Sneak peak of issue 2. I’ve been caught up with my break didn’t know that the second issue came out already. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Here’s some sneak peek at the second issue. I’m uber excited to get my own copy of this second issue. All the pictures and article stolen from the Mcsweeney’s website. Great work David Chang. Anthony Bourdain would never disappoint me. 😀
I grew up afraid of Lebanon bologna.
sweet regional meat
It’s a Pennsylvania thing, this bologna, originally devised by the Dutch Amish settlers of the Lebanon Valley (now Lebanon County), near the town of Hershey, home of the Kiss. It’s not a bit like the mortadella you’d get in Bologna, or even what we’ve come to know as bologna in the States. It is a nitrite-red beef sausage speckled with white flecks of fat. And as its moniker implies, its distinguishing characteristic is its sweetness.
Lebanon bologna, a.k.a. sweet bologna, is roughly similar to what’s known in some parts of the country as a “summer sausage,” except that it’s been spiked with sugar and a hint of what Mario Batali calls “the cookie spices” (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, etc.). I’ve been told that the Amish—who are a godfearing people but not one bit afraid of sugar—originally sweetened this sausage to offset the tang of the lactic acid created in its aging process. The end result is a smoky, lightly sweet, lightly spicy luncheon meat.
When I was a kid, my parents were generally the permissive type, and would allow me to indulge as much as I wanted in local culinary pleasures. But somehow they convinced me that sweet bologna was bad. It worked. I happily ate my whole wheat, Jarlsberg, and romaine lettuce sandwich every day while I snickered at other kids for eating that sweet salami. I thought of it as one of those things that other kids’ parents grabbed off the supermarket shelf and unlovingly threw into their lunch bags.
Over the years, with friends I brought to town, I’d point out the miles and miles of piles of it at Central Market in downtown Lancaster, PA. It was funny to me: sweet bologna. “Yuck, right?” I’d laugh.
And then on one such visit, maybe a year ago, I was gazing into the deli case at the Weaver Meats stand at the Market. There were so many piles of neatly sliced lunchmeats, so many versions of Lebanon bologna. For some reason, I asked myself: how many foods did you dislike as a kid that you now think are delicious?
I asked for a sample and, of course, it was great. I decided, What the hell, I’ll buy a quarter pound, bring it home, and see if I can get my head around it. And now, so strangely, I’m hooked. I lament the years I wasted, baselessly rejecting my native charcuterie. Every time I go back to PA, I try a different brand—there are at least a dozen to choose from—and recently I settled on Seltzer’s Double Smoked as my blueribbon sweet bologna.
Seltzer’s bolognas are made in Lebanon County, in Palmyra, PA. Their version has a good texture—not too moist, not too dry. The sweetness is in check. (There are sweet bolognas out there that will make your molars hurt.) And Seltzer’s is the only large producer that continues to smoke their bologna in old-fashioned, three-story-tall, narrow wooden smokehouses.
The traditional way of consuming Lebanon bologna is in a sandwich—just a simple white-bread sandwich with sweet bologna, brown mustard, and Swiss. (Though not, you know, actual Swiss Swiss cheese.) It works well that way. It’s also commonly one of several lunchmeats in a central-PA-style sub sandwich. If I ever ate sweet bologna as a kid, I ate it in this form. We used to sell these meat-filled subs door to door to raise money for our little-league teams back in the day.
I’ve heard that some people fry chopped-up sweet bologna to add a smoky flavor to a redneck carbonara. But the region’s most popular Super Bowl treat is sweet bologna sliced thinnish and wrapped around cream cheese. Convenience stores and delis sell premade wraps covered in plastic during football season, though they’re as easy as can be to make at home.