Look at the Bacon
What viral videos about junk food can teach us about healthy food marketing
Have you seen this video yet? No? Stop whatever you’re doing, and watch this right now. It’s the best thing on the internet.
Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks it’s catchy: the tune has 3.1 million views in 5 days, for an autotuned remix of an amateur fast food review. Dayum. You can see the original here, or check out the piano cover, the drum cover, the Friday style cover, and even listen to a full hour of “Oh My Dayum,” cause I know you can’t get enough.
To steal a phrase from my friend J, a community development and healthy food entrepreneur: I know I’m supposed to be mad at this, but I’m NOT.
How could I be mad? Daym and I, we’re kindred spirits. I know how it feels to be this excited about dinner. Have you ever seen a group of foodies in their natural environment? This is how we talk. We giggle about how good we know the food is going to be before we eat it. We look for the signs that preface that life-changing Dayumm! moment. Like Daym and Jay-Z, if it’s really that good, we might get a little mad at it. It’s all about passion.
But Daym is not just a foodie: the man is a connoisseur, celebrating a standard of excellence other meals should aspire to. He’s thinking carefully about his food and looking for a specific type of craftsmanship. He’s considering taste (perfect amount of salt!), mouthfeel (You bite the fry and the fry bites back!), presentation (look at the bacon!), and packaging (ghetto grocery bag!). (Quality service gets a shout-out too, in the original review).
All this build up is just to tell you how good he KNOWS this meal is going to be before he even takes a bite of the food. He’s creating enough build up to the enjoyment that when he finally says, “Let’s DO This!” you want to cheer for him to eat that burger.
Now, I know why I’m supposed to be mad at this video. Everything about it echoes the fact that we live in a fast food nation: Daym is reviewing a bacon doublecheeseburger with fries (and a soda). He eats his meal — Lunch? Dinner? Unclear. It’s daytime, so can’t be “Third Meal” — alone, on the dashboard of his car.
The video my friend was talking about not being mad at, Hot Cheetos and Takis, is another example of a viral video that makes junk food seem cool. Props to those kids for their lyrical skills and creative initiative, but I can’t get on board with little kids talking about how cool it is to ride their bikes to the corner store to get junk food. On the other hand, isn’t the fact that these kids are talking about food at all a sign of its cultural importance? And isn’t that a good thing?
In principle, people in my field would find these pop cultural celebrations of junk food pretty depressing. But I think there’s a silver lining. The joy Daym expresses in his video illustrates how pleasure in food — and true care for its craftsmanship and deliciousness — transcends food genres.
Where Daym succeeds marvelously is in pointing out that not all food is created equal. “This is how bacon is SUPPOSED to be” is an exclamation that implies standards of quality. It also happens to be the exact same thing I say every time I eat a summer tomato or roasted brussels sprouts.
I don’t say it because the tomato is beautiful and I don’t say it because I’m happy I bought those brussesls sprouts from a farmer that grew them responsibly, though I’m proud of those things too. I shout out loud because it tastes fucking amazing. Delicious is delicious.
If we can start there, if we can start with actually thinking about our food from the perspective of taste and quality, then we can get the beyond the idea that people don’t care about what they eat. Junk food is engineered to be “delicious” by pluging into our genetic predisposition to love the fat, sugar and salt compounds that keep us alive in a state of scarcity.
But fruits and vegetables in their most nutritious state are engineered to be delicious by nature — a point that chefs like Dan Barber emphasize when they talk about the need for better farming. Maybe that’s the lens through which we should start portraying vegetables. Of course, there are other problems related to access and cost that need to be addressed. But if we can get to the point where people are talking about eating your vegetables not because they are good for you, but because they taste really really good, then we’ll really have changed the food system.