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.