Aw, Baloney

I miss fried boloney sandwiches.

I’m not sure what happened, but at some point over the last 45 years while I wasn’t looking, someone stopped making the good stuff.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a mainstay of a 70s kid’s childhood and they’ve hung around. But, what happened to fried baloney sandwiches?

Unlike many of today’s kids, who play video games most of the day, a typical morning for kids in my neighborhood would see a mom sending you out the back door with a pat on the rear and a “Don’t be late for lunch” warning.

After coming in from a hard three or four hours of playing baseball on the corner lot, a fried baloney sandwich on white bread with Miracle Whip and a plate full of Fritos would always hit the spot.

I was 26 before I found out that baloney wasn’t a food group.

At my house, I was the designated baloney fetcher. When we would run low, mom would say “Johnny, go down to Shurway and get Mr. Pope to slice us up a pound of baloney. And ask him to put it on our ticket.”

Back in those days, baloney came in large slabs and could be sliced to the thickness of your choice. Also, people trusted you to pay your bills. Your 10-year-old kid could charge baloney and Fritos, no questions asked.

I would gladly hop on my purple Murray bike, with the banana seat and the sissy bar, and peddle my way to the store. I’d pass all of the pop bottles out back behind Shurway, which were waiting to be picked up by the soda pop truck diver. I’d come to a gliding stop up onto the sidewalk, lean my bike up against the side of the store, and make my way to the front.

As I entered through the glass door, which had a “C’mon in, it’s KOOL inside” sticker by the handle, I’d pass the cartons of cigarettes and slowly begin to soak up the air conditioning on my way to the meat counter in the back. The Pope’s were great people and had a reputation for really good meat products. The front of the store assured you of that with an “Our Meats Are Better” sign.

And they were.

Mr. Pope would take my baloney order, one or two pounds, and I’d stand there covered in sand and sweat and watch as he’d throw the baloney slab onto the slicer. Like an artisan, he’d have that baloney sliced, wrapped in butcher paper, taped shut and in my hand in no time at all. He’d pull the pencil from behind his ear and mark the price on the paper.

I’d sign the ticket, hop on my bike and head back down Beech Street, baloney in tow.

Mom always used the same cast iron skillet to fry baloney. She knew how to cook it to that perfection of blackness that was absolutely delicious.

There were other foods that were staples, including wienies and kraut. My little sister couldn’t say ‘wienies and kraut’. She pronounced it ‘wienies and crap’, which I think was more accurate. We ate whatever mom fixed, but fried baloney sandwiches were my favorite.

Shurway is gone now. So is Mr. Pope. But mom gave me her skillet and there’s one or two real meat markets still open near where I live.

I think today I’ll give the family a treat and do the cooking.

I no longer have my purple Murray bike, but I do have a pickup truck and a hankering for a tasty memory.

Bon appétit.

©2015 John Moore

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