The Oscar Mayer company is introducing a new bacon hot dog. Normally, I’d jump for joy at news like this. I mean, it sounds kind of weird, but I’m sure I’d like it under ordinary circumstances. There’s just one catch: Those circumstances are a bygone decade, when Oscar Mayer cared about producing a quality product.
I never used to like Oscar Mayer hot dogs, the regular kind. They were too spicy. But I used to love their cheese hot dogs, because they had a good mild flavor and (duh) they had cheese. Every now and then, though, my cheese dog would taste overspiced and wrong, like a regular Oscar Mayer. Every time that happened, I gave up on them for a while until I was adventurous enough to try them again, at which point they seemed to have gone back to normal. But some years ago, I’m thinking about a decade now, they switched to the spicy kind and switched for good. The cheese dogs I knew and loved were gone forever.
For a savvy shopper, there’s no secret to the reason the hot dogs changed: Meat product manufacturers, especially those who work with pork, have been overwhelmingly pushing turkey. It’s not only difficult to find all-pork products now, like breakfast sausages, but it’s clear the amount of turkey mixed into the meat has gone up percentage-wise. Try finding all-pork Jimmy Dean products, for instance; you can, but not easily and not in the same variety as their turkey or including-turkey offerings. Oscar Mayer uses a lot of turkey and chicken in their hot dogs; they’re obviously not what they used to be. This is why the hot dogs are too spicy: Turkey has such a strong flavor that it has to be covered aggressively. There is little doubt in my mind that the formulation changed when the company realized they could no longer hide the turkey flavor with existing methods. (I’d dearly love to see some proof for or against this, either way. It’s just speculation for now, but I think it’s right on the money. Call it an educated guess.)
What’s even more galling is that back when Oscar Mayer cheese hot dogs were good, they also had a cheese and bacon flavor. It was darn near impossible to find. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or tasted one in my entire adult life. Why couldn’t they have stuck with that?
So now, a company that never had the balls to stay with bacon when they had a good product, and now is hawking a clearly inferior product yet resting on their well-known brand name to sell it, has decided about three years late to jump on the make-everything-with-bacon bandwagon. Color me unimpressed. Even if I wanted to give this hot dog a try—suppose, for instance, it wasn’t crazy-spiced and tasted more like a quality hot dog—I can never, ever trust it to remain unsullied over time. Eventually, I fear the company would just do a bait-and-switch, and there’d be one more product I’d have to get my Ministry of Resurrected Products to recreate.
Screw that. Screw these guys right in the ear. I have not forgiven the company for taking away the cheese hot dogs I loved and replacing them with garbage. They long ago burned their bridges with me. It’s time to own up to the fact that turkey has no business being in a hot dog. I might have to sic my Minister of Compliance on them to get them to admit that, but her department has no funding or minions yet so that’ll take a while.
Now, if our local Hofmann’s brand introduced a bacon hot dog, I’d try it. They do a cheese hot dog that’s hard enough to find, but worth it. They make a proper hot dog out of proper meats, and don’t try to insult my intelligence or my palate. I can think of a number of other brands I might trust with this as well. Hopefully they’ll run with this idea, only they’ll do it right and make a product worth eating.