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Bologna sandwiches a country-fried tradition

Fried bologna sandwiches are nothing if not a homage to the country palate that bears no pride, counts no calories and uplifts even the lowliest of ingredients to the heights of celestial delight. Which is to say that you can actually find fried bologna sandwiches on sit-down restaurant menus around here and in many other parts of the South.

But the best fried bologna sandwiches are made at home! Here's what you need:

* thick, deli-sliced bologna

* oil for frying

* deli-sliced cheese

* great bread

* condiments of choice

The three key points in a fried bologna sandwich are the meat, the cheese, and the bread. Start with good, thick, deli-sliced bologna, not the pre-packaged stuff. 

Choose your cheese - make it some good, deli-sliced cheese, too. And then there's the bread. Fried bologna sandwiches are traditionally made on white sandwich bread. Homemade bread is perfect.

Heat a small amount of oil on medium-high in a large skillet. (You can use olive oil, lard, bacon grease, whatever oil you prefer.) Carefully score each slice of bologna. Don't cut the bologna in half - just make a few cuts across the center. (This will help keep the bologna from curling while it's frying.)

Fry three minutes per side. If you burn the edges a little bit, you get a nice caramelized flavor.

Here's where it gets really subjective. Anybody who grew up with fried bologna sandwiches will tell you that the only way to eat them is the way their mother made them - with mayonnaise or mustard, ketchup or barbeque sauce. I like mayo and a hot pepper butter. I spread both bread slices with mayo and put hot pepper butter between the bologna and the cheese. I like Colby, but any cheese will do. If you grew up with them, the only right way is how your mama did it, so I understand.

My mother never made fried bologna sandwiches. The first time I was introduced to the fried bologna sandwich was when I moved to West Virginia. One day after church, my cousin made one for me.  Now I'm a fan. It's a real comfort food.

Top the bologna with the cheese while still warm and put the sandwich together. If you like, add lettuce, tomato, and onion. Some people even like a fried egg on top. Or if you have a sandwich press, you can grill it.

No matter how you make it, it's hillbilly heaven. Pass the potato chips.

Writer Suzanne McMinn lives in Roane County, where she writes every day in her blog, Chickens in the Road, at www.chickensinthe


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