Early on a Friday evening in March, the bar in Hell's Kitchen was packed. It was an after-work spot, a place to catch the NCAA tournament on a few big screens and drink a decent craft beer before heading home, or going out for a bigger night. Somewhere under the din of chatter, just barely perceptible, Drake and Rihanna were singing. And beneath that, if I listened hard and used my imagination, was the never-ending sizzle of frying bacon.

This was BarBacon, whose name is as unsubtle as its theme ingredient. Virtually everything you can eat here has bacon in it, from the sliders to the lobster mac and cheese to the key lime pie, topped with crumbled bacon and bacon whipped cream. There's a bacon tasting menu—two strips each of black pepper, pecan, jalapeño, and sugar-glazed—and bacon cocktails, with bacon-infused bourbon, rum, or vodka. The bacon comes from all over America, from New England to the South to California, and the clientele was nearly as multiculturally varied (though predictably light on observant Jews, Muslims, and vegetarians), and also, as my dining companion warned me by text, "super fratty."

"You can't go wrong with bacon," observed a young guy wearing a San Antonio Spurs cap, who'd walked in spontaneously with his date. "It's like the color black."

None of this should surprise you. Yes, bacon is the color black. It's the iPhone. It's a $100 bill. It's a roll of quarters. It's quality television. (It's also crummy television that you watch anyway.) It's the goddamn weather, so ubiquitous that it's both beneath notice and yet impossible not to mention, to include, to comment on, to salivate over whether you want to or not. It's a dad joke. It's a blow job.

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And it's been this way for so long that it's hard to remember an era when bacon was simply one of a few default breakfast meats, first among equals with sausage and ham (and a significant step above scrapple). I certainly don't recall that era. By the time I learned to cook bacon as a teenager—fry a few strips at a time in a cast-iron skillet, drain on paper towels, eat before my brother caught sight—bacon grease was already clogging the arteries of Hollywood. Homer Simpson was stocking up on Farmer Billy's bacon-fed bacon at the Kwik-E-Mart, and Pulp Fiction's Vincent Vega was coolly cooing, "Bacon tastes gooood; pork tastes gooood." Bacon was a punchline that needed no setup, a catchy, instant signifier of reptile-brain indulgence.

At the same time, according to this fabulously well-researched article by David Sax in Bloomberg Businessweek, the National Pork Board was doing everything it could to get bacon onto the menus of fast-food chains (and thereby prop up cratering pork-belly prices). Thanks to what Sax called "great advancements in precooked bacon technology," not to mention canny lobbying, the Pork Board succeeded beyond its wildest dreams, which perhaps explains why I ate so many Wendy's Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers in high school.

Then, in the early 2000s, the Atkins Diet arrived. Its premise was that if you just stopped eating carbohydrates, your body would go into a fat-burning process called ketosis, and you'd lose weight and stay thin. And what should you consume instead of carbs? Why, meat and cheese! With that, whatever health-consciousness America had developed following warnings, in the 1980s and 1990s, of the dangers of cholesterol, saturated fat, nitrates, and salt—bacon's raisons d'être—vanished in a flash. The nation, and notably its cultural elite, went apeshit over bacon's power-chord thrum, and few rocked as hard to that hickory-smoked tune as Josh Ozersky, whose influential writing appeared in Grub Street, Time, and Esquire, and who summed up his gastronomic philosophy as "the fat is the meat, and the meat is the vegetable." 

'Unlike God, who is invisible, at least we can see Bacon,' declares the church's website. 'Bacon is demonstrably real.'

For Ozersky (who died in 2015), the bacon boom was unparalleled, glorious. "This is the Periclean age of bacon," he told Nightline.

But by 2007, even Ozersky was declaring in Grub Street that "Bacon Has Jumped the Shark." America just did not need silly products like bacon salt, he wrote, because "all we want from bacon is more of it. We can live without the accessories entirely."

He was, as we all now know, entirely wrong. America cannot live without the accessories. In the past nine years, bacon mania has only accelerated, to the point where BarBacon's menu feels fairly staid. Today you can buy chocolate-covered bacon roses; bacon-flavored hot sauces that contain no bacon; bacon jam and bacon chutney; maple-bacon coffee beans; bacon toothpaste and bacon dental floss; bacon-flavored condoms (that I truly hope contain no actual bacon); bacon perfumes, bacon body wash, and bacon shaving cream. You can attend bacon festivals in Brooklyn, Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Cary, North Carolina ("This event is not designed for children"), Atlanta, Delray Beach, Des Moines, Omaha, San Jose, Sacramento, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. There are bacon avocados that don't taste like bacon, and there's a seaweed, dulse, that does taste like bacon. There is the United Church of Bacon, whose 13,000 members are atheists and skeptics and whose headquarters are in Las Vegas, at the former home of magician Penn Jillette. 

"Unlike God, who is invisible, at least we can see Bacon," declares the church's website. "Bacon is demonstrably real."

America doesn't just love bacon—America is bacon, the cured-and-smoked belly of the world, as dangerously unhealthy as it is deliciously addictive. In fact, this YouTube video of a woman cooking a strip of bacon on the barrel of an AR-15 assault rifle may be the most American thing since the Bill of Rights:

For a lot of us, though, the frenzied American attitude toward bacon makes us as uncomfortable as, well, the frenzied American attitude toward assault rifles. "Bacon makes everything better" is a T-shirt-ready catchphrase as annoying (and worrying) as an unironic "America, fuck yeah!" Now, maybe we're simply elitist, looking WASPily down, through our Warby Parker monocles, on unchecked enthusiasm about anything. "Those yokels and their bacon!" you can imagine us sneering. "Please pass the beluga."

But we love bacon, too! The very name of this website you're reading is, you may have noticed, Extra Crispy. And bacon is all over elite-food-media publications like Bon Appétit (where, full disclosure, I used to work). This year alone, Bon Appétit's recipes have included stir-fried asparagus with bacon and crispy shallots, cheesy grits with poached eggs, greens, and bacon, and kimchi-braised chicken with bacon. There's even a recipe for refried beans that includes not only slab bacon but schmaltz—that's rendered chicken fat, bacon grease's Jewish cousin thrice removed. By contrast, pancetta and guanciale—fancy-pants (and awesome) Italian approaches to bacon—have not appeared once in 2016.

Bacon is, as well, all over my own cooking life. I'll chop deeply smoky bacon (and salt pork) into the base of my corn chowder, I have no compunction about frying a few strips for a weekday breakfast, I dream of midsummer BLTs, and when I've got the munchies at midnight, I'll whip up a wok of painfully satisfying bacon kimchi fried rice. For a friend's bachelor-party weekend at an Airbnb in the Berkshires, I made sure we bought two big packs of bacon (one pork, one lamb), not because we were getting all chest-beatingly manly but because, like, we gotta eat something for breakfast, and this stuff is, as Vincent Vega declared, gooood.