Bacon!

The most e-mailed story on the New York Times.

FOR a nation seeking unity, a recipe has swept the Internet that seems to unite conservatives and liberals, gun owners and foodies, carnivores and … well, not vegetarians and health fanatics.

Certainly not the vegetarians and health fanatics.

This recipe is the Bacon Explosion, modestly called by its inventors “the BBQ Sausage Recipe of all Recipes.” The instructions for constructing this massive torpedo-shaped amalgamation of two pounds of bacon woven through and around two pounds of sausage and slathered in barbecue sauce first appeared last month on the Web site of a team of Kansas City competition barbecuers. They say a diverse collection of well over 16,000 Web sites have linked to the recipe, celebrating, or sometimes scolding, its excessiveness. A fresh audience could be ready to discover it on Super Bowl Sunday.

Where once homegrown recipes were disseminated in Ann Landers columns or Junior League cookbooks, new media have changed — and greatly accelerated — the path to popularity. Few recipes have cruised down this path as fast or as far as the Bacon Explosion, and this turns out to be no accident. One of its inventors works as an Internet marketer, and had a sophisticated understanding of how the latest tools of promotion could be applied to a four-pound roll of pork.

The Bacon Explosion was born shortly before Christmas in Roeland Park, Kan., in Jason Day’s kitchen. He and Aaron Chronister, who anchor a barbecue team called Burnt Finger BBQ, were discussing a challenge from a bacon lover they received on their Twitter text-messaging service: What could the barbecuers do with bacon?

At the same time, Mr. Chronister wanted to get attention for their Web site, BBQAddicts.com. More traffic would bring in more advertising income, which they needed to fund a hobby that can cost thousands of dollars.

Mr. Day, a systems administrator who has been barbecuing since college, suggested doing something with a pile of sausage. “It’s a variation of what’s called a fattie in the barbecue community,” Mr. Day said. “But we took it to the extreme.”

He bought about $20 worth of bacon and Italian sausage from a local meat market. As it lay on the counter, he thought of weaving strips of raw bacon into a mat. The two spackled the bacon mat with a layer of sausage, covered that with a crunchy layer of cooked bacon, and rolled it up tight.

They then stuck the roll — containing at least 5,000 calories and 500 grams of fat — in the Good-One Open Range backyard smoker that they use for practice. (In competitions, they use a custom-built smoker designed by the third member of the team, Bryant Gish, who was not present at the creation of the Bacon Explosion.)

Mr. Day said his wife laughed the whole time. “She’s very supportive of my hobby,” he said.

The two men posted their adventure on their Web site two days before Christmas. On Christmas Day, traffic on the site spiked to more than 27,000 visitors.

Mr. Chronister explained that the Bacon Explosion “got so much traction on the Web because it seems so over the top.” But Mr. Chronister, an Internet marketer from Kansas City, Mo., did what he could to help it along. He first used Twitter to send short text messages about the recipe to his 1,200 Twitter followers, many of them fellow Internet marketers with extensive social networks. He also posted links on social networking sites. “I used a lot of my connections to get it out there and to push it,” he said.

The Bacon Explosion posting has since been viewed about 390,000 times. It first found a following among barbecue fans, but quickly spread to sites run by outdoor enthusiasts, off-roaders and hunters. (Several proposed venison-sausage versions.) It also got mentions on the Web site of Air America, the liberal radio network, and National Review, the conservative magazine. Jonah Goldberg at NationalReview.com wrote, “There must be a reason one reader after another sends me this every couple hours.” Conservatives4palin.com linked, too.

So did regular people. A man from Wooster, Ohio, wrote that friends had served it at a bon voyage party before his 10-day trip to Israel, where he expected bacon to be in short supply. “It wasn’t planned as a send-off for me to Israel, but with all of the pork involved it sure seemed like it,” he wrote.

About 30 people sent in pictures of their Explosions. One sent a video of the log catching fire on a grill.

Mr. Day said that whether it is cooked in an oven or in a smoker, the rendered fat from the bacon keeps the sausage juicy. But in the smoker, he said, the smoke heightens the flavor of the meats.

Nick Pummell, a barbecue hobbyist in Las Vegas, learned of the recipe from Mr. Chronister’s Twittering. He made his first Explosion on Christmas Day, when he and a group of friends also had a more traditional turkey. “This was kind of the dessert part,” he said. “You need to call 911 after you are done. It was awesome.”

Mr. Chronister said the main propellant behind the Bacon Explosion’s spread was a Web service called StumbleUpon, which steers Web users toward content they are likely to find interesting. Readers tell the service about their professional interests or hobbies, and it serves up sites to match them. More than 7 million people worldwide use the service in an attempt to duplicate serendipity, the company says.

Mr. Chronister intended to send the post to StumbleUpon, but one of his readers beat him to it. It appeared on the front page of StumbleUpon for three days, which further increased traffic.

Mr. Chronister also littered his site with icons for Digg, Del.icio.us and other sites in which readers vote on posts or Web pages they like, helping to spread the word. “Alright this is going on Digg,” a commenter wrote minutes after the Explosion was posted. “Already there,” someone else answered.

Some have claimed that the Bacon Explosion is derivative. A writer known as the Headless Blogger posted a similar roll of sausage and bacon in mid-December. Mr. Chronister and Mr. Day do not claim to have invented the concept.

But they do vigorously defend their method. When one commenter dared to suggest that the two hours in the smoker could be slashed to a mere 30 minutes if the roll was first cooked in a microwave oven, Mr. Chronister snapped back. “Microwave??? Seriously? First, the proteins in the meats will bind around 140 degrees, so putting it on the smoker after that is pointless as it won’t absorb any smoke flavor,” he responded on his site. “This requires patience and some attention. It’s not McDonald’s.”

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25 Random Things About Me

I put this on my Facebook page earlier, but I figured it’d make good reading material here, too. Enjoy.

1. I like New Orleans more now than I did when I lived there.

2. I used to want to be a comic-book artist when I grew up.

3. In first grade, I shared a girlfriend with my buddy (because teachers taught us the value of sharing).

4. I’ve never been in love.

5. Even without Bob Barker as the host, I still want to be a contestant on The Price is Right. I would be the guy who bets $1 every time (or $1.01, if the person before me bets $1). My ideal game would be Plinko, but the game with the yodeling music and the guy who moves up the mountain (and possibly falls off) freaks me out a little bit.

6. I’ll eat nuts when they’re in a jar, but not when they’re in cookies or brownies.

7. Years ago, I read the entire “Left Behind” series. I do not recommend this.

8. If you asked which TV character I want to be, I’ll say Jack Bauer. In reality, I look more like Gob Bluth (Will Arnett) from “Arrested Development.”

9. I’m partly to blame for making ECU fans mad at the mascot.

10. I can eat 12 blazing-hot buffalo wings in under six minutes. Anything for a free shirt.

11. As a Christian, I’d like to think I’m doing more good than harm both inside the church and out of it. Truth is, that’s what everyone likes to think, especially the ones who are doing harm.

12. I’ll read anything that directly challenges my faith or reason for believing in God to begin with.

13. I think all my bad experiences at my previous job helped prepare me to enjoy this one all the more.

14. Don’t mock, but “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton” was a decent movie. Please, don’t mock.

15. I voted for Obama despite his stance on abortion.

16. I hope someday to publish my own books.

17. Most of what I cook comes out of a box. I’m trying to remedy this.

18. When people come over, I don’t care if the rest of my apartment looks messed up so long as the bathroom is clean.

19. I know more rap music than I let on.

20. I love it when modern bands play old hymns.

21. I’d love to preach a sermon on “The Dark Knight.” Yet another reason to love that movie (besides Heath’s performance, of course).

22. I want to go to grad school for creative writing.

23. I hate it when people put clothes on their pets (there are some exceptions to this [e.g., Diggory] but not many)

24. I’m slowly learning that this economic crisis can never affect my true wealth.

25. The books on my bookshelf are not arranged alphabetically, but they are grouped by author.

Read this post with discernment

I got this off the Friendly Atheist blog:

Lifeway Christian Bookstores is marking some books with the label “Read with Discernment”. Here’s a snippet from the Web site:

We want you to know that the authors of books marked Read with Discernment may have espoused thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology.

However, we are making these titles available to our customers (along with the background and additional insight offered here through Read With Discernment) because we believe the books do present content that is relevant and of value to Christians and/or because pastors, seminary students, and other ministry leaders need access to this type of material, strictly for critical study or research to help them understand and develop responses to the diversity of religious thought in today’s postmodern world.

Unsurprisingly, Rob Bell is among the labeled authors (his books here, here, and here). So is Brian McLaren, Donald Miller, and William P. Young, author of “The Shack.”

The problem with Lifeway’s policy is that most of the books in Christian stores deserve this label, not just a select few. Of course, Lifeway could just be starting to add authors; if so, I’m speaking too soon, but we’ll see soon enough.

So if you’re going to label books as suspect, how about any book that promotes the prosperity gospel?

Or Ted Haggard, whose books remained on at least one Christian store’s shelf months after he was removed from the ministry in disgrace?

Or how about books that predict the end times? Will those works be regarded as false prophecy and labeled (or pulled) if their predictions don’t come true?

Or how about everyone’s favorite evangelical punching bag: Rick Warren?

So for anyone reading this: Should the store even be telling people which books are “safe” and which aren’t? What standards do you apply?

UPDATE: A Christian blogger, referenced on Friendly Atheist, points out that Lifeway is still willing to take your money for these books, despite not liking the theology. Maybe the store could offer discounts? “Half-off All Heretics!”

Better get that decaf early!

Bloomberg.com has this:

Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee chain, will stop continuously brewing decaffeinated coffee after noon as part of a drive to waste less and save $400 million by September.

The company, which last year started brewing fresh pots of coffee every 30 minutes, will have the caffeine-free version available upon request after 12 p.m., the Seattle-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. It takes about four minutes for a fresh cup to brew, spokeswoman Bridget Baker said.

“For many of our stores, the demand for decaf is greatly reduced in the afternoon,” the company said in the statement. “With our current standard of continually brewing decaf after 12 p.m. regardless of demand, we have seen a high amount of waste.”

The company informed baristas of the change yesterday. Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz is accelerating a cost-cutting plan to save $400 million by September from labor and product expenses. The plan includes brewing smaller pots of coffee so that less is wasted if it’s not purchased within the 30-minute time limit.

Starbucks is also closing stores in the U.S. and Australia and trimming waste in other products, such as excess milk in lattes and cappuccinos.

Starbucks rose 15 cents to $9.15 at 4 p.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. It has lost 53 percent in the past 12 months.

Someone is mad at Rick Warren. Shocker.

This video takes issue with Rick Warren reciting the Qur’an during the inaugural prayer.

Of all the faults that people could find in Rick Warren (by the way, don’t forget to look for any planks in your own eye), this one seems silly. This passage from the Muslim holy book doesn’t contradict anything the Bible says about God revealed in Jesus. Besides, the apostle Paul, who wrote a good portion of the New Testament, knew the works of pagan thinkers and could recite them:

“for, ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’ as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.'” -Acts 17:28

Paul uses the above-mentioned quotes to talk about the resurrection of Christ to people who hadn’t heard this message. More Christians should be able to quote passages from other religious texts to, at the very least, be able to engage in a good conversation and, at best, use the opportunity to share Jesus with them.

Bipartisan twittering

Time has a blog post about a U.S. congressman who was twittering during a meeting with Pres Obama. (For those of you who don’t know what that is, go here, and if you’re going to sign up, be sure to follow me!) I know a couple of Greenville tweeples (yes, you, Proctor) who are going to be so proud!

Lord, save Your church

Yet another dark reminder that even the church is in need of Jesus. It’s moments like this that make me both embarrassed to be a Christian and determined to embody the character of Jesus and share the gospel to help make sure stuff like this doesn’t happen anymore.