A Noble Repast, Indeed!
By Patrick F. Cannon
As famous as I’ve become for my gourmet recipes – you’ll recall my Bologna Wellington, I’m sure – I realize that not everyone has the time or inclination to scale the culinary heights. This week, then, I’ll provide my faithful readers with simple, hearty food that can be on the table in mere minutes.
One of my favorite luncheons is the fried bologna sandwich, proving anew that this encased meat is eminently flexible. Ingredients are simple: two regular (not thin!) slices of your favorite bologna; one slice of American cheese (I prefer Kraft); Heinz Ketchup (no substitutes); and two slices of bread (I prefer Whole Wheat, but any sandwich bread will do). I should also warn you against low-fat bologna, particularly the Turkey variant. They may claim it’s real bologna, just as the almond growers of California claim their vile juice is “Almond Milk.” But it’s not!
Prepare the bread by spreading ketchup on both slices. Cut a slice of cheese in half and have at the ready. Place the two slices of bologna on a hot frying pan. As they fry, they will almost certainly curl up, but don’t let this concern you. When you’re satisfied that they’re done on the first side, turn over with a spatula. Viola! The curl will dissipate. Now, bend the cheese halves in half again and place directly in the middle of the bologna. When the cheese is melted, place the two slices of be-cheesed bologna on one of the slices of bread, then cover with the other (do I have to remind you to have the ketchup sides in?). At this point, I like to slice the sandwich on the diagonal.
Present this classic sandwich on a plate with a kosher pickle spear and a mound of potato chips. By the way, to add a bit of historical perspective, the word “sandwich” comes from the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, who is said to have invented the handy eatable one day when he was gambling away his inheritance. It seemed he didn’t want to leave the table to take nourishment, and had a minion slap some slices of beef between two pieces of handy bread, so he could eat with one noble hand, and toss the dice with the other. The current Earl, the 11th of the line, often regales his fellow member of Britain’s House of Lords with this legend, at least those not napping.
(To be fair to the noble 4th Earl, he also helped to finance Captain Cook’s voyage of discovery, and the Sandwich Islands – now Hawaii – were named in his honor. It is perhaps all to the best that the islands were later renamed. Who would be willing to say “I’m from the State of Sandwich?)
There is no record of any of the Earls having eaten that other classic, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or the P&J as it’s known for short. You wouldn’t think such simple fare would require a recipe, but you would be mistaken. As with everything worthwhile, complications enhance the experience. First, the bread. While other sandwiches may be made with a variety of breads, the P&J can only be made with mushy white sandwich bread. Wonder Bread still makes the classic of the type, but there are others. If in doubt, apply the squish test (which consists of compressing the loaf at both ends like a concertina. If it soon returns to its original shape, it passes the test).
Please note that it’s called the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, not the peanut butter and jam or preserves sandwich. And, really, why would you use anything but grape jelly? I realize there are other kinds – apple, mint (!), cherry, strawberry, pomegranate (!!) – but none are as aesthetically pleasing as the classic grape, particularly Welch’s.
As to peanut butter, there is some question whether regular creamy, or chunky, is best. I admit to some vacillation here, but personally come down on the side of chunky. In this regard, I permit personal preference to decide the issue. As to brand, it is my understanding that all are made with peanuts, so actually vary little in taste. I prefer Smucker’s because I like the name, but Skippy, JIF and Peter Pan all have their passionate adherents. Avoid “natural” types at all costs. These come with the oil separated from the solids, requiring one to laboriously mix until the proper consistency is achieved. Why would any sane person do this?
I like to spread the peanut butter first, and liberally at that. Under no circumstances spread the jelly on the peanut butter! Instead, spread the jelly on the other piece of bread, then join the two together with due care. Many connoisseurs like to cut this sandwich into quarters, but this seems excessively precious to me.
I do like to precede it with a bowl of Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup; thus all the major food groups are accounted for. As to the soup, you will need to add a can of liquid to reconstitute this condensed product. You could, of course, economize by adding water; but I much prefer whole milk. If you were to add the aforementioned almond juice instead, you would create an abomination that would reverberate down through the ages. Don’t.
Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon