A Love Story With Bologna Sandwiches

Categories: Food News
bologna sandwich.jpg
Photo by Flickr user dtredinnick13

There's an episode of Pee-wee's Playhouse in which Pee-wee is talking about how much he loves fruit salad, and Miss Yvonne says that if he loves it so much, maybe he should marry it. So he does. Now, I like a guy with the courage of his convictions, but for me, well, it's about bologna sandwiches. Had my wife Joanna not moved back when she did ... well, let's just say that my wedding reception would have had to have crazy-good AC to keep my in-laws from spoiling.

To be honest though, it's not just bologna. Bologna's sister, salami, is shit-hot, and even their snobby cousin roast beef is super fine (particularly snuggled up with some red onion and cheddar cheese). But bologna gets the worst lunchmeat rap. Meat bigots will tell you how a few bucks a pound can't possibly buy something worth eating. "And just look at it," they'll say. "Why, it comes in a tube!" But if you peer through that same person's kitchen window at one o'clock in the morning while his wife and children are sleeping, you'll probably see him standing in the light of the open fridge, eyes glassy with pleasure while he eats a bologna sandwich, or smiling happily while he folds a slice up, bites a couple of holes in it, and peers through it like a mask before gobbling it down. Of course, that might just be me.

So why is it that people keep their relationship with bologna a dark secret? Why all the back-alley bologna transactions, the middle of the night trysts, the hotel rooms paid for with cash? Much of it likely stems from the lineage question: What exactly is bologna? Who are its parents? And is it really just blundered-up lips and ass, like your patchouli-scented vegan cousin claims?

fried bologna.jpg
Photo by Flickr user Cyndie@smilebig!
Yes, you can fry it.

First of all, bologna is, in fact, meat. Specifically, a giant sausage. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance, manufacturing-wise, to a giant hot dog. It's built from low-value scraps -- trimmings rather than tenderloin -- which are finely ground, seasoned with spices and sometimes a bit of sweetener, then usually pushed into a casing of cellulose, and cooked. It's often made from pork and beef, but there's also variations like 100 percent beef and wacky blends that include poultry. Nothing evil there, my friends, just a powerful blend of meaty goodness in a six-inch diameter tube, ready for slicing and easily transportable. And there are strict regulations concerning what can and can't be put into bologna (though lips are not, as far as I know, specifically excluded from use).

But really, it's just too damn tasty to worry about all of the lips. I've seen people generate drool streams down to their waists talking about Publix garlic bologna or even basic Oscar Mayer (they claim that about 6 million Oscar Mayer bologna sandwiches are eaten in the U.S. every day). For me, preparation is largely irrelevant, something you certainly can't say about a steak. A bologna sandwich is always awesome, whether it's in a sandwich with a full compliment of vegetables and condiments and surrounded by some 94-grain bread, or simply slapped between two slices of Wonder Bread and slathered with mayonnaise. And no pompous foody with a prime meat complex, or protein-deficient meat-hating trustafarian that claims I'm eating ground-up lips and ass is going to change that. I took my vows.

A few years after Pee-wee married the fruit salad, he was arrested while leaving a movie theater in Sarasota that was showing a triple feature: Catalina Five-O: Tiger Shark, Turn Up The Heat, and Nurse Nancy. And while I may not agree with his choice of marrying fruit salad over a Bologna sandwich, I gotta give him credit: Three great films for one ticket price is a damn good way to go.

Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan. He lives in northern Palm Beach County and brakes at all bologna crossings.

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