When I was growing up, my bologna had a last name. It was Hummel. All our bologna came from Hummel Brothers which is a meat packing company located in New Haven. I think that’s what they would call themselves – meat packers. Whatever kind of people make bologna and hot dogs, that’s what they are/do. They’ve been doing it since 1933 so not only did I grow up on it, but my mother did too. All the deli counters in the area carry Hummel Bros. When I was sent to our local Deli Mart around the corner, I would be told to pick up a half pound of Hummel’s bologna, a half pound of imported ham and a loaf of still-warm Appicella’s Italian Bread (another New Haven treasure) and then I could get a pack of baseball cards with the change (for eleven cents). I was kind of raised on bologna.
I wasn’t much for a bologna sandwich back in those days. I liked it solo along with a slice of individually plastic-wrapped cheese. The two made a great combo. I’d fold it in half so it would be like a double decker bite. I also liked bologna when you would wrap the bologna around a sweet gherkin pickle although that sounds pretty gross to be now. My Mom would actually (and still does) make a bologna and pickle salad which means grinding up the bologna and the sweet gherkins and then mixing with mayonnaise. I was never a big fan of that. On occasion, I would sometimes ask for a bologna and egg omelette and my mom would chop up some bologna, fry it up, and then add in the egg for a nice little taste combo. I would say that fried bologna in general is pretty good. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. I was pleasantly surprised to see it listed as a Monday special last week at my cousin Charlie’s restaurant, Ye Olde Alpha, where it was served with American cheese, grilled onions on rye bread. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Good food is good food.
They don’t carry Hummel Brothers bologna around here (although they do carry the hot dogs). I knew this going into Clement’s in preparation for today, so I opted for Boar’s Head bologna instead. Not that this is news, but they have a pretty great product in whatever deli meat you select (we are big fans of their Cracked Pepper Turkey). There are a few options for bologna: small, big, German. I went with the small one because that was more like the size of the Hummel bologna. The Oscar Mayer type of bologna is on the larger side, but that always tastes a little bit more processed and not as fresh. I like the jingle, but not the product. Did you know that bologna is actually a type of sausage? I never realized that, although what else would it be?
To celebrate the day today, I had a bologna sandwich for lunch. Bologna, American cheese, fresh tomato and some mayo on a fresh Portuguese roll. And, it was pretty darn good. It’s not something you want to eat every day, but on occasion, it’s a great little party. It’s nostalgia but also an actual tasty combination. I couldn’t get Lola to try one, she’s not a bologna fan, but I was able to enjoy and while I was munching, I couldn’t help thinking about how great it would have tasted on some fresh Italian bread that was still warm.
When night rolled around, we had plans to meet one of Lola’s best friends Matt out for dinner. Matt is out in California now and whenever he comes home, he makes some time to visit with Lola (some interesting Dan and Lola trivia: Matt actually officiated our wedding). On this trip, he was bringing his boyfriend Brandon whom we had never met, so it was a special occasion. We made plans to go out and I insisted that I would go anywhere just as long as they were serving bologna. I had to cave in on that demand, but we ended up having a great little dinner at Malt on Broadway in Newport. Really great actually, thanks to the company. The night was filled with stories, laughs, questions, answers, more laughs and just fun. It felt like a real celebration of old and new friends, and even though we were not eating bologna, we were living in the moment and having some fun. That’s a good way to celebrate any day.
To end today’s post, I wanted to just share a video of the incomparable Gilda Radner as Roseanne Rosannadanna and her commencement speech routine. At about the 3:15 mark, she does a funny bit about bologna that I always think of when I hear the word. It’s also just a classic piece of comedy and worth the share. So enjoy it because it deserves to be enjoyed (just like bologna).
Next Up: National Greasy Foods Day