๐ŸŽ‹That’s Bologney.๐ŸŽ‹.. by JoAnn

A close up of sliced ham on top of a white surface

You may call it bologna, but most South-loving people call it bologney. It’s a staple for many. Growing up in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee, everyone knew what bologney was and could tell you exactly how they preferred their bologney sammich or sandwich. My daddy always said sammich, so I usually do as well when I make myself a bologney and mustard one of those.

My daddy would eat bologney any way you gave it to him. He loved a snack of cold bologney with mustard and onions tucked inside a sliced cold biscuit. Always a biscuit my Mama had made for breakfast earlier that morning. Mama, on the other hand, preferred her bologney fried. She enjoyed it most, served with eggs for breakfast. But if she ever wanted a sandwich, it needed to be fried first.

There is a trick to frying bologney. Anyone familiar with the famous lunch meat knows that when you fry it, bologney will curl up. So little notches are cut along the edge to keep it from doing that. Most people I asked seem to like their bologna to be fried until it is black. Not burned, but charred. I must admit, it is good that way and I also prefer it. Mama never made it like that, and she may be disappointed that I do. A hot dog is also great cooked the same way.

Growing up in the ’60s & ’70s, it was known by everyone that people who ate bologney regularly were usually poor—or lower middle class. Bologna was cheap and went a long way. It tasted good, and no one cared that it wasn’t particularly healthy, sorta like SPAM. My Mama fried that too, but Daddy could also eat that cold. If you were really on a budget, you would buy TREAT instead of SPAM. TREAT was the cheaper brand. As for the taste, well, you get what you pay for.

I remember once in elementary school, the lunch ladies fried bologney without cutting the little notches first. It curled up, forming a little bowl. They then placed a perfectly rounded scoop of hot mashed potatoes on top. They topped that with a slice of cheese. I was in Heaven. I thought it was one of the smartest and tastiest creations that had ever passed my young lips. When I told my Mama about this fine recipe, hoping she would make it for us at home sometime, I was quite disappointed and a little confused. Mama was appalled that the school would serve us fried bologney and call it a hot lunch! She went on and on about how she sent me to school with lunch money, and I was to receive a healthy, hot homemade meal. What were those lunch ladies doing in that kitchen?

From then on, I was asked daily what I had for lunch. After a few more failed attempts, in my Mama’s eyes, from the lunch ladies, she called the school to complain. One of those failures was the bowl of pinto beans we had been served with one square of thin cornbread. I admit, the school’s cornbread couldn’t hold a candle to my Mama’s. She was known throughout the family as making the most delicious, thick cornbread. But the school’s pinto beans were just as good as Mama’s, and I enjoyed them immensely. I decided not to mention that opinion to Mama. I didn’t think it would help anything. I did however tell her about the school’s peanut butter cake! Mama had never made it, and it was too delicious not to brag about. Mama never made one. I think she had a peculiar mindset about anyone feeding her children other than her. I’ll give her that one. Mama was an excellent cook, and no one has ever come close to her.

My bologney adventures have followed me all of my life. When we moved out to West Tennessee from Virginia, I once again discovered something new about this meat byproduct. We had just moved to our little town in 1992. A little hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop place was hailed as a great place to eat. One night, while I had my kids in tow, I decided to grab us all a quick sandwich. There was a special listed outside the small sliding window where you gave your order and picked it up. Listed was BBQ Bologney sandwich 2/$3.00. First, I laughed because I had never seen a bologney sandwich on a menu anywhere. Then I thought, BBQ, now that sounds delicious. Of course, I thought there was a choice to be made—either a Southern bbq sandwich or a bologney sandwich. So I ordered each of us a bbq sammich!

You may know where I’m going here. I was dumbfounded when I realized there was indeed such a thing as thick sliced, rag bologney that had been placed on a grill to cook and smothered in bbq sauce. My next thought was, where the heck have we just moved too?! I thought I was country, but obviously, I was not as country as the people where we had just moved. My kids were as befuddled as me, and I think I was the only one to actually eat my sandwich. As bologney goes, it wasn’t too bad. But definitely not the Southern bbq I had been craving!

I later learned that large chunks of rag bologna that had been smoked on the grill could be purchased at several establishments and was often sold at fundraisers. I was a lot more careful when ordering takeout from then on. I also finally learned how Southern bbq is made and, most importantly, with what meats. LOL

What I wouldn’t give to sit down with my Mama and daddy again and enjoy some good ole bologney sammiches. I wonder what Mama would think about the grilled bologna that is still very popular around here. I believe she would think these people sure are strange. Daddy, on the other hand, I can see him ordering it in a heartbeat. Lol