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Feb 19, 2008 01:27 PM

Vegetarians craving bacon/pork? Nutritional explanation?

I call myself a vegetarian because I don't eat meat 99% of the time. However, every once and a while, I see some bacon/sausage/al pastor taco, and feel like I simply must eat it. I usually do, and feel fine for the next month or several weeks until the next pork craving. Is there some weird nutritional explanation for this? Or is it purely gustatory?

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  1. Casual but frequent observation does suggest that vegetarians fall off the wagon when bacon more than any other meat is in their path, though burgers run a close second.

    3 Replies
    1. re: tatamagouche

      One of my friends who has been a vegetarian for 25 years says the only meat items he still misses (and craves) after all that time are prosciutto and bacon.

      1. re: DanaB

        My vegetarian friend calls bacon the 'gateway meat'.

        1. re: Sooeygun

          a friends daughter said to me "bacon, the vegetarian's downfall" - i said "not downfall, salvation"

    2. Your body telling you what it wants: an old friend and colleague worked with Guaymi Indians in a remote part of Panama in the 60s. He mostly ate local foods. Whenever he got a food shipment in, he found that he literally lapped up the oil the sardines were packed in prior to eating the sardines themselves. He had never done that previously and was always amused and a bit chagrined after.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        I was vegetarian for 13 years, and I believe in the "your body tells you what it needs" theory, but I don't think bacon really falls into that category. Maybe your body is craving protein, yes, but bacon definitely isn't the best-for-you protein. (And if you follow the "body tells you" theory, your body would tell you to want what's GOOD for you.)

        So I think it is, as you say, "purely gustatory." Or, if you want to get Proustian about it, you're craving the flavor, and the memories it represents.

        There's nothing wrong with any of that. You just can't easily wrap it up as a 'necessity' if you're trying to be a strict vegetarian, because that's cheating.

        1. re: mudster

          I need pork. My body tells me that. Bacon is good. So are pork chops. With the bone in. I really like good pork rinds. There is nothing like bacon drippings for cooking. Lard makes the very best biscuits. A ham hock is a necessity for Red Beans and Rice. Natural casings work best for sausages but loose sausage is fine sometimes. Pat├ęs and terrines are always better with pork. Serious weakness for rillettes. Good BBQ. Chopped. Or crusty ribs. A good Carolina pig pullin'.
          How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
          If I were marooned on a desert island and I could wish for one thing, it would be a pregnant sow. Pigs in the US have average litters of 10, you know. That would keep me going just fine.

          1. re: mudster

            I read Sam's post as being a reference to the fat in bacon, NOT the protein....

            1. re: mudster

              if there was much truth to the old saw about the body craving what it needs, we wouldn't see 4 year olds 'addicted' to soft drinks, and the tremendous percentage of obese adults in the US population. . . . .
              we'd all be craving green vegetables and unprocessed fresh foods.
              instead, the evidence shows, that, as a population, we appear to be craving high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors, transfats, saturated fats, enormous amounts of salt, etc.

          2. Bodies crave fat - pork supplies it in the most succulent manner.

            1. My hypothesis, "Your body telling you what it wants" was speculative and based on the anecdotal experience of a friend and not on any body of evidence whatsoever. having said that, my friend did find it odd that he craved oil, albeit during a time when his dietry fats were extremely low due to the Guaymi diet.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                My sister was a vegetarian for a very long time. Every few months she would find herself literally dreaming about meat and would have just a little bit - most often pork of some kind. She has since added local, humanely raised/butchered meat into her diet but always followed the "your body telling you what it wants" theory for herself and interpreted her dreams of meat as just that.

              2. I'm guessing, but it's probably a complex of things. Warning: Mild geekiness ahead.

                Fat is the most calorie dense food; our ancestors often didn't know when they would eat next so we are attracted to it. Smell is a primal sense; it's the oldest one and the perception of it takes place in the "limbic" system, where emotions are processed. (All the other senses go through the "thalamus".) Unlike other senses smell directly invokes emotions associated with the smell, which is why when we smell food it's such an strong experiance.

                I don't know why we are attracted to smoky flavors. It is likely something hard wired about them. People that cooked meats killed bacteria, mold, fungus, etc. in the meat, allowing for a healthier life and a better chance at passing on their genes. Since eating smoked food and a build up of lot of body fat often result in diseases later in life, I like this explanation from Dr. Steve Harris: