I was in a South Side grocery store deli several weeks ago when I saw an old friend order some sliced bologna.
The butcher/clerk pulled a huge roll of bologna out of a freezer cabinet and put it in a meat slicer and cut the slices onto a sheet of waxed paper just like I saw the old butchers from my childhood do years ago.
I asked my friend why didn’t he just buy bologna that’s already sliced and packaged, and he said it doesn’t have the same flavor as fresh-sliced and it’s not as good fried in the skillet.
“You still eat fried bologna?” I asked curiously.
“Yes, eat it all the time,” my friend said as the clerk/butcher wrapped the thick-sliced bologna in a plastic bag instead of the brown waxy paper butchers of old put all meat orders in.
The clerk handed my friend a plastic bag with a white sticker that had the price printed on it holding the bag closed. Much different from the meat orders in the past that had the price written in black marker.
I hadn’t eaten fried bologna since I was a skinny, nappy-headed kid living on South 16th Street. I thought we ate it because we were poor. Maybe we did.
But now it’s a nostalgia thing for me and my friend, I suppose not letting go of another piece of our childhood.
Next time I went to the store I ordered a pound of sliced beef bologna myself to take home and fry.
I put the bologna in the skillet, cut lines in it to keep the heat from making it rise in a mound and fried it. I had two slices of white bread smeared with yellow mustard, just like the old days, and in less than a half hour I had a taste of my childhood for lunch.
Fried bologna is a regional thing actually, found in the South, Appalachia and the Midwest.
I remember once when a lady asked me how to cook greens. I bought some to an office potluck we were having and she loved them.
I told her “Just greens, some salt pork and seasoning.”
The lady seemed disappointed. She was expecting some elaborate, highfalutin recipe.
Greens were poor people’s food. There weren’t any fancy ingredients.
That’s the same with a fried bologna sandwich. You can put fancy Poupon mustard on ciabatta bread and add other culinary adornments, but it’s not authentic. The people who ate them could not afford the fancy stuff.
A fried bologna sandwich tastes the same now as it did when I was a kid. Not many things do nowadays.
Hostess cupcakes don’t taste the same as you remember them. Soda pop isn’t the same. The candy isn’t the same either, or so it seems.
It’s all too much to ponder. I’ll just go and make me a fried bologna sandwich right now!