by Edward V. Folkes
Well, I do declare, baloney is as fine a Southern breakfast food as you can find. The way it contorts when fried, starting out perfectly flat and round, and then with heat it slowly begins to curl up from the outside in until sometimes rolling itself into a loose pipe of sorts. It just seems to be so comfortable resting against that biscuit. Pour a dab of cane syrup over that big pat of butter in the middle. Could there be a better complement to the two eggs fried over easy with an ample serving of grits? Did someone mention red eye gravy? Can't you see that platter just steaming off those flavors blending together on their way to your nostrils in a delicious embrace? Yes, dear hearts, it is an Epicurean marriage of breakfast treats. Don't you know baloney is an experience to tickle your taste buds?
Now, what about lunch?
Down on the home place, almost kissing the Withlacoochee, my cousin Trip would prepare a baloney sandwich on white bread with a light application of mayonnaise and one slice of meat. He would do this every day until finally I just couldn't stand it any longer. He was a string bean of a man, tall and thin, with skin the color of copper and flashing, intelligent, blue eyes. Trip was an introspective guy who sometimes carried the practice to distraction. But he always had a ready answer for just about everything. One day after I had been working the property with him for a while, and I just couldn't stand it any longer, I asked him that all important question.
"Why in the world do you eat a baloney sandwich the same way every day? Where is your sense of adventure?"
Now, Trip was given to wearing old-fashion overalls with a blue, long sleeve, chambray shirt. He had a habit of pushing up his sleeves--first his left sleeve then the right before he made a point. Cousin Trip stopped fixing his sandwich and looked at me with those blue eyes.
"Son, isn't it obvious that I have stumbled across the perfect meal? You can't mess with perfection, boy! Besides the Moon Pie and RC wouldn't taste right without the baloney sandwich."
Trip did not buy just any baloney.
Southern meat processors add a regional flavor to their product. "Bryan Foods, The Flavor of The South," has a web site at BRYAN FOODS. Bryan's message speaks volumes: "Perhaps at the heart of all things Southern is the celebration of food."
I would have to say Amen to that--yes indeed!
Bryan puts Southern Cooking into four categories: "Down Home Southern Cuisine," "Soul Food," "Big Home Southern Cuisine," and "New Southern Cuisine." Even with all the attention to "pork chops, hickory smoked hams, fried catfish, collard greens and slow cured ham, Gulf of Mexico Redfish, red beans and rice and coconut shrimp and grits," there still is room to talk about bologna.
I think it pretty much inescapable that whatever the product, even baloney, we Southerners will find a way to make it uniquely ours. In that fine old southern town of Smithfield Virginia, a meat packing company famous for its hams since 1752 also sells a tasty "Thick Sliced Bologna."
I'm not surprised at all.
Give the perfect meal a try and see if my cousin Trip was right.
Remember, all it takes are two slices of white bread, a light application of mayonnaise and one slice of baloney. But you know this feast can't stop with just the sandwich. Trip said the Moon Pie and RC made it perfection.
I'm willing to bet he's right.
BIO: Edward V. Folkes, Jr., a native Floridian, lives and works in Tampa, Florida. "The deep roots of the South are here in Tampa," he writes, "but certainly have been diluted over the years. I was raised in a small, rural town, Dade City, Florida, about thirty miles north of Tampa that I consider more 'cracker' country. Its institutions and society were certainly more deeply rooted in the Old South. I have family in both Virginia and Alabama, and thoroughly enjoy the connection and continuing experience of my heritage."
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