One man’s steak is another man’s potted meat

By BOB WACHS
Posted 12/13/18

It’s been said of humanity that we are what we eat.If that’s true, I’m beginning to think I might be in trouble.

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One man’s steak is another man’s potted meat

Posted

It’s been said of humanity that we are what we eat.
If that’s true, I’m beginning to think I might be in trouble.
It’s not that I’m fond of such things as raw possum or apple leaves; those are things most anyone – I hope – would find disgusting. Instead, it’s the subtle things, the twists and turns and fine-tuning of the staples and things most folks like. And that’s not a new phenomenon in my life.
Case in point going back to my childhood is a dish I’m pretty sure is my own creation – at least I’ve never heard of anyone else coming up with it. And when I describe or even mention it, the response usually varies from “Ugh!” to “Are you serious? Do you really eat that?”
And the answer is “Yes,” and it’s because I really like it, or did then since it’s been awhile since I had one.
The dish dates back to those childhood years when I got off the bus at the end of the school day and Mama was at work at her nursing job and Daddy wasn’t home yet. Obviously, my folks considered me old enough to function alone for a few hours, not to open the door to strangers and not to call my uncle in Hawaii.
We had plenty of food in the house when I got inside. Sometimes it was a snack or treat Mama had left for me or it could be what was supposed to be supper if I didn’t eat it first. But more often than not my after-school snack was my teenage creation.
It involved fresh bread; Sunbeam was my preference. And bologna, the high-dollar Jesse Jones variety. And American cheese, either hoop cheese if Daddy had gotten some but usually Kraft in the big yellow block. Added to that was peanut butter; it had to be Peter Pan and either smooth or crunchy was fine. The final ingredient was catsup or ketchup – I’m never really sure which is correct – and most often it was Hunt’s.
In a pinch, you could substitute some of the branded ingredients, but the final product was not quite as good as the top of the line result, at least in my teenage thought process.
Not only were the ingredients important but there was also a method to the preparation. First you started with the bologna and carefully pulled the thin covering off the slice, being careful not to tear the perfect circle of meat. If – and when – that happened, I was forced to scrape off the bits of bologna clinging to the skin with my teeth so as not to waste any.
The next step was key to the whole process: you took the bologna in hand and spread (or smeared, if you preferred) peanut butter on both sides of the bologna. Then you’d carefully place that on one slice of bread and carefully slice enough cheese to cover the top side of the meat and peanut butter.
Next came the crowning event in the form of enough catsup (or ketchup) to completely cover it all before topping everything with the other slice of bread. Even then, I was into tweaking the recipe by sometimes adding mayonnaise (Duke’s, of course) to the top slice but most of the time not.
Then I’d find a 16-ounce belly washer and enjoy my feast.
Times two.
As I look back on those days and that food, several things come to mind. One is that frequent ingestion of that gastric marvel may have something to do with the fine physical specimen I am today, namely my body’s tendency to resemble a pear. There also could be an internal component that I’m coming to deal with after my heart surgery, namely that too much sodium (salt, to us locals) isn’t the best thing for our tickers – and bologna tends to have an ample supply.
Still, I reason, what’s the point of living to be 123 if you don’t have some pleasure?
While I consumed enough of those sandwiches through the years to build a dam across the Haw River, I did, from time to time consume some other products ranging from chitlins to tripe to Mama’s fried chicken and homemade tomato soup. Occasionally we’d throw in a New York strip steak, as well.
Funny what triggers your memory. Over the past few days I’ve been nursing the family pooch, who had to visit the vet for some surgery. I’ve never had much success forcing medicine down a dog’s throat but if you hide the pills in a Vienna sausage, she’ll inhale it.
I’d forgotten how good those things smell, at least to me. Long ago, I’d consume a can or two with Daddy when we made a lunch stop at G.R. (“Dobber”) Williams Pure Oil gas station north of Bynum.
I’m pretty sure we don’t have any bologna, but I think I’ll ask the puppy if she’ll share her Viennas. Maybe just one can won’t be a sodium overload.

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