Fried Bologna

This post is probably going to gross out quite a few of you. You may be a foodie. You may be a vegetarian. Apologies all around, because this post is about fried bologna.

A long time ago I wrote a post about the origins of Tex Mex cuisine and other Depression-era recipes. The post was about various recipes that emerged during the American Depression that became staples, in the larger culture or in particular homes. Two Depression-era dishes that are a part of the Beck family are Poor Man's Chocolate Cake (a cake made with vinegar and baking soda and no eggs or milk) and Peas & Gravy Over Toast.

This post is about another dish from my childhood: fried bologna.

I grew up in Western Pennsylvania where bologna sandwiches are a regional specialty (just check out the Wikipedia page), as it is in other Appalachian regions. And when you were trying to stretch a dime during the Depression bologna was often the only meat on hand. With pork chops, roast, chicken, and steak being too expensive you could have hot meat for dinner if you fried bologna. That's what the Depression-era Becks used to do, passing on the dish to later Beck generations. We weren't poor in my family, but bologna sandwiches were a staple of my childhood and I think Mom did fry bologna from time to time when there wasn't a whole lot in the fridge and she wanted to give us something hot.

Jana's family also had fried bologna. So awhile back, when we looking in the fridge figuring out what to eat, I said, "Why don't we fry up the bologna and have fried bologna sandwiches? I haven't had one of those in years." So we did and the boys liked it. Since, every once in a while, we'll have fried bologna sandwiches.

Jana and I were talking about this the other week and she said, "You know, when I mention that we have fried bologna sandwiches every once in a while people have one of two very strong reactions. They are either totally disgusted or they are filled with nostalgia for their childhood."

The Becks are filled with nostalgia, and we salute those Depression-era moms--and the moms and dads today--who stretched those dimes for their families.

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33 thoughts on “Fried Bologna”

  1. Never tried fried bologna, but it might be worth it. What's your opinion about scraple?
    John McNassor (Pennsylvania!).

  2. I read "fried bologna" and thought "I've only ever seen this at fairs in SW Pennsylvania. And then I read a little bit farther, and it all made sense. Of course, they'll now fry anything at fairs. Try the oreos.

  3. Count me in the nostalgia group about fried bologna.  That's the sandwich my father used to make for me when I was little...

  4. I only ever ate bologna when I visited my grandma and grandpa. Growing up in the depression and during WWII, they subsited on fried bologna. This is also where I picked up my affection for processed "American" cheese, and for the same reasons. 

  5. I grew up on bologna sandwiches -- cold in my lunch and fried for dinner. Good times! Sometimes we'd fry an egg and add it to the sandwich as well. And of course bologna and saltines is the way to get your sodium levels up! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. 

  6. On the menu at Coleman's BBQ, Senatobia, MS, hometown of my wife's family. Her mom still lives on the 80 acre farm that sustained the family through the depression. As they say, "We may have been poor, but we didn't know it."

  7. This 26 year old is filled with nostalgia for fried bologna (which is the strangest spelling of the word when you consider the pronunciation) as passed down by her depression era grandparents, along with pimento cheese, though that may be more of a regional Nashville treat. Thanks for the nice memory!

  8. In our farm family on the plains of Eastern Colorado, it was fried Spam! Now you've got me hankerin' after some!

  9. Being Japanese American, my mom made rice nearly every night  (non-Asian foods included, i.e meatloaf,  franks and beans, fish sticks, etc).
    Fried rice is actually a solution for leftover rice.  My mom made awesome fried rice, and she would chop and throw in bologna many times - great memories.
    Gary Y

  10. I haven't got a clue what you're all on about.  A proper diet for any right-thinking person is a full-Monty to start the day with Cumberland sausage, Worcester sauce and black pudding, a Cornish pasty and Eccles cake for lunch and toad-in-the-hole and spotted dick for dinner helped down by a nice wedge of Wensleydale. 

  11. As a big fan of all things charcuterie (well, at least most things...) I go for the real thing and buy Mortadella. And being from Minnesota, spam is something we fry to eat with eggs.

  12. Everything's in there but the "oink." I can't get accustomed to the idea but folks uphere in North Central PA love it. JOHN

  13. Actually, Jana's experience, if I was cooking, was fried spam (not much difference, I admit). I don't do bologna in much any form except in desperation. K

  14. Here in semi-rural South Carolina we have fried bologna and cheese sandwiches in the vending machines at work, and  fried bologna is often served on the breakfast buffets of mom-and-pop restaurants.

  15. While growing up in Chicago we also had fried bologna sandwiches. With sauteed onions & Hellman's mayo. Quite tasty! My maternal grandparents are from PA and paternal grandparents from WV.

  16. I  don't know what it is about the picture you posted with this, Richard, but I'm mesmerized by it. Look at what you can see of the faces... the exhaustion, the struggle, the understated gladness to have a meal. That table reminds me of my Grandmother's table. She was probably the age of the little boy during the Depression, but her simple resolve to live shown on her face... just like these folks, here. Has that really changed all that much? I see these faces on a daily basis.

    It seems we just have more distractions, today, from the reality that we end our days looking just like this. We long--sometimes we ache--for an easier go of it, but in the end we are just glad for a hot meal and some rest. Fried bologna reminds us of that reality. I don't really think it's nostalgia as much as a glimpse past our facades into the truth.

    Oh, and I still make--not fried bologna necessarily--fried hot-dogs, eggs and toast almost every weekend. I like bologna but my wife won't buy it, claiming it's bad for me... pshaw!

  17. Awesome post. Fried bologna on white bread with mayo. Or for breakfast with fried eggs instead of bacon. I introduced my kids to it a long time ago too. Thanks for the nostalgia. 

  18. Whenever my dad (who also grew up in the depression), made dinner, he would either microwave our fry bologna sandwiches. I never connected this to the depression, but it makes sense. Also I never thought that I would admit on a blog that sometimes fried bologna was the classiest choice for dinner. 

  19. Awhile back the Library of Congress released some rare color photos of the Great Depression. They are absolutely spell-binding. The picture in the post is one of them. More can be seen here:

  20. My memory exactly. It was spam! But I think we have bologna in the fridge right now....desperation sandwiches for the Brooks ( with mayo of course).

  21. My family was from Rural Mississippi (as opposed to the sprawling, urban centers of mississippi..) and I remember it was always a treat when we had left over cornbread and my dad would crumble it in milk and we would eat it out of a glass.  One evening I was staying at my grandparents and asked if I could have somemilk 'n cornbread before going to bed.  My grandmother looked at me like I was crazy, and wanted to know why my parents were feeding me "po folks food". 

    I love me some fried bologna for breakfast too!

  22. Fried bologna sandwiches for lunch; ring bologna with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes, or chunk bologna roasted in the oven. All of them staples of my childhood (as an Ohio Mennonite, with a grandmother named Beck, by the way); noticed bologna on the menus of bbq places in South Carolina and North Carolina, but never ordered it. And on the menus in upscale restaurants in Madison, WI where I now live. Of course, mortadella, which I assume is the remote ancestor of bologna, is a regular treat in our gourmet household.

  23. My parents (who grew up during the Depression) made the same thing for us when we were kids in Australia in the 60's. The other thing they would do is make up a batter and dip slices in the batter before frying them.

  24. Cattle Baron's Cafe serves up a mean fried bologna sandwich. We love them in our house.

  25. Oh this brings back memories! Haven't had one in ages, but I too salute my mom and those others, and actually myself because I make a mean bologna sandwich :)  Your family comfort food surprised me as it was so similar to my own, and then you mentioned Western Pennsylvania, although I grew up in Wisconsin my mom was from Greenville, so it makes sense that she would have brought them with her, we call our peas & gravy "hamburger gravy" though :) Thanks for the memory!

  26. I read your blog often.  Being from Indiana, PA myself, I was curious to know where you grew up in Western PA.

  27. I grew up in Erie. I have an uncle and aunt that live in Indiana. And the family homestead, where my grandparents lived, is in Cherry Tree, about 25 miles from Indiana.

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