Best Fit for a Knoxville Nickname—Ever: “Bacon Capital of America”

Forget about Pet Friendliest City, Solar City, Gateway to the Smokies. Oh, we should still do all those things, establish those reputations. But this past March our true identity, the one that will draw the most interest, the most tourist dollars, the most knowing nods of “aha, yes,” was revealed. We, Knoxville, are clearly the Bacon Capital of America, and we need to remember to promote ourselves as such. It’s like falling off the proverbial log. This March was the first time Laura Sohn’s Bacon Fest was thrown wide open to the public, and what a reaction. The first posh night of tasting and wine pairing sold out, within 48 hours of tickets being offered. The next day hundreds flocked to a multiple category contest and potluck, standing room only at Preston Farabow’s Ironworks place, bacon devoured in record time. We love bacon! Bacon inspires us, comforts us, fills our nostrils with smoky sentiments. Most importantly, we have our own camera-ready ambassador of bacon, Allan Benton, who’s been quietly toiling at a low-lying smokehouse on 411 for decades. He’s vaunted in Gourmet, smokes bacon beloved by presidents, Oprah, and John Fleer of Blackberry Farms. And he’s still very Knoxville-like with his UT degree (in education, don’t try to connect the dots), his love of BLTs, and his hard-working humbleness. “Our people were appreciating the simple things long ago, and now it’s coming back, a cycle,” Benton says. “I’m really no better than my grandparents. They used a smoke house, and pork that ran free. I use exactly the same recipes they did. I guess I’m just too dumb to change.”

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