I grew up on chipped-chopped ham sandwiches for lunch. You know, one of the things Isaly’s was famous for. But now, even when it is featured in the deli case at the supermarket, I steer clear.
I thought about this the other day when I made a bread and butter sandwich to accompany my dinner entrée. The butter, of course, was some sort of “light” butter made with canola oil. And the bread was some high fiber combination of multi-grains and sawdust. It was tasty enough, but nothing like my all-time favorite: the school cafeteria white bread and butter sandwich.
I used to love those. Light-as-air white bread with no fiber, no nutrition and which turned to sugar in your bloodstream within seconds; slathered in real high-fat, salty institutional butter. Yes. I would buy as many extra (at a few cents apiece, per the generous school lunch subsidy) as the cafeteria ladies would allow. But the last time I had one was during my teaching days in 1972.
I don’t do bologna any more either. We had lots of it in childhood; big round, thin slices from Modern Market or thick chunks whittled from pre-packaged ring bologna. Loved it. I ate mustard-drenched bologna sandwiches into my 20s; regularly for lunch and as an occasional Friday night treat while watching Ghoulardi.
The Wikipedia entry for bologna sandwiches says they “tend to be high in saturated fat and sodium.” Yes, I think we could safely say that about any lard-based product.
It goes without saying that I have pared bologna from my diet.
All of this came to mind when I read a story recently in The Plain Dealer headlined: “Where’s Waldo?”
The reference was to the tiny Ohio town by that name.
As you may know, it is just off U.S. 23, north of Columbus. And I have only ever lingered there once.
It was in 2013. And I was on a motorcycle adventure to Colorado. I had always heard about the place in Waldo that specializes in fried bologna sandwiches. But somehow I had never had one.
It was mid-morning on my departure day when I drove past — they were not even open yet. But how could I not be impressed: a huge fried bologna sandwich was painted on the north side of the building. “Home of the Famous Fried Bologna Sandwich” was lettered above it.
I thought about that sandwich for 10 days. In fact, I made a point of passing through Waldo — at absolute high noon this time — on my return trip.
And I did not even try to restrain myself.
I mean, really: when was the last time you passed a building with a salad painted on the outside wall? Right, never. So when a place sells a product exciting enough to become exterior artwork, that’s what you have to order.
I plunked myself down at the end of the bar and spoke the words I had not uttered in more than a decade: “Fried bologna sandwich, please.”
When it came, it was exactly as advertised: a half-inch thick slice of bologna, nicely fried and topped with a slice of cheese and pickles on an appropriately bulky bun.
I ate it with enthusiasm. But I have to say it did not live up to my expectations. I was expecting it might be like the best sandwich I had ever eaten. But — and I know this is heresy to some — I thought it was just OK.
Thank goodness. Because the last thing I need is to get hooked on fried bologna sandwiches from a place an hour-and-a-half from home.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t try one again. It is one of the dangers of being able to answer the question “Where’s Waldo?”
Jim Busek is a freelance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via email at jim[email protected]mail.com.