Bruce Watson's Slice of Life: Foody fads fall in feeding frenzy


Published: 8/18/2016 1:01:42 PM

In the year since I profiled them, it’s been the best and worst of times at America’s foody tourist sites. Gluten Mountain is soaring. The Kale Pit still stinks. And the Bacon Barn, well …

If you’re traveling through central New Jersey, Gluten Mountain is still a must-see. And now you can see its beige peak from miles away! The doughy, gloppy depository of all the gluten removed from gluten-free foods, Gluten Mountain has grown to 8,127 feet, easily the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. And easily the most disgusting.

To overcome our revulsion to a mountain of gunk, Gluten Mountain has been advertising. Who knew that actress Sally Field was a gluten freak, but there she is perched atop Gluten Mountain saying “Come on up! The gluten’s gooey!”

And “come on up” they have, more than a million visitors this year. The first skiers dared to slalom through the slop. Mountain bikers, who once feared sinking into the dough, have begun slogging the trails. And this summer, Gluten Mountain hosted both presidential candidates, though one called it “a loser of a tourist site.”

But the success of Gluten Mountain has not helped the Kale Pit. Just 20 miles away, the stinking green pit where thousands chuck handfuls of kale into the morass should have benefited from all those Gluten Mountain visitors. Why does the Kale Pit struggle while Gluten Mountain soars?

Blame the kale. For a few years after the adjacent Kale Shack opened, the pit burned its way into the earth, deepening each time a disgruntled child hurled his Kale Burger or Deluxe Kale Kombo into the pit. Heaps of fermenting kale – a superfood, in case you hadn’t heard — rotted into the earth, creating a pit 500 feet across and 200 feet deep. People came from as far as Nevada (Californians actually like kale) to chuck their kale where it belonged. The future looked bright green.

But kale — the only superfood that tastes like bright-green construction paper — struck back. Due to the drought, kale deposits began to dry up. Visitors took sick, not from eating kale as in past years, but from simply approaching the fetid pit. Crowds dwindled. A dark-green dust cloud now hangs above the pit. Kale Pit owners hope a little rain might save their uniquely nauseating tourist trap, but the picture is not pretty.

At least the Kale Pit is still there. Not so for the Bacon Barn.

Bacon Barn owner Jed Purdy, who built the barn in Hogswill, Arkansas, was planning another big year. Unlike Gluten Mountain, the Bacon Barn never advertised. Given bacon’s ability to make grown men drool, women drop their diets and vegetarians renounce their faith, the Bacon Barn needed no promotion. Who wouldn’t wait in line to smell the salty air and lick the outer wall of a two-story barn built entirely of bacon?

But in July, the trouble began. Drawn by one presidential candidate’s claim that “this place isn’t as stupid as it looks,” crowds swelled. People in line began elbowing.

No one knows who took the first bite, but within seconds, a mob descended on the Bacon Barn, groveling, chomping, devouring. Jed Purdy came out with his shotgun and fired in the air. The mob kept chowing down. By mid-afternoon, the Bacon Barn was GONE. All that remained was the Gift Shoppe, still peddling bacon inhalers, bacon salt licks, and homemade products ranging from Authentic Bacon Chutney to Bacon Beer.

Purdy has promised to rebuild the Bacon Barn but locals, concerned about grease pools and another mob, are unlikely to grant a permit. In food-frenzied America, some foods are super, others fads, but a few are dangerous.

Bruce Watson can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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