Love in the Time of Cholesterol: A Tale of Fried Bologna
It started out with an epiphany: I was at work one day and realized that I had a favorite food. It may sound odd, but if you ask a cook what her favorite food is, your likely response is going to be somewhere between “go fuck yourself,” and “who’s your favorite child?” I was at work prepping, in my own little world, when it randomly occurred to me that the most delicious and valid food I have ever known might be the fried bologna sandwich. My mom made it for me when I was a kid a few times, but it wasn’t even something I had on the reg. Why now? Why realize this as I’m preparing to lay my metabolism to rest when my twenties end? But mostly, enough with the questions, because it’s a goddamn revelation to realize that you have a favorite food.
I didn’t act on the epiphany right away. Many cooks don’t cook much during their time off, unfortunately, and in my case, I try to avoid cooking myself all the dankeries my heart desires, because I feel that when it comes to the size of my ass, there’s a fine line between bounty and excess. Long story short, I don’t really have food at my place. However, around the time I realized my one true food love, I met this woman. She was also a cook in New York, we hit it off fairly quickly, and once I felt I had almost won her heart, I decided we had to make one of these sandwiches together. I got the ingredients and brought them to her place, and we set to work.
I fried the bologna in butter first, crisping up the edges and watching it contort into its wavy, strange fried bologna shape. The transformation is nothing short of a Pokemon metamorphosis. It’s intense. After the bologna was crispy and dank and delicious, I took it out and added more butter to the pan. Then, I slathered a piece of whole wheat sandwich bread with Hellman’s mayo and laid it in the pan, mayo side up. I shingled the little rounds of bologna all over the bread–but not too much, lest the sandwich be too meaty…maybe two layers. And then I topped it with another mayo’d bread slice, flipped it, adding more butter to the pan to ensure for perfectly crispy bread.
We cut it in half and took a bite when it was golden and perfect, and the thing was nothing short of glorious. “Mouthgasm” could come close to describing it, but that seems cheap. What happens when you take a bite of this is that your mouth corners immediately shoot up into an involuntary grin, and your mouth waters in rapturous satisfaction at the perfect combination of brown butter, meat, salt, and chewy wheat. And it bothered me, you know, when people on Instagram laughed at the wheat bread. They said, “Oh, to balance out the bologna.” “Trying to be healthy.” But no…that’s just the kind of bread I had growing up, and it tastes so much more intense than white. White would ruin this masterpiece.
So the woman fell in love with me, maybe, or maybe me and the sandwich, much in the way the couple in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” needed Scarlet Johansen to make their love life whole. Either way, we have been very happy. But one day she woke up hungry and wanted fried bologna, and we didn’t have any more bologna. And we didn’t make it that day. But then a day came when we woke up and decided that we would go seek out the ingredients and take control of our destiny. And it turned out the deli downstairs from her place had bologna all along, so it wasn’t even that difficult. We bought so much bologna that we had at least a half a pound left after we cooked, which comforted us, because we are Jews, and we need to know where our next sandwich is coming from.
Back in her kitchen, we produced two perfect fried bologna sandwich specimens, made coffee, and brought the feast to her bed, as we do. “Wait. I have to take my pants off. Sorry. I just do. It makes sense,” she says.
“No, you’re right; that does make sense. Why would this be a pants occasion?”
We wanted the best for ourselves, so we ate the sandwich that was fresh out of the pan first. It was perfect. So perfect, in fact, that we really almost cried. I felt high. We had arranged slices of extra fried bologna on the side of the plate just because, and that felt so right. After the sandwiches, we laid in our coma of ecstasy for a couple hours, just basking in the glory of my favorite food. It was so perfect. And then we went for a walk in the sun.
When we sat down by the river, looking out at the nice day, I said, “You know, it’s almost kind of sad to take the first bite of the sandwich. Knowing it’s never going to be better than that. That the rest of the day may never measure up to that one moment of bliss.” “I agree,” she said. And we just sat in the sun and accepted that life passes us by and that the sandwich moments happen. We were OK with it, though, because we enjoyed what we had when we had it, which is the point.
“Do you think I should ask those people for a hit of their joint? Is that rude?” She said.
“Nah, do it.”
“Meh…” We did not smoke their weed.
Later that night, we decided to go to a bar and attempt to enjoy ourselves despite knowing that we already lived the peak of our day sometime around noon, year of our sandwich. So we got fancy cocktails and beers at The Dead Rabbit and talked and talked and talked. We drank and smiled about how perfect our lives were, even in light of the passing of the sandwich moment. How perfect we were, how anything was possible. She talked about her upcoming trip to Iran, and I said how she better not show her hair to anyone but me, and we laughed. I offered to wear a head scarf in New York for three weeks while she was away as a sign of my devotion and also to be funny. I’ll do it, but I also kind of hope she forgets that I said that.
When we left the bar, we walked home, trying to figure out why it took so many matches to keep my corn cob pipe lit and whether it was worth it. “I’m hungry,” she said, as we neared her place.
“I’ve eaten a fried bologna sandwich, a whole ficelle, and half of that giant salad you made today. But I like eating. What are we gonna eat? I’m not eating when you go to Iran. I’m gonna get skinny and then when you come back, we can eat all the things and I’ll get fat again.”
“That’s a good idea. We have more ingredients for another fried bologna. Let’s go smoke and make another.” I grin.
“OK.” We get into her place, and we hit her little bong a couple times.
“I want to make it this time,” she says.
“Yes ma’am.” She does the sandwich process, but before she puts on the bologna, she says,
“I want to fry the mayonnaise side.”
“Sacrilege!” I yell.
“It’ll be good.”
“I guess I shouldn’t be against trying it. But you have to put more raw mayo on it again before the bologna.” I dip my finger in the mayo and put it in my mouth.
“I just have to taste the ingredients in every different context, you know?”
“No…you’re just being luxurious.”
“True,” I grin, caught in my stoned bullshit. The sandwich comes out of the pan hot and beautiful, as usual. We each raise a half to our mouths, bite, and get the sandwich grin.
“It’s the best one yet.”
“It is. Oh my God. And you know what?”
“We beat the system. It’s the best moment of the day…again…”
“We did beat the system. I’m happy.”
“I’m happy too.”