It’s been a long time coming y’all. I can remember on this one particular day, my senior year of college, taking a walk with Mary up Lauren Street from 5 points in Columbia. We were talking about guys we’ve dated and what we were looking for next. My exact words to Mary were, “I want to meet a good lawyer boy, but one that’s a little country and likes to fish and hunt.” Kid you not, a WEEK later I met good ‘ole Country Boy Benjamin and it has been exactly 5 years ago TODAY that we met. So- with that said, coming in nice and slow like a good old boy…BEN JOHN TRIPP! “Some of you may have recently heard about so-called 4-D entertainment, like this. Considering the fourth dimension is just time, I’m sure people who make plays are aware of it. At any rate, I’m one-upping the mainstream media and taking this blog post to 5-D. This means you can ctrl+click on the links and get cool additional tabs to open up. Some of them are music, so as you read, clicking will play songs that may or may not tonally or thematically relate to anything.
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Eating is, in significant part, a primal and functional behavior. I believe you don’t need to try hard every time you eat. Enjoy simple meals with simple and readily-available ingredients from time to time, and don’t let a dish’s lack of ostentation disqualify it.
For blocks are better cleft with wedges
Than tools of sharp or subtle edges,
And dullest nonsense has been found
By some to be the most profound.
Samuel Butler, 17th century British writer
A fine example: the fried bologna sandwich. That makes this is a bolog blog. A public service announcement for baloney miscreants: for purposes of both the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service and the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, bologna and hot dogs are generally prepared with the same ingredients and processes. These are the facts of tha RILL WUUUURRRRLLLLLDDDDDD.
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While summer has now wound down to fall, in the midst of summer my outdoor activity was at a peak. Recently Susu and I were at the beach and began a particular Saturday morning by netting crabs on a salt flat for fish bait. After some time slogging through plough and enough humidity to blur the transition from water to air, we dropped off a couple of barely-legal blues in the fridge and headed straight for the beach.
For the ladies, at least in my experience, simply sitting on the beach is not just relaxing. The raison d’ beaching is transcendence. I don’t feel it, but I get it. Instead, for me the beach goes like this: procrastinate putting on sunscreen; drink beer; get sandy and sticky; drink more beer, stare off into space; realize sunglasses are sandy and sticky, futilely attempt to clean; get in the water to cool off, get salty and stickier; get out, drink more beer; “OMG you’re burnt,” put on sticky sunscreen, get it on your sunglasses; drink more beer, run out of beer, get hungry and ready to go, be burnt, sticky, sweaty; put on sticky shirt and sandy shoes, trudge home through sand carrying beach gear.
Having already progressed as such on this particular day by 1:00 or so, we needed a quick trip back to the kitchen. In these circumstances, I’ll keep it simple, stupid. Fried baloney sandwich. One great reason for making this sandwich at the beach is the easy access to fresh tomatoes. At least through Marion and Aynor, roadside produce stands are plentiful. Of course, using homegrown tomatoes is exemplary. Here’s what to do.
Have more tomatoes than you need just for a layer on a sandwich. You should be able to throw some salt and pepper on a half or a third of the slices as you work and just eat them straight up.Preparing the baloney is simple. I recommend Gwaltney brand because you’re making a homespun/country cooking/comfort food type of dish. Gwaltney is HQ’d in Virginia, and Food Lion, HQ’d in Salisbury, NC, usually carries it. Plus “GWALTNEY BOLOGNA” just has a nice ring to it. Who wouldn’t want to try that.
Slice off a hunk of butter and melt it on your pan or skillet. As the butter melts, peel off a slice of baloney. You don’t need the red security tape around the edge; it’s just there to prevent thefts of this prized deli meat, kind of like how those plastic tags on clothes are deactivated at the register. Mash your thumb between the meat and tape and SHAKE IT OFF, AH AH, SHAKE IT OFF.
Soon after flopping this guy in the hot pan, the heat will cause the edges to turn up like a slice of baloney that belongs to lil John. Not ideal for a sandwich layer. Solution? Some good ole country ingenuity—take you a utensil and pierce the sides, thusly disarming the surface tension. This is the pattern I use because my grandma used to do it like that. I call it the Goode homolosine projection baloney slice-pattern.
While the baloney cooks, which only takes about two to three minutes a side with medium-high heat, put mayo on bread. You should already have some Duke’s mayo in the fridge. Get it out. If you don’t keep white bread around, you should have picked some up from the store when you got your baloney. SUNBEAM KING THIN ONLY. Only the softest, fluffiest, highest-sugar-additives processed-wheat white bread will do. Other styles, like Merita Old Fashioned, are stiff and have that flavorless, papery crust on top. I don’t get that. And put mayo on both sides of the bread. If you’re one of these people who gets frightened by mayonnaise, it’s ok, you don’t need a lot. But you definitely want the flavor and feel of warm bread and mayo sopping from the heat and grease of the baloney on one side of the sandwich and the flavor and feel of cool, salty and peppery tomato with mayo on the other side. If you can’t handle that much mayo, leave.When you put this thing together, it’s gonna get sloppy. The bread will hold up at first, but by the last bite, you got a soggy mess of hay to sling in the barn. I believe Hegel referred to this as the dialectic of “schnitzelbrot,” which roughly translates to fried baloney sandwich. Despite the simplicity of the carefully selected ingredients, it is a decadent sandwich that evolves from bite to bite and juxtaposes a number of sensations: salty and sweet, cool and warm, mushy and crisp, greasy and dry. And it’s JUICY. AND IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW, NOW YOU KNOW.
A couple of final thoughts. Again, there’s no pretense here. We’re not worried about GMOs or HMOs or glutein-frees or paleo’s. If you’re gonna eat this sandwich, make sure you’ve been doing something dirty and sweaty outside beforehand. Don’t wash up before you start cooking. Maybe recite some Whitman as a prelude:
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
When you finish cooking, take it outside. Grab a cheap, ice cold beer in one hand. Mash the muddy, blackened fingertips of your other hand into the spongy, virginal white bread. Let grease and juice funnel down your palm as you chomp down. Use your sandwich-holdin’ arm to wipe the sweat from your brow as you chew. Notice your cute flip-flop plate. Because when you’re done bologning, there’s more work to be done, more play to be played, more life to be lived. We mortals are but shadows and dust.