Bacon Ice Cream and Intertemporal Choice

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Yesterday I suggested that tastes may not be stable. And then last night, I had the chance to confront the data directly; my local restaurant was serving bacon ice cream.

Bacon: Delicious! Ice cream: My favorite! The combination of bacon and ice cream: a direct threat to my views of economics.

You see, every bite was awful. It wasn’t even really good bacon; it was cheap bacon bits scattered through the ice cream. But somehow, even though each mouthful was terrible, I couldn’t stop eating it.

It’s hard to match these repeatedly bad choices with our usual models of rational choice. You could say that my choices reveal a preference for bacon ice cream, but then that makes the theory of consumer choice a tautology.

My dinner colleague Tom Miles managed just one mouthful to satisfy his curiosity before reverting to his martini to wash away the bad taste. Yes, he’s a true Chicago economist, satisfying the usual axioms. (Tom did suggest that a side of chocolate ice cream with fried eggs might have yielded enough complementary flavors to make bacon ice cream work.)

Want to try this at home? Try this recipe. But my advice: Don’t.

I think red-beet ice cream sounds better.

Doug B

Maybe bad bacon was the real problem?

I've had a similar experience with something that I was told were "breakfast cookies", i.e. bacon cookies. There was something not quite right about the combination of flavors, but yet I kept eating them. And then there are McGriddles from McDonalds: a combination of bacon(or sausage), eggs and pancakes. I don't particularly like all of the flavors together in the same bite, yet I love them separately. Taste bud specialists of the world, help us!


I would imagine you kept eating it because it is a better investment to finish your dish, even if you don't enjoy it, than it is to throw it out (bonus for the cultural cachet you gain in conversations about terrible or exotic foods).

On a culinary note, just because this bacon ice cream was terrible doesn't mean ALL bacon ice cream is terrible. I have made ice creams using bacon before and it turned out pretty well, although the bacon was played down. I've also seen Avocado-bacon ice cream that looked like it worked marvelously, although I didn't try it. And finally, I've had sea salt ice cream and it was delicious, and all it would take to elevate it to bacon ice cream would be a smokiness since bacon primarily tastes of smoke and salt.

Adam Burnside

There is a restaurant in Minneapolis called the Town Talk Diner that serves a Bacon Manhattan, made with a bacon infused whiskey. An interesting and VERY popular drink.


Heston Blumenthal serves bacon&egg ice cream as part of the tasting menu at his restaurant the Fat Duck. It is quite delicious, but then Blumenthal is a master of odd flavour combinations.

The snail porridge was good too.

Mia Morgenstern

I'm sorry that your bacon ice cream experience was not enjoyable. In fact, I've made the recipe that you link to in your article, and it was one of the best ice creams I've ever had. Oddly enough, I hate bacon, and generally refuse to eat the stuff. I made the ice cream as a treat for a worthy bacon enthusiast, and only was convinced to try it after good reviews from the recipient.

So, does my love of bacon ice cream resolve your concern that consumer choice is a tautology? Or was my bacon ice cream just unusually delicious?


since you're in cooking mode, you could whip this miracle up for Jim and serve it with the cupcakes!! But on second thought ...



You should come to Max & Mina's on Main Street in Flushing, Queens. They have flavors like Lox, Custard, Horseradish... and they sell, too. (Also worth watching Dan Gilbert's TED talk on Happiness where he discusses our ability to "preview" tastes and know whether we'll like or not.)

Let me know when you're coming, I'll even join you!


What does this have to do with intertemporal choice? The relevant costs and (lack of) benefits are occurring in the same period. It's a challenge to a Benthamite view of utility, though not to the stripped-of-all-interpretation-of-preferences ordinal utility theory, which is tautological.

I think the main threat here is to the atomistic view of choice, that all agents are defined by a single unified set of preferences. Clearly there are at least two types of preferences in conflict within the author--one of them saying that he should eat things that taste good, and the other one saying he should eat bacon ice cream. This anti-atomistic interpretation at least brings us back to intertemporal choice, which is one of the main contexts contexts for exploring "multiple selves" models in economics....


The rational explanation to your actions can be found in dissonance theory.

Consider the bacon / ice cream / bacon-ice cream triad. You feel positive toward the bacon, and positive toward the ice cream, but negative toward the combination. This created dissonance, which you sought to alleviate by either a) hoping that the ice cream's taste would grow on you; or b) convincing yourself that it actually did taste good. I'm guessing it's (b) based on your comments (e.g., "It wasn't even really good bacon; it was cheap bacon bits," which might imply that if it were good bacon you would have liked the ice cream).

The desire to reduce dissonance is very natural. Thus, I believe it was very rational for you to keep eating the ice cream.


This reminds me of Heston Blumenthal's Bacon and Egg ice cream :

But he flavours the ice cream with bits of bacon; he doesn't include chunks. That does sound disgusting. But then again, Blumenthal seems like a culinary scientist; these guys sound like entrepreneurs with an eye for a press release.

As for the economics, I'm not sure it would necessarily be true that two ingredients (X and Y) which are preffered individually might not go well together as a bundle. This simplistic reasoning works for goods which are complements (good ‘ol shoes and socks) and substitutes, but not for complex decisions, such as tastes (which I would classify differently to preferences).

Tastes have typically evolved from social norms and necessities (the chickens cluck near the potatoes), and unless we are programmed (in an evolutionary sense) to enjoy these combinations, and these alone, I can see no reason why seemingly arbitrary combinations may not be appealing, at least in taste. How many people do you know who have a favourite sandwich which sounds unpalateable to you, but which they swear by?



You just had bad bacon ice cream. I've made the bacon ice cream you link to. As I was adding the bacon to the mixture I did worry it would be something better in theory than practice. But it did turn out to be one of those things that was as good in theory and practice. I could see where bad bacon would prevent that from happening.

However, I have had things I didn't like but felt compelled to finish. I blame it more on my family's compulsive eating habits than an actual preference for whatever I was eating.


Bacon ice cream is a central part of the "6 AM Special," a dessert at Lola in Cleveland, which is one of the restaurants of Michael Symon, the newest Iron Chef on the Food Network. I haven't had the chance to try it yet, but I'm sure a guy with a "Got pork?" tattoo knows how to do bacon ice cream the right way.

There's a picture at this blog:


I love bacon. I love ice cream. I've has other savory ice creams before that I've liked - basil, cheese, tomato, salty caramel. I tried bacon ice cream at an excellent resto in Chicago on Randolph... and hated it. Hated every bite. I thought it was disgusting. I was so disappointed! But... I didn't keep eating it! I gave it a traditional Girl Scout 3-bite try, and had to stop.


A perfect metaphor for addiction! You hate part of it, but like the good part enough to keep accepting that bad--ha!

I think what this world needs is VITAMIN ice cream. Eat it and live longer, happier, etc. Why can't that be done? Why, for heaven's sake, must it all be bad news when Ms. Blue Bell and I have an intimate encounter?

Consider an ice cream that, like Special K, offered 100% of daily recommended allowances for all important vitamins. In fact, throw enough B12 in there, and it actually makes you feel good.

Shoot, throw in some percocet and we have a new religion!

OK, I'll come quietly now....


In addition to #2, are we to take it that Tom sampled your icecream? If so then this makes perfect sense as his icecream was free while yours carried a perceived value.


Do tell what Philly restaurant was this adventurous.


I love driving, I love talking on the phone. I HATE talking on the phone while driving...


I'm still trying to figure out why in the world you ever ate that thing, much less kept eating it. I rarely go through with an awful tasting meal, unless i am a) really hungry or b) just don;t feel like wasting. option b may be a bit irrational as i bough it already, but eating more of it makes me feel good just because i can say to myself i didn't have a $3 bite of ice cream rather 6 bites of $0.50 ones, call it psychology.

Still, some things arn't meant to mix. I love chocolate, i love ice cream, so far chocolate ice cream has not let me down. But can any one stomach the notion of chocolate/pepperoni topped pizza? Some flavors are better left a mystery


THIS IS AWESOME! The truth is who is rational?What makes rational? If you want to have an adventurous meal, then trying this combination will please you, therefore the ice cream and the bacon will not be that bad. Clearly is an expierence, which only you can decide if you want to take a risk and live it. In my opinion, bacon, GOOD, ice cream, GOOD, the uniqueness of the "plate", GOOD, seems like a win win! Who knows, maybe if people start taking more daring decisions, these two can become complements!Oh, what a wonder!

olga lednichenko

its much simpler, you just reveleaved your preference for *having choices - variety* - or perhaps, you revealed your preference for testing out - whether paul samuleson was wrong.. but then again, maybe its much simpler than that

you are just revealing your americanness - ?

only in america and from america - would you find honey -glazed-roasted-salty-peanuts [ with a caption - YES WE CAN

olga lednichenko