Would Bacon By Any Other Name Smell As Sweet?

ThinkGeek Bacon-Palooza, Image: Nicole Wakelin

It’s sort of a universally accepted fact that bacon is one of the best foods known to mankind. No other food garners quite the same level of fanatic devotion and adoration. As a result, it’s been incorporated into all sorts of recipes in an effort to create the ultimate bacon experience. I am guilty of adding more bacon than required whenever it’s called for because, it’s bacon, why not? I thought I was really living on the edge when I bought a bacon chocolate bar. This was at a little specialty shop in Boston and I walked out clutching my treasure, ready to fend off the masses who would obviously kill to have this for themselves.

I sat down on a bench and unwrapped my treasure thinking of all those shows you see on TV with people savoring weird foods. I decided to follow their lead and started with the aroma. It smelled like chocolate, which, although a wonderful smell, did not hold the promise of bacon. Then I cracked a piece off and looked at what I was about to eat. I saw teeny tiny little bits of bacon. Teeny. Tiny. This did not make me happy but I popped a piece into my mouth anyway. The chocolate was as good as it smelled, but the bacon was barely noticeable. I had just paid nearly $10 for a chocolate bar that did not live up to my expecations. The bacon was a lie.

Months later, I purchased a Talking Bacon plush from ThinkGeek. You press his side and he says “I’m bacon.” It was what my daughter wanted for her birthday more than anything. Yes, I was equal parts thrilled and scared. Bacon plush has been a big hit with every child in our neighborhood. He went in for show and tell and I had half a dozen parents contact me to find out where they could get him. Talking Bacon is the man!

One afternoon, my daughter’s friend, James, was marveling at the wonder of  Talking Bacon and asked where I’d gotten this amazing creation. I told him and then loaded up the site so he could see it for himself. It’s fair to say that his eyes bugged out of his head when he saw the assortment of geeky goods on the screen. Bacon popcorn! Bacon gumballs! Bacon jelly beans! I don’t think he could have been more excited if I’d told him school was cancelled for the rest of the year.

When his Mom came to pick him up, I told her that he might be asking for a bunch of bacon stuff, and then did the obligatory “Oops, sorry, I kinda set you up there. My bad.” apology.  She rolled her eyes, looked at her son, and told him she was not buying him a bunch of bacon stuff. He looked sullen. He gave her a masterful pout. He even made his lip quiver. No luck. So, James turned his charms on me. Me. Keeper of all things geeky. Writer of geeky stuff. Player of video games. I was his only hope.

I put this off for months, thinking he’d forget, but every single time I saw him, he asked if I’d gotten the goods. My answer was always “Not yet.” Then he showed up for a playdate with my daughters in an Angry Birds shirt which he proudly wore and, I thought, I just had to help this burgeoning little geek in the making. I contacted ThinkGeek.

And because ThinkGeek is so cool, they sent me a whole box full of bacon goodness. I was excited to try these bacony treats, but a little nervous. Unlike the bacon chocolate bar with barely discernible bacon, the whole box smelled like bacon when I opened it. Popcorn, gumballs, jelly beans, lollipop. Where to start?

I opened the tin of  Bacon Gumballs. They sure smelled like bacon. And they were a brick red color that looked like bacon. I decided it was best to have something to drink handy, like when my kids are forced to try something new, just in case the flavor killed me. I put it in my mouth and it was bacony. I chewed it and holy overwhelming bacon flavor! I didn’t think it was possible but it was actually too much bacon. I made it through maybe half a dozen chews before I had to spit it out and chug half a glass of milk.

My kids found this hysterical.

I moved on to the Bacon Beans. I’d learned from the gumballs and had a glass of milk actually in my hand as I popped a jelly bean in my mouth. I chewed, and chewed and, bacon explosion! Out with the jelly bean, down with the milk.  This left the lollipop and the popcorn. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but, I persevered and went for the Bacon Lollipop. Again, milk in hand, I gave the lollipop a few licks. It was tasty! It was sweet and had just a hint of bacon and, I liked it, I really liked it. My kids now wanted to try it but I told them they had to have a jelly bean and a gumball first. They declined.

Once the husband was home, I decided it was time to pop the popcorn. You know how, in an office, someone can pop popcorn on the other side of the building and you can smell it? Yeah, well I think my neighbors may have smelled the Bacon Pop right through the walls of my house. It smelled like the gumballs tasted and I was, um, terrified. I held my nose, grabbed a new glass of milk, and tried a few pieces. And then a few more. Another bacony success! If you can get past the overwhelming aroma, the darn stuff actually tastes really good.

So, in my quest for bacon I found two tasty treats in the lollipop and popcorn, and two that didn’t quite cut it in the gumballs and jelly beans. They are, however, the perfect thing to keep at your desk, luring in unsuspecting co-workers. Trust me, it’ll be good for a laugh. I even conned the kids over for a playdate yesterday into giving them a try and the looks on their faces, absolutely priceless. They did not like, except for one girl who liked the gumballs. She’s either exceptionally brave or crazy. I’ve yet to decide.

Ah, but what about the boy that started it all? What did James think? Well, oddly his Mom, who is a good friend, hasn’t responded to the texts I sent her about the bacon stuff. She must be really busy because she couldn’t possibly be ignoring me. I’m going to continue testing this on the neighborhood kids, but not to worry. Next time I see James I’ve saved a whole pile of bacon flavored tastiness for his geeky little heart.

Thanks to ThinkGeek for sending me (and James) all this bacon goodness!

Beans, Soda, Same Difference: A Jelly Belly Experiment

When I was little, I categorically refused to eat Hoppin’ John. At some point I got into my head (I think my dad helped), that Hoppin’ John was not in fact black-eyed peas, but  some dude named John’s actual eyes. As a replacement to the annual tradition of eating black-eyed peas my mom cleverly replaced them with jelly beans. And not just any jelly beans, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans; a bag full of all my favorites without a licorice or buttered popcorn in sight. They were shaped the same and had bean in the name, we figured the luck would carry over.

Now at age twenty-six with a kid of my own, I still get jelly beans for the new year. I also eat black-eyed peas, as does my kiddo, but why give up an opportunity for guaranteed Jelly Bellies? This year I took it to a new level. One of Oklahoma’s many Route 66 destinations is a fun little place called Pop’s in Arcadia. (A definite must-stop for anyone who is traveling Route 66, I-35, or passing through central Oklahoma!) Pop’s specializes in bottled soda, the old school kind with metal bottle caps and glass.  If you can think of it Pop’s either has it or will order it on request. Thus far I’ve tried Mint Julip Soda, Lenin-ade, Cat Pee Soda, and Rum Soda. But on my most recent trip I spotted Jelly Belly Gourmet Soda. It came in ten varieties all based on popular flavors of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. I scooped up six of them and immediately commenced planning an experiment.

Jelly Belly Gourmet Sodas

I made every effort to create a sound experiment process and am giving you the opportunity to try it with your own geeklets. The experiments consists of three phases. This is a great opportunity to chat up the scientific method, experiment methodology, and lab safety. You’ll not need any more equipment then what you likely already have floating around in your home.


  • Measuring device – I used a syringe for cool effect but that’s because I own a syringe. If your kitchen is not quite as geeked out as mine then an 1/8 cup measuring cup or a tablespoon are fine too.
  • Clean cups – In true controlled environment form, you should use a new cup for each flavor/flavor combination. But I’m trying to be more green, so we used re-usable plastic cups and rinsed them REALLY well.
  • Sodas – I found that one bottle each of the six flavors gave me plenty to work with for a test group of five.
  • Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Flavors to match the sodas you’ve selected. You’ll want about 20 beans per flavor per subject. Again, for all six flavors with five subjects, it was still under a pound of candy.
  • Plates or small containers to separate each flavor of bean
  • Palette Cleanser – We used oyster crackers
  • Cool Drinking Water – one glass for each subject or participant

Pre-Experiment (Hypothesis & Prediction)

Set each soda near the plate of associated beans. Have your subjects (kids) right down which soda they think they will like best and then which jelly bean they will like best. Discuss why they think that. Is it the same soda and bean or different? Is it because they already know what they taste like? If they have never tried the soda or the bean before, what do they think it will taste like? Which ones do they look forward to trying the most, which are they most concerned about? Write down your hypotheses and predictions for later use.

Experiment #1

Evaluate Individually

Try one bean (just one!) of the first flavor and rate it on the following scale.*

  1. Delish!
  2. Really Tasty
  3. Tasty
  4. Not-so-Tasty
  5. Terrible

Now repeat this process for each bean. Be sure to cleanse your palette between each taste. Record your data on a sheet of paper. Write down the flavor’s name and your rating. If more than one person is tasting at a time, encourage your testers, or subjects, to write down the rating and THEN discuss their reactions. This helps cut down on the influenced biases.

After you’ve finished tasting and rating each jelly bean, repeat this with just a sip of soda, rating each individually,cleansing your palette each time.

*Due to the age category of my subjects I picked a 5-point scale for ease, but feel free to up the scale to a higher number. Remember the more options, the harder the analysis gets later. Just be sure that whatever you choose, you use the same scale all the way through.

Experiment #2

Compare/Contrast Soda and Bean

Eat one bean. Take a sip of water. Then take a sip of the correlating soda flavor. Now rate the relation between the two using the following scale.

  1. Bean and Soda taste exactly the same
  2. Bean and Soda taste very similar
  3. Bean and Soda taste somewhat similar
  4. Bean and Soda have two distinct but related flavors
  5. Bean and Soda taste nothing alike

This one is a bit tricky to get the gist across. I ended up having to pull other food from the pantry to fully explain, but all my subjects were under ten. If you have an issue getting them to understand what each classification means, try this.

  1. Fresh Orange and Fresh Orange Juice
  2. Fresh Apple and Apple Sauce
  3. Cheeto and Cheese
  4. Fresh Grape and Grape Soda
  5. Mashed Potato and Grape Soda

Experiment #3


Part of the fun of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans is making “recipes.” This part of the experiment will not be included in the analysis, so if you’d like to break out the rest of the flavors I know full well you purchased while at the candy store, go for it. Go to town and once the sugar high has set in, have them sit to do their data analysis.

We also tried making recipes from the sodas. If the combination worked for the bean we tried it with the soda. Have the subjects write down which recipes tasted best, which ones tasted worst. Remember to play with ratios. (Excellent time to delve into fractions! Ha! Science and math lesson all in one! Yay!) This is where your measuring device comes in. If two Bean A and one Bean B tasted good, measure out two parts Soda A and one part Soda B.


Now that all the data has been collected and recorded, it’s time to analyze the data. You can find the average rating of each flavor of bean and soda by adding each subject’s rating together and then dividing by the number of subjects. Compare your results to your hypotheses and predictions. Did everything turn out the way you thought it would? Are your predicted favorites still your favorites? What beans and soda were most directly related? Is the highest rated bean and the highest rated soda the same? Get Socratic on them and ask questions.

Jelly Belly Soda Pop ShoppeI tried to locate a quick source to buy the Jelly Belly sodas online but was unable. I know that Walgreen’s carries the line from time to time but that’s not too terribly reliable. Jelly Belly does produce a Soda Pop Shoppe line of Jelly Beans. It uses A&W Root Beer, A&W Cream Soda, Orange Crush, Grape Crush, 7-Up, and Dr. Pepper. If you can’t find the Jelly Belly sodas, I believe that Soda Pop Shoppe Jelly Beans and their associated sodas would be just as valid a scientific study.

I performed my own study using the Jelly Belly sodas and related beans and will post my results of our experiment next week. If you perform your own study at home, post your results on GeekMom’s forum under Science, Jelly Belly Experiment!