I’ve felt pretty strongly about something for a long time, and Kelly’s recent post about Whole Grain Newtons inspired me to finally get if off my chest. Here’s the thing: Turkey bacon is not bacon. They’re not the same thing. They’re just not.
Now, look. It’s fine if you like turkey bacon. You’re allowed. I don’t mind the stuff, I just don’t usually find myself wanting to eat it. It’s a perfectly okay food, if that’s what you’re in the mood for. But if you’re in the mood for bacon — real, delicious bacon — and someone offers you turkey bacon? No. That’s not going to cut it. It’s not an acceptable substitute. The texture’s wrong. The flavor’s wrong. It’s about as far from actual bacon as a protein can get.
Several years ago, when Tim’s parents lived in Atlanta, we went down to visit them over spring break. The night we arrived, we all watched a Jim Gaffigan stand-up special, in which he talked at great length about his love for bacon, as he does. Tim and I both commented about how, yeah, bacon is pretty amazing, at which point Tim’s mom piped up with a story about her and my father-in-law’s trip to the grocery store that morning. “We were about to check out,” she said, “when I realized we hadn’t bought any bacon. I knew you guys would want bacon in the morning, so I made your father go back to the back of the store to get bacon.”
This was great news. Tim’s mom is a wonderful cook, and one of the many perks of going to visit his parents is that we get to wake up to the smell of whatever delicious breakfast she’s prepared each day. So we already knew we had a good breakfast to look forward to in the morning, and Jim Gaffigan had us craving bacon, and now — miracle of miracles! — our delicious breakfast was going to include bacon! This vacation was off to the best start ever!
We got up the next morning, super excited for breakfast, and…you know where this is going, right? It was turkey bacon. There was no bacon anywhere in the house. Now, breakfast was still good, of course. And the turkey bacon was fine. Like I said, it’s a perfectly okay food. But when you’re expecting bacon and you’re presented with turkey bacon…well. There’s just a certain level of disappointment that comes with the realization that the bacon you were so looking forward to is nowhere to be found.
(I should add that Tim’s mom really is a wonderful hostess and always takes great care of us when we come to visit. I think Tim found a polite way to work into conversation later that week the fact that turkey bacon’s not really our favorite thing, and ever since then, whenever we’ve gone to visit, there has always been real bacon available. She doesn’t have to buy us real bacon — I would eat turkey bacon every day of our visits to them without complaint; really, I would — but she does anyway because she’s very nice. The Morning of the Turkey Bacon has become something we all laugh about together, which is why I can write about it here without worrying that she’s going to see it and think that we’re ungrateful house guests, because that’s about as far from the truth as turkey bacon is from real bacon.)
So there you have it. Turkey bacon, as its own, separate-from-bacon thing, is fine. What’s not fine is trying to pretend that it’s in any way a substitute for real bacon. Turkey bacon and bacon might as well be in separate food groups, they’re so different from each other. My brother once wrote a review of the movie Anaconda in his high school paper in which he commented that the only thing the computer-animated snake had in common with the real snake from another scene (I didn’t see the movie, but I gather that there was only one snake character, and the filmmakers used both a real snake and a CGI snake to play the role of the single snake character) was the number of legs. Likewise, the only thing turkey bacon has in common with actual bacon is the presence of the word “bacon” in the name. Other than that, they are completely separate food items. End of discussion.
Turkey sausage, on the other hand? Delicious. Love the stuff. Would gladly eat it in place of pork sausage any day of the week.
What the…What am I supposed to do with this? Put it in my mouth?
No, this definitely doesn’t seem right.
What if I just grab it…
…and then place it on the spoon…
Wait a second. Is the good stuff hiding on the bottom of the bowl?
I’ll tell you one thing, this bowl tastes a lot better than that avocado nonsense you tried to put in my mouth earlier.
Oh, now I see. The spoon goes in my mouth. Interesting.
Wait wait wait. I just had the best idea. Are you ready, Mom? This is going to be hilarious.
OMG that was awesome. Throwing avocados at Mom is the best!
I learned a great deal in my high school Spanish classes, not the least of which was a handy amount of conversational Spanish. One of the best lessons I learned, though, was a two-parter: 1. Embarrassing language mistakes happen, no matter how hard you work to avoid them; and 2. Embarrassing language mistakes are often hilarious, and it’s far better to laugh at yourself than to be embarrassed. This is a story about that.
Spanish, like all languages, has its own colloquialisms. One word can mean any number of different things. The word in question today is caliente. At its most basic, it translates to “hot.” However (and this is another thing I learned in high school Spanish), among native speakers, it’s more commonly used to mean “hot and bothered”/”excited”/”all worked up” — in an adult sense, if you get my drift (and I think you do) — than it is to describe the temperature of something. This is an important fact to remember if you wish to avoid making an embarrassing language mistake. It is also a very easy fact to forget when you’re in a hotel lobby in Barcelona, having a conversation with the front desk clerk, trying to scrape up whatever vocabulary you can from high school and college Spanish classes after it’s sat dormant in the corner of your brain for the better part of six years.
Which brings us to October 2010, in a hotel lobby in Barcelona, where Tim and I, exhausted after a full day wherein I had tried to show Tim all my favorite things about the city I’d spent six weeks in six years earlier, tried to determine whether the hotel had a hot tub in which we could soak our tired muscles.
In retrospect, I don’t know why we didn’t just go to the pool area and see for ourselves rather than trying to ask the nice woman at the front desk. I’m glad we didn’t, though, because if we had, then I wouldn’t have this embarrassing story for us all to laugh at now.
So. Back to the lobby. I’m trying to inquire at the front desk whether the hotel has a hot tub, but it’s been a long time since I’ve really used my Spanish, and I can’t remember the word for “hot tub.” Honestly, I’m not sure I ever knew the word to begin with. So I go for the next best thing and attempt to describe the term that’s missing from my vocabulary — like a one-sided game of Catch Phrase in which the person who knows she’s playing doesn’t speak the language, and the other player is very confused but trying very patiently to help the crazy rambling American. It went a little bit like this:
Me: In this hotel, do you have a “hot tub”? [In which the entire sentence was in Spanish, except the term "hot tub," which I said in English.]
Front Desk Clerk: [Blank stare to indicate she has no idea what a hot tub is.]
Me: [Again with the Spanish] It’s like a swimming pool, only more…hot.
Front Desk Clerk: [Gives me an odd look and assures me that the hotel does not have any such amenity.]
We returned to our room and swim-suited up, thinking that even a non-hot swimming pool would feel pretty good on our muscles. When we arrived at the pool and discovered that there was, indeed, a hot tub, I reflected on our lobby conversation and realized my mistake.
See, when I asked for a hot swimming pool, I didn’t really say “hot,” not in the correct sense, anyway. What I said was “caliente,” which you’ll remember from a few paragraphs above has an entirely different meaning than the one I intended.
Basically, I asked for a horny swimming pool.
No wonder the woman at the front desk was so confused.
While Tim is flipping through the guide looking for something to watch:
(Excited): “Zombie Crocodiles?!”
(Then, disappointed): “Oh, wait. I’ve seen that.”
I know some of you have already seen this on Facebook, but it is simply too cute not to re-post.
As a bonus, I give you the Kid Quote of the Day from Tim’s first day back after Christmas Break:
Kid: “Are we going to learn about the Boston Tea Party?”
Mr. Tim: “Yes.”
Kid: “But I hate Sarah Palin!”
. . .
In other news: Happy Birthday, Gary!