The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Real Bacon vs “Turkey Bacon”

Turkey Bacon? Spare Me, Please!!

Remember that wonderful episode from the third season of MASH where Hawkeye and Trapper served up Spam lamb? Radar had rescued a live lamb destined for the dinner table, so the resourceful docs formed Spam into the shape of a lamb and served it up instead.

Same principle applies to turkey “bacon.” You can hack up a turkey and form the meat into thin strips about six inches long and an inch wide, but that doesn’t make the results an acceptable substitute for real, honest, the way God made it bacon.

As the old adage says, “Just because a cat has kittens in the oven, that don’t make ‘em biscuits.”

By Webster’s definition, bacon is “a side of a pig cured and smoked.” Now I may not be much of an expert on animal husbandry, but I fail to see the relationship between a big, stupid bird and a pig.

Butter is butter. Margarine is not. One’s the real thing; one’s a cheap substitute.

Bacon is bacon. Turkey “bacon” is not. One’s the real thing; one’s a cheap substitute.

The only people who swear they can’t tell the difference are the unfortunates that Mother Nature has provided with two taste buds per square inch rather than the thousand or so that most people have.

I’m sorry, health food Nazis, bacon is supposed to be fat! The fat is what gives it its unique mouth feel. You can masticate a hunk of bird meat all day long and it’s never going to feel like bacon in your mouth.

As to the taste, the day that fowl tastes like pork is the day that pigs will fly. It’s kind of like trying to convince somebody who has consumed juicy T-bones all their lives that that hunk of tofu over there tastes just like steak.

Don’t get me wrong, turkey is good stuff (and good stuffed, by the way), and it has its place on the menu. But that place is not next to fluffy scrambled eggs, crispy hash browns and buttered toast. That is a time-honored spot reserved for “a side of a pig cured and smoked.”

But the fat! But the cholesterol! But the nitrates!” Butt out! Have these people never heard of moderation? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that a person who sits down with a pound of bacon for breakfast every day of the week and two pounds on Sunday is going to have some health issues. But I’m equally sure that two or three strips of bacon enjoyed once or twice a week is not going to kill anybody, especially anybody who exercises moderately and maintains a balanced diet.

And real bacon has so many more flavorful applications than just sitting and looking pretty next to eggs. You can wrap darn near anything in bacon and make it taste better, something you cannot do with a piece of pressed, formed turkey. The salty flavor and the succulent fat of real bacon melts, infuses, blends, and marries into other foods in a way in which dry, lean turkey meat can’t even begin to aspire.

Bacon fat can be a flavor enhancer for so many other things. Fry up some bacon, take it out of the pan and crumble it up. Then sauté some potatoes or some green beans in the bacon fat. After they are cooked, mix in the crumbled bacon and serve them up. You’ll never get the same results with turkey!

And there’s something intangible about the sound of bacon sizzling in a pan and the aroma of frying bacon as it fills the whole house with a rich, welcoming scent that just imparts a comfortable, homey feeling. I’ve never been made to feel comfortable and homey by lifeless strips of pressed, formed turkey meat.

Let’s recap. Bacon, as God made it, is satisfying to the taste, touch, sight, sound and smell. As harmful as the tofu and egg substitute crowd may believe bacon is for the health of the body, real bacon does something for the health of the soul that a turkey can’t touch.

I’m not saying that turkey “bacon” should be banned from the store shelves. But with the current emphasis on truth in labeling, I think it should be called “lean turkey strips” or “food police-approved breakfast meat” or something.

Save the word “bacon” for a meat that truly deserves it.

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