I really, truly loved bologna sandwiches when I was a kid. More than chicken fingers. More than pizza. More than anything else you couldn’t slather with mustard and take for lunch. I loved the uniform texture and smoky saltiness of it, and the fact that bologna had three meanings: Kosher beef, deli-style pork blend, or “bullshit, you did so break the VCR.”
I loved it so much that my mother, who thank goodness wasn’t a chef yet, would delight me by finding new ways to incorporate it into lunchtime. One such success was “lunch on a stick”: skewered cubes of beef bologna, cheddar, dill pickles and cherry tomatoes with a smiley face of mustard for dipping. Is that an awesome mom lunch or what?
Updating such a classic is both unnecessary and impossible. You can’t gussy up a bologna sandwich, it would look and taste ridiculous. Bologna on 9-grain? Bologna on a baguette? No, this particular sausage belongs on squishy white bread. You can update your mustard from French’s yellow to whole grain, beer-spiked or honey, but your lunch meat will remain unchanged. So here are my suggestions:
- Head to Pittsburgh, where “jumbo,” a regional term for bologna, reigns supreme over all other sandwiches. We imagine it’s hard to keep up with Philly in that regard. Respect.
- Use a bologna sandwich to chase a shot of whiskey and really stick it to those artisan pickle juice-chugging hipsters.
- Cut a bologna sandwich into 9 tiny squares, batter, deep-fry and win all the deep-fried awards at this summer’s state fairs for your bologna sandwich nuggets. Actually, don’t. I’m going to do that.
And as a final note, I think it’s culturally significant that I learned how to spell “bologna” before “chair” or “horse.” Thank you, Oscar Meyer.