I don’t know about you, my audience of sandwich connoisseurs and aficionados out there, but I have a pretty strong picture in my mind of the perfect example of a sandwich. It’s that sandwich from commercials, cartoons, and memories that may or may not have actually ever happened. It is our culture’s residual image of a sandwich. It is white bread, some kind of meat, cheese, lettuce and maybe tomato. You can’t tell exactly what else is on there, or even what kind of meat or cheese, leaving it open to interpretation. Most of the time, I picture there being some mustard and mayo on there, the cheese is cheddar, and I’m not sorry at all to say, the meat is Bologna.
Bologna is not glamorous. It’s cheap, is made of uncertain content, tastes like hot dogs when fried, and is generally associated with childhood and/or poverty. Sure, it’s no artisanal salami, but to completely devalue it is classist, and wrong. If you look down on and reject Bologna, but will gladly accept Mortadella as worthy of a boutique deli, then you my friend are buying into prejudiced propaganda.
Bologna is named after the city of Bologna in Italy. Bologna is famously the region where Mortadella comes from. The difference between it and the north american mass produced “baloney” is that Mortadella is larger, and typically has chunks of white fat through it, while North American style is smaller, has no white fat bits, and is usually lightly smoked. While type of meat used and some spices may also differ, both get their distinct flavour from myrtle berries. That’s bologna flavour! The name ‘Mortadella’ comes from ‘Mortar’ because traditionally a mortar and pestle were used to grind the meat into a paste before it was tubed and sliced, hence it’s strange pink uniformity.
Think of it like cheddar cheese. North American cheddar cheese usually follows more or less the same procedure as English cheddar, but does not come from Cheddar, UK. Also, the mass produced cheddar in North America is orange. Most cheddar everywhere else in the world is not.
I’ll do more on cheddar in another post, but suffice to say for now that orange cheddar is not nearly as looked down upon as bologna despite that their bastardized north american versions are so often paired together.
Now, I’m sure some of you are with me in my, until now, quiet appreciation, if not genuine love for bologna. Some of you are not. This makes it tempting to label it as a ‘guilty pleasure’. I reject that idea, as it only supports the stigma of bologna.
2000’s party rocker Andrew WK has said “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. There’s just pleasure. Never apologize or feel bad about it.”. It is also established law in the internet courtroom of “Judge” John Hodgman that “people like what they like. You can’t force someone to like something. Sure, you can expose them to a piece of work, but if they don’t like it, that’s the way it is. You can’t talk them out of it. This is the Tom Waits Principle.”
This sums up how I feel about bologna. I like it. And I will not apologize or be made to feel guilty, and you will not talk me out of it. I will now expose you to some of my preferred versions of a bologna sandwich, and if you don’t like it, that is ok too.
Look, there is a reason I feel strongly about it, and why probably many of you do as well. It was ever-present throughout my childhood, even though my parents are health nuts. Sure, we NEVER had white bread in the house, but bologna was just as shitty as every other sandwich meat in the 80s and 90s, and definitely cheaper, so there it was. And who even needs bread? Just roll a piece of cheese in it, or a pickle and there’s an easy snack. Bite some eye holes in it and wear it as a mask. Its big enough and it holds up.
This is why it’s ever present in my house too. My kids do the same thing. It was bologna jewelry with them. They can manage it easy enough, it’s still pretty cheap, and it gives them the independence of being able to make their own lunch every once in a while.
Yeah, it’s definitely not good for you, and the missus is not exactly on board with my mostly BS “independence” scheme and the sheer amount of it I allow the little ones to eat. The fact of the matter is, when you put sandwich dad in change of meals, you better believe sandwich dad is going to buy some damn bologna for lunch.
My own health crazed dad has given me a lot of guff over the years for my love of “nitrate meats” as he calls them. When I lived at home, he had the peculiar habit of watching me as I made my sandwiches. Laughing to himself and commenting on the process (“oh, got get that mayo on there! Heh heh heh. You sure love those nitrate meat sandwiches. heh heh”)
I can only hope that you, dear reader, will get the same amount of amusement from my sandwich construction as he does. Here is a video that i’m sure my own dad will get a real kick out of. Me, making my usual bologna sandwich .
If you disagree with my methods, or my opinions, or my very defense of this classic sandwich, please remember that after all these years of sandwich enthusiasm, I am very often quite full of bologna.
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