Subway recently converted 185 of their locations in the UK to halal-only, meaning they no longer serve ham or bacon among other changes, in response to strong Muslim demand. Reactions to this are mixed, not just from the peanut gallery but from me. On the negative side, changing just over half of their locations in the UK to this is idiotic, because as big as the UK’s Muslim population is, it isn’t that high. I don’t have a problem with them having halal locations, but good gads, it should be based at least a little bit on population density and common sense.
The one good thing I see coming out of this, though, is that Subway’s crimes against the glory of bacon have been at least slightly mitigated.
Bacon at Subway is the kind of experience where you wonder what you did wrong in your life to deserve it, and why you got overcharged for the favor. It’s nothing especially about the chain, but a direct result of their using ultra-cheap bacon. It’s the kind of bacon you get in really low-quality frozen foods, and in low-quality fast food. For what I’ve paid for bacon there, they have no excuse.
Cheap fast food bacon is three things. First, it is criminally thin, almost to the point of being bacon leaf that could be brushed onto a sandwich. And I don’t mean thin but good like prosciutto, no; it wasn’t designed for the same purpose. Second, it’s over-smoked to hide the sins of the slicer—the theory being, I guess, that if you ask for bacon and get two or three sad little tissue paper strips of it, you expect to taste something. Third, it’s undercooked and never crispy, which I think is because there’s no way to cook super-thin bacon properly without timing it exactly right.
When I order bacon I want it to be thick enough that I can actually bite into it. I want it cooked, so it isn’t like a sheet of plastic I’m trying to tear with my teeth and it doesn’t taste like underdone meat. I want it nice and salty, and not too smoky. I want just enough fat content where bits of it melt in my mouth. Because hey, that’s just about what everyone wants out of bacon, give or take some variation in preference. Some people like it smokier; there’s a sliding scale of crispy vs. somewhat chewy; some people like it thicker, and the rest haven’t tried it that way; some want it extremely thick, but let’s leave room for realism. Basically there’s something you can more or less call Standard Bacon, and most people (whose religions allow it) are game to experience something pretty close to it.
Big-name burger chains have wised up in recent years, switching to thicker bacon that tastes and cooks better, but Subway has yet to follow suit. This might be okay if the bacon only cost like a dime. Actually, scratch that: If I have to eat overly smoked, undercooked bacon, they ought to be giving me a discount. This is negative-value bacon. In the real estate market they’d call it an attractive nuisance, like how a swimming pool sounds great but you have to maintain it, so it lowers the property value—except swimming pools are awesome if you do maintain them, but there’s still no way to fix crap bacon.
But wait, some will say, doesn’t Subway bill itself as a healthy alternative? That they do, based on bad nutritional science that says fat is the devil but carbs are A-okay. I love a good sub as much as the next guy, but anyone who thinks eating that much bread is healthy is wearing blinders. Sure it worked for Jared, and good on him, sincerely, but he did a lot of other things right; leave him out of it. My point is, adding quality bacon to a sub probably makes it healthier—with more protein and fat to balance the carbs out—than having no bacon at all. And having quality bacon is better in every conceivable way than having crap bacon.
So I’d be happy for Subway to stop offering bacon, if they’re not going to do it right. Because screw that, really. I’d be even happier for the suppliers of crap bacon to stop making it, so at least passable bacon is the worst you can get. I’m okay with something on the low end of Standard Bacon, but when you’re not even within spitting distance anymore, you may as well stop trying and go sit in your pool of shame while you reevaluate your life choices.
But I actually was a bit disingenuous about the switch, in this particular case, being an upside. The halal locations will be serving turkey instead of ham, and turkey bacon. Turkey bacon is a war crime. So these locations haven’t stopped insulting bacon; they’ve made it worse.