Italy’s mortadella sausage is the granddaddy of our contemporary bologna, which was made with pork and a great deal of pork fat. It’s found in each self-respecting sausage shop in Italy, and although big meat companies, such as Oscar Meyer, have modified the recipe and call it bologna, the first mortadella may nevertheless be found in delicatessens across the U.S. particularly in Italian neighborhoods.
“Baloney” is an Americanized title for the Italian sausage, and in the early twentieth century it also became a popular phrase meaning”nonsense” or bogus, as in”that is such baloney.” Quite simply, bologna sausage originated in Bologna, Italy, sometime in the late 1600’s, and its groundwork was taken very seriously. Creating mortadella sausage has been considered an art form and just a couple of families were permitted the privilege. It was considered a major ration for Roman armies, and Napoleon is supposed to have introduced it to France. (At no time did explorer Marco Polo bring it back from China, but he might have eaten it in his native Italy.) It is so revered in Italy that a 1971 film starring Sophia Loren was titled La Mortadella, where her character tried to smuggle the sausage into the U.S. Those Italians take their sausages seriously.
Immigrants brought it with them in the late 1800’s and set up road carts, small family restaurants and butcher shops, where they offered their cherished sausages, and people of all heritages embraced them. A German immigrant named Oscar Meyer began selling his native sausages in Wisconsin and Chicago, including bratwurst, bacon and wieners at the turn of this century, branching out into more lunch meats, namely bologna, a modified and less complicated version of mortadella. With the invention of sliced white bread (think Wonder), a child’s lunch became easier, with mother slapping some baloney between two pieces of bread, a smear of mayo, and off to college little Johnny went.
While lots of folks frown upon the”mystery meat” sandwich, there is no denying that its prevalence has almost a cult following (such as Spam,) and do not try telling a baloney aficionado differently. During the Depression, bologna gained strength, as it was much less costly than salami or ham. Frequently made with leftover parts of meats and heaven knows what else that has been tossed to the grinder, it stuffed up hungry people and kept longer than more perishable sandwich fillings. Ring bologna was frequently a main course for dinner and tastier than its sliced lunch meat cousin.
Mid-twentieth century, food companies began selling chopped meats at the grocery stores, and the convenience and accessibility attracted overworked homemakers. No more cooking big meat loaves, baking hams or roasting beef for lunches. Since mac and cheese had no travel ability, it had been cold cuts for the mass majority.
Although bologna sales began declining in the 1970’s as people reached out for lower-fat and better quality meats, especially poultry and turkey, baloney is making a comeback, not only for nostalgic reasons but for its cost and availability. During a U.S.weak market between 2007 to 2009, major supermarkets throughout the country saw a substantial growth in bologna sales. In 2016, lunch meats generated a whopping 2.01 billion dollars in U.S. sales. In the Canadian province of Newfoundland, bologna consumption makes up 35% of the whole country. In a fish-based people, this cheap meat is a staple.
Not to be left out is fried baloney for breakfast, or as a hot sandwich on rye. True bologna fans consider it a normal part of the diet, and they’ll give you detailed descriptions about the best way to cook it (buy an entire sausage and slice it thick).
So please do not disparage this hot sausage. Maybe you don’t have great memories of it, perhaps you ate a poor brand or you simply don’t like the whole notion of processed meats. But this sausage has survived the test of time. It is pure baloney.