induced end-of-an-era, what's a hip, haute, and hungry person like me or you to do?

Here's an idea: dig in. It's cheap.



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