Fried Bologna Sandwich - Straight-up hearty, comfort hood classic, dressed up a bit for today's times.
I've had an interesting relationship with bologna. As a kid, I bugged the hell out of my older brother and cousin to allow me to go crawfish or crawdaddy fishing. When they finally conceded, they put me on bait detail, which meant I was responsible for tying the thread we used around a small piece of bologna. The only problem was that when the time came to prepare the line for bait, there was no bologna cause I'd eat it all during the long hot walk, resulting in some brotherly love being administered. However, it was later as a senior in high school when things between me and bologna got complicated.
Black History, Road Trips, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches
In preparation for my first road trip, my grandmother gave me a brown paper bag of several bologna sandwiches made by my Uncle Slick. I was traveling across the Southeast in a car, but thinking that there would be plenty of stops for food on the way. Plus I had saved money to bring on the trip. When I protested taking a bag of hood food in the car with my non-hood friends she looked at me with concerned anger and told me grandpa to explain some things. My grandpa looked at me and said matter of factly, â€œYou about to drive all through Dixie with a bunch of white boys who may as well as be Freedom Fighters. Get the sandwiches.â€ See my grandparents figured correctly that times hadnâ€™t changed much from their day when â€œFor whites onlyâ€ signs and attitudes permeated every town leaving black travelers with no places to stop for food, gas, or bathroom breaks. I made it a point to take all my bathroom breaks during the day time and never left the car when we made evening stops for gas.
Born out of this reality were Green Books. Specifically, The Negro Motorist Green Book which was a guide published by Victor Hugo Green, a Harlem postal worker, to direct black travelers to safe havens they could be served at including gas stations, hotels, and restaurants. Over time with new updated information, the Green Book was updated annually for years. My grandparents were very familiar with them and my mother-in-law has told many stories to my kids about them in addition packing cans of extra gasoline. Think about that - this pre-dates google and social media, yet following in the tradition of the Underground Railroad, resourceful and genius black folk created something out of nothing for the betterment of other black folks. Unfortunately, there were stretches of roads that couldn't be accounted for by the Green Book, so moms, aunts, sisters, and cousins began creating shoe box lunches and makeshift bathrooms. Shoebox lunches were lunches of sandwiches and sides that were packed in shoe boxes to make up for those long stretches when no viable restaurant existed.
Fast forward to today, when you have black women like Sandra Bland mysteriously being arrested and dying in a small Texas town jail. #travelingwhileblack is real. We love to road trip, and though I'm not packing shoe box lunches and traveling with extra gas cans in my trunk, We are very strategic with our travel itinerary and stay on alert regarding surroundings and situations. Survival skills are paramount. Ask any black woman about racially motivated micro-aggressions towards them when they travel. I can't count the number of times my wife has shared stories of white male passengers asking her for proof of her priority line or first-class status.
How To Make A Fried Bologna Sandwich
Fried bologna sandwiches in and of themselves are a universal crowd pleasure across different cultures. However, it has a special place in the hood and the history of black folks. Bologna sandwiches were a weekend and summer lunch staple growing up in the hood. The hood version always consisted of Oscar Mayer or store brand version fried in a cast iron skillet. This approach meant that as the bologna slice cooked then the center would rise to a bubble, leaving the edges to burn to a nice, flavorful crispiness. Imagine burnt ends, but for bologna. I want my edges black, blacker than black! If it didn't have that burnt crunch, then your technique was suspect, and your skillet use was marginalized until you got your weight up. I served as an apprentice to the cast iron skillet guru, Uncle Slick who made legendary everything in a skillet. In most other cultures the bubble is viewed as improper technique, so slits are cut into the slices, to ensure no bubble in favor of more even cooking. Yeah, that shit don't fly in da hood. Burnt ends all day.
Bologna Cooking Tips
- You can use oil to cook bologna but really no extra fat is needed
- Store bought or Oscar Meyer work just fine and are perfectly sliced. There are no redeeming qualities with bologna so don't fuss about it.
- If you buy from a deli go for thinner slices; the thicker ones don't bubble up and so you don't get that crust. Just fry more slices if you want super hearty
- Fry on both sides. Don't ask why, just do
- White bread is perfect for absorbing that salty fat bologna, so don't even worry about letting it drain like bacon on paper towels. I go straight from the skillet to the sliced bread.
- Curled up, warped like a melted vinyl record bologna is a good thing
How to dress a fried bologna sandwich
Beyond the bubble and burnt ends, you dressed it up to your preferences and condiments available. I was strictly mustard, bread, bologna, but on occasion I'd go Dagwood style with sliced tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, and a fried egg; straight ridiculousness but sooooo good. For this version, I tried to modernize this classic a lil bit by serving with homemade pickles and a collard greens slaw. I know today everything is about whole grain or gluten-free, but fried bologna sandwiches are white bread only for them to be certified hood classics. The sandwich becomes something else altogether when you switch the bread up.
Making A Fried Bologna Sandwich
If you make a version of this classic fried bologna sandwich recipe, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.
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- 4 slices bologna red casing removed
- 4 slices white bread
- Collard Green Slaw
- Heat a dry large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Working in batches, arrange bologna slices in a single layer in skillet and cook until browned all over and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate as they are done. Save skillet with any fat.
- To build sandwiches, Divide bologna between 2 slices and top with pickles and slaw. Close up sandwiches and cut in half.