I like bologna — the mild sausage made from beef or meat scraps (beef, pork, turkey and/or chicken), not baloney, the mess you hear from TV infomercials about snake-oil pills that increase your memory, help you lose weight, fight bad breath and increase your personal wealth.
I’m not talking about political equivocating, either.
Although I will eat the meat-scraps variety, I prefer all-beef bologna, especially the extra-thick stuff. Just throw a few slices on a skillet and add some cheddar cheese, onion and mater with mustard on whole-wheat bread. It’s even better when you wash it down with an RC Cola.
Not long ago, Hardee’s offered a thick-slice bologna biscuit with cheese. I wish they’d have kept it on the menu. That biscuit was a throwback to my childhood, when bologna sandwiches ranked right up there with Spam and homemade sloppy joes.
Bologna doesn’t have a flavor that excites taste buds — just a comforting taste that brings back summertime memories of bologna sandwiches, tater chips and Saturday-afternoon westerns, war movies or Tarzan on a black-and-white TV.
My siblings were not so fond of bologna, so whenever Mama bought it, I was allowed to stack three or four slices on my sandwich, smothered with mayo and mustard. I didn’t appreciate onions so much in those days and settled for processed-cheese slices. Mama saved money wherever she could, which meant I also had to settle for meat-scrap bologna.
That was OK during summer, when fresh, vine-ripened maters arrived straight from the garden. Even my finicky sisters could enjoy a bologna sandwich with a slice of juicy mater on it. Their preference, though, was chopped ham, which Mama sometimes got just for them for summertime lunches.
If it was a rainy day, Mama also would fix us a bowl of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. Bologna is perfectly suited to go with any Campbell’s soup. Soup and sandwiches were easy to prepare and didn’t make our un-air-conditioned house any hotter.
During summer, every window in our house was open, even if it rained. There was a large fan in each bedroom window and on top of the TV, but they mostly just moved around the hot air. They were noisy, too, which made it hard to hear what the Duke was saying to the bad guy before the shootout started. Even Tarzan’s yell was muffled by the fans.
Some Saturdays, I’d pack my bologna sandwich, chips and an RC in a Marine Corps combat field pack and hike to a shady spot along the shore of the New River. Daddy had a pistol belt with a canteen that I also wore, but I had to adjust the belt so it wouldn’t slide over my narrow hips.
With my back against a tall Carolina pine near the shoreline, I savored the 20-degree difference in temperature from the shade and a steady breeze from the river. I also enjoyed my bologna sandwich, chips and RC. When I finished my lunch, I’d stay there a while, daydreaming as I sipped sweet tea from the canteen. I was facing Camp Lejeune, so I stared out at the boats on the river or the helicopters coming and going from Marine training areas near Courthouse Bay.
Gazing at large bodies of water or taking long walks in the woods were my quiet times when I prayed, sorta. Mostly, I just talked to Jesus about nothing in particular. Sometimes, I sat there for hours and thought about going home only when my stomach complained that I should have brought two bologna sandwiches.
Recently, I was browsing the sandwich meats at a local grocery store and found bologna, both the all-beef and meat-scrap variety. But not only were the thick slices half as thick as they were when I was a kid, the price per pound of all-beef bologna was $4.29!
If it had cost that much 45 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have fond memories of bologna sandwiches.
Email Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org.