Meredith C. Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem |

Meredith C. Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem

Meredith C. Carroll
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

Late last month, the chain of restaurants whose claim to fame is always being open announced a radical addition to its menu – the Maple Bacon Sundae. Boasting that “bacon makes a classic ice cream sundae even more awesome,” Denny’s is delighting in the fact that any time of day, customers can now revel in a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with maple-flavored syrup and a generous sprinkle of diced hickory-smoked bacon, which is then topped with yet another layer of ice cream, syrup and bacon and then a final drizzle of syrup.

The Maple Bacon Sundae is part of Denny’s new Baconalia menu, featuring seven new baconlicious selections, which complement their more classic diner fare such as the Meat Lover’s Scramble and Moons Over My Hammy Omelette.

“Bacon is magical. Bacon transforms classic foods into colossally awesome ones,” crows Denny’s website.

And indeed, with other innovative dishes such as the BBBLT sandwich (a triple decker made with eight strips of crisp hickory-smoked bacon and creamy mayo), Triple Bacon Sampler (featuring two strips each of hickory-smoked bacon, pepper bacon and turkey bacon and served with two eggs and hash browns made with diced hickory-smoked bacon and shredded Cheddar cheese), and Bacon Flapjacks (generous bits of hickory-smoked bacon are baked into pancake batter and then griddled to golden-brown perfection; served with two eggs, two strips of bacon and hash browns), a food revolution is, indeed, underway.

However, in order to get the Food and Drug Administration to approve the Baconalia menu – which is where “bacon isn’t just rationed or relegated to a side dish. Bacon is king. And we celebrate it in all its sizzling glory” – Denny’s had to first agree that all future restaurants would be located inside of hospitals.

“The decision was really borne out of consumer safety,” said the FDA’s chief health officer. “Our research shows that when two or more of the items from the Baconlia menu are consumed in one sitting, nine out of ten human beings are advised to seek immediate medical attention. The arteries of the other one human usually close up completely within minutes, which generally results in death.”

It’s a move that’s been met with a mixed reaction across the board, particularly since it will inevitably mean the end to many hospital cafeterias, which will in turn put thousands of people out of work across the country.

“We acknowledge it’s a shame that so many hospital cafeteria workers will be out of work,” said the president of the Service Employees International Union. “But while it’s not good for our members, the upside is the benefit to all other hospital workers and patients. There really was a bacon void in society that’s now being filled. We think everyone actually owes a debt of gratitude to Denny’s.”

The people expecting the most fiscal damage by the addition of Denny’s to hospitals are florists.

“Ninety percent of my business is arranging flowers for sick people. But now visitors will just bring them Denny’s Bacon Meatloaf instead,” said one floral shop owner who is located across the street from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan. “I mean, if someone is already gravely ill, why not give them what will really make them feel better, like the Bacon Meatloaf that’s made with diced bacon baked inside and topped with more diced bacon on the outside. How does a bouquet of lilies or even roses compete with that?”

But the reality is that even some hospital workers are eagerly anticipating the change.

“Yeah, I’ll lose my job and all of my benefits and, almost immediately afterwards, my house as a result. But the closest Denny’s to home right now is 11 blocks away. Once they demolish the cafeteria at the hospital and put a Denny’s in there, I’ll only have to walk five blocks to get my fix,” said a cashier at the cafeteria at The University of Chicago Medical Center who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his wife isn’t aware of his impending unemployment. “Go pig or go home, is what I say. If I can’t bring home the bacon, I’ll just go to it.”

With 1,500 current locations across the U.S., Denny’s is projected to add another 750 restaurants to its portfolio before the end of 2012 thanks to the addition of lots and lots (and lots) of bacon to its menus.

As part of the Baconalia agreement with the FDA, existing Denny’s are grandfathered into their locations and will therefore not have to worry about relocating to hospitals, but they are now required to staff a cardiologist and EMT at each restaurant.

“It’s a win-win-win situation,” said a Denny’s spokesperson. “The patients, visitors and doctors will have new and tastier options than the same old cafeteria food, the doctors will moonlight at outside Denny’s locations, and fast food lovers will have even more locations from which to choose, and can follow up their meals immediately afterwards with a convenient – and strongly recommended – angioplasty. Bacon is making our world a better place, one strip at a time.”

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