Italy’s mortadella sausage is the granddaddy of our modern bologna, which was made with pork and lots of pork fat. It’s found in each self-respecting sausage shop in Italy, and although large meat companies, such as Oscar Meyer, have altered the recipe and call it bologna, the original mortadella can still be found in delicatessens across the U.S. particularly in Italian neighborhoods.
“Baloney” is an Americanized title for the Italian sausage, and in the early twentieth century it also became a popular word meaning”nonsense” or bogus, as in”that is such baloney.” Creating mortadella sausage has been considered an art form and just a couple of families were allowed the privilege. It was considered a significant ration for Roman armies, and Napoleon is purported to have introduced it to France. (At no time did explorer Marco Polo bring it back from China, but he might have consumed it in his native Italy.) It is so revered in Italy that a 1971 film starring Sophia Loren was titled La Mortadella, in which her character tried to smuggle the sausage into the U.S. Those Italians take their sausages seriously.
Immigrants brought it together in the late 1800’s and set up street carts, small family restaurants and butcher shops, where they offered their cherished sausages, and people of all heritages embraced them. With the invention of sliced white bread (think Wonder), a child’s lunch became simpler, with mother slapping some baloney between two slices of bread, a smear of mayooff to college little Johnny went.
While lots of people frown upon the”mystery meat” sandwich, there is no denying that its prevalence has almost a cult following (like Spam,) and do not try telling a baloney aficionado otherwise. Throughout the Depression, bologna gained strength, as it was considerably less costly than salami or ham. Often made with leftover parts of meats and heaven knows what else that has been chucked into the grinder, it stuffed up hungry people and retained longer than more perishable sandwich fillings. Ring bologna was often a main course for dinner and tastier than its sliced lunch meat cousin.
Mid-twentieth century, food companies began selling sliced meats in the grocery stores, and the convenience and accessibility attracted overworked homemakers. No more cooking big meat loaves, baking hams or roasting beef for lunches. Since mac and cheese had no traveling ability, it was cold cuts for the bulk.
Though bologna sales began declining in the 1970’s as people reached out for lower-fat and better quality meats, particularly turkey and chicken, baloney is making a comeback, not just for nostalgic reasons but for its price and availability. During a U.S.weak economy between 2007 to 2009, major supermarkets across the nation saw a significant rise in bologna sales. In the Canadian province of Newfoundland, bologna consumption makes up 35% of the whole country. In a fish-based populace, this inexpensive meat is a staple.
Not to be left out is fried baloney for breakfast, or as a hot sandwich on rye. True bologna fans consider it a normal part of the diet, and they will give you detailed descriptions about the best way to cook it (buy an entire sausage and slice it thick).
So please do not disparage this popular sausage. Perhaps you don’t have great memories of it, maybe you ate a poor brand or you just don’t like the whole idea of processed meats. But this sausage has stood the test of time. It is pure baloney.
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