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December 19, 2008

How to make lunch

Lunchbox.jpgFor someone who says he knows nothing about food, I think our friend Bucky is progressing nicely. In today's bit of culinary nostalgia, our guest poster from the big rectangular state out West even gives us a recipe. EL

Which is your favorite meal of the day? Mine is lunch and it has been for a long time.

 Lunch is on my mind because a bunch of us had one of our periodic grilled-cheese-sandwich-and-tomato-soup lunches at work the other day. We do that, sometimes, when it gets cold. I bring in my long electric griddle and a couple of people bring in crock pots to heat the soup in.

I never ate “hot lunch” at school; I always brought my lunch from home. In elementary school, I carried it in a Roy Rogers lunchbox. I still have that lunchbox, and every once in a while, I look on eBay to see how much it’s worth. (A lot.) But I would never sell it. ...

I think I ate the same thing for lunch nearly every day of my young life. I’d open that Roy Rogers lunchbox and in it, all neatly wrapped up in waxed paper, would be a bologna sandwich, potato chips and cookies. My mom would sometimes slip in a piece of fruit, but I usually would give that away to some kid who forgot his lunch or his lunch money. 

Much charity, even at that age, is born of a need to avoid feeling guilty. I wasn’t going to eat the fruit my mom had packed for me, but I couldn’t, in good conscience, throw it away either. There were all starving little kids in China, according to the accounts of the day.  (Do mothers still use that line?  Calling Kate Shatzkin…)

This will surprise absolutely no one who knows me well, but I’m very firm about how a bologna sandwich should be made.  Go figure.  It’s a bologna sandwich.  But I am. 

I like my bologna sandwiches like this: You lay down one piece of white sandwich bread. On that you place one slice of b-o-l-o-g-n-a (You are hearing the same song I’m hearing, aren’t you?) Then you squirt out some mustard, starting out around the outside and going ‘round toward the middle. Use yellow mustard. You don’t need Dijon or any fancy mustard because you are, after all, putting it on b-o-l-o-g-n-a.  Dijon isn’t going to make any significant difference and would just be a waste of money.

Now, for the key ingredient: on the second piece of white sandwich bread, you spread a healthy layer of butter. (I prefer Land O’ Lakes.  I used to say that it is one of the two good things to come out of Minnesota, the other one being I-35.  Now I know there’s a third — Abigail Carlson.)

The butter, however, is not just for taste. 

The butter keeps the second piece of bread from soaking up all the mustard which would make your sandwich, well…GACK!  The butter is a culinary vapor barrier, which is not something you’ll ever learn about by watching the Iron Chefs or Emeril. You learned about it here, in Dining@Large.

You make a b-o-l-o-g-n-a sandwich according to this recipe, wrap it up in waxed paper, stick it in a Roy Rogers lunch box with some chips and a few devil’s food cookies and, well, there you go. Lunch might just become your favorite meal, too.

(Photo by Uncle Larry)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:09 AM | | Comments (33)


In the 60s, my grandmother's signature dish was fried bologna sandwiches.

We didn't eat at my grandmother's a lot. Even as a toddler, I knew this was a good thing.

I love bologna sandwiches but my version is on white bread with three slices of bologna and a thin spreading of mayonnaise on both slices of bread. This must be accompanied by some dill pickle slices and potato chips. The mayo has to be Hellmans. In the old days, Muhlys served a delicious bologna sandwich.

I used to eat a weird bologna sandwich: white bread, bologna and ketchup.

To me, it was just like a cold hot dog.

Regina, our moms must've gone to the same bologna sandwich school. Ours were 3 slices exactly of bologna and yes indeed, had to Hellman's. Pickle slices and potato chips always on the side!

Bucky, although I was a sometime buyer I was much more frequently a brown bagger. The bags had to be standard lunch bag size because if your mom gave you an icecream bag or even worse a cut down grocery bag it was too embarrassing to even consider. Our most popular take to school lunch was the ever popular tuna fish sandwich. The tuna had to be white albacore pulverized and mixed with mayo (again Hellman's only) so that it was moist but not runny. Chopped celery went in as did some pickle relish. This went onto soft white bread and was cut in half. A handful of Utz chips out of the barrel someone purchased on a trip to Hanover went into a baggy and either an apple or orange went in as dessert. We used to buy cokes at school. We threw out the fruit and we smooshed the potato chips on top of the tuna sandwich before eating.

If it is true that "everything you always needed to know you learned in kindergarten," then I will always be a Texan. Lunch at age 5 was in a similar lunchbox, and my sandwich of choice was "chicken role." In first grade we got to eat hot lunch in the cafeteria, and in Austin that meant really interesting food. We had tamales and enchiladas on a regular basis and (of course) milk in real glass bottles with paper caps to pull. None of the four schools I attended after that came anywhere close in terms of variety and quality.

My favorite comfort food lunch is grilled cheese & tomato soup.

I ate bologna sandwiches a lot at child, but we usually had Eskay. I loved a thin spead of mayonaise - McCormick's was our "house brand" back then. The chips were put on the sandwich and crushed and eaten together.

I didn't know my cheeks could get so pink. Thank you, sir, you are extraordinarily kind.

I shall make my next bologna sandwich in your honor.

White bread, 2 slices bologna, 1 slice Kraft American cheese, and a thin layer of Best Foods mayonnaise on each slice of bread. I never understood why it's Best Foods mayonnaise west of the Rockies, Hellman's on the east.

My friend Nancy says if you are going to use mayo, use Hellman's or the mayo police will come and get you.

I grew up with Best Foods, but somehow Hellman's tastes better to me.
Go figure.

Joyce, that is how I make tuna salad now. Not necessarily pulverized tuna, but I do break it up some and rinse it to wash off the broth and salt that comes with it. I put in chopped celery and dill relish, instead of sweet. I started adding some onion powder and a little garlic powder too.

I have a toothbrush and toothpaste kit in my desk, so I do not offend.

Wasn't much of a bologna sandwich kid growing up, I was more pb&j, or just a cheese sandwich.

If I did have the bologna, it would be two slices white bread, mustard on the bottom slice. Two slices of bologna, a slice of cheese, then mayo (Giant Food brand, or Aunt Nellie's even) on the top slice.

azgal and Dahlink -- per this Wikipedia entry, when the California-based Best Foods acquired the New York-based Hellmann's brand in 1932, both names were such big sellers in their respective areas of the country that they decided to keep both names, hence the east-west name divide. Best Foods mayo allegedly has more lemon juice than Hellmann's mayo, so there may be a difference in taste (though I can't vouch for it, as I don't think I've ever tried the Best Foods brand).

There was a similar name split in spices after the 1947 acquisition of San Francisco's A. Schilling & Company by Baltimore's McCormick & Company, with "McCormick in the east and Schilling in the west" (or so Jay Stewart used to say on Let's Make a Deal). However, the Schilling name may have been discontinued in 2001, since the McCormick website states that all Schilling products are at least 7 years old.

Not to veer too far off-topic here, does anyone here remember Chef's Delight Cheese?

It was one of those oblong block cheeses like Velveeta but I remember it as a childhood favorite in the late 60s/early 70s. If I recall correctly, back then they didn't have the "individually wrapped slices of pasteurized processed cheese food" stuff that is commonly sold today. You either bought cheese at the deli counter or bought those boxes.

To answer partly my own question just asked, I found an ad for a store in Cass City MI, dated May 1973, it appears to be an IGA.

In the ad, about three quarters of the way down, towards the left, the buyer gets 50 points for purchasing a 2-lb. "Chef's Delight Cheese Loaf"

Cheese Loaf. What a name.

Yinz don't even know what you're missing! Being from the 'Burgh, I can tell you that the proper way to eat a Jumbo (brand) sandwich is pan fried with ketchup on white bread. The fried Jumbo sandwich was my favorite lunch.

hmpstd, you never fail us. Thanks!

One of the best meals of my life was after a day of hard labor without stopping to eat. I was starving.
A slice of Wonder bread, French's mustard (deviating from Bucky's recipe) then bologna, then a square of Kraft Phake Cheese, then Wonder bread.
Bucky, you never got cheese?
Well, Phake Cheese?
I'm sorry.

All - my, what a calm day today, at least in my little corner of the world. Everyone is so agreeable. (And I learned something I didn't know, about the Best Foods - Hellman's merger back in the day. I, like azgal, know Best Foods.)

Anon - I have no idea why, but the bologna sandwich is the only sandwich I don't eat cheese on. Just one of those things...

So, are Hellman''s mayo and Best Foods one and the same?

I have a sneaking suspicion that Giant brand ketchup is in reality Heinz (sold cheaper). My son's dad has worked in food manufacturing for years and told me they often take the same product and put it in different packages for different places.

Joyce W. -- based on Dahlink's comment and the Wikipedia entry which I cited above, I'd hazard a guess that Best Foods and Hellmann's use (at least slightly) different recipes.

I don't know whether Heinz makes Giant ketchup, but private label or "store" brands of products can come from a variety of sources, such as name-brand manufacturers, independent manufacturers, and the store's own factories.

Yes, hmpstd, I think they may be too. I wonder if one can order Best foods on the internet, to do a side by side comparrison.

I am the mom to a ketchup connoisseur, and he swears Heinz and Giant are one and the same. This is a kid that won't even look at Hunt's because it's "inferior". Although I generally frown upon an enormous use of ketchup on my cooking, he tends to use enough to be reliable.

Someone who used to work at Schmidt Baking Co has assured me that Giant bread products are (or, were) made by Schmidt.

Eve - I understand that to be correct as well, again heard from an ex-employee.

In the "good old days", large grocery chains were vertically integrated to a considerable extent, with the chains manufacturing their own private label goods. (Giant customers may recall Heidi Bakery goods, made in Silver Spring.) That business model (in which the chains had huge overhead costs for plant, equipment, and labor) seems to be falling by the wayside nowadays, replaced by the Walmart practice of farming out production to the outside suppliers with the lowest prices.

The store brand things may be made by the brand name companies but the recipe might be different.

If I had my way every package of foodstuff sold in the U.S. would have the name and address of the manufacturer listed, not just "Packaged for Giant Food" or whatever.

Yes, I remember Heidi Bakery, remember it well! I also remember Aunt Nellie's goods as being the store brand. As I mentioned in another blog comment, the brand has resurfaced down here in Publix.

RiE, I agree with you. There should be a bit more truth about where foodstuffs are manufactured.


My dad made them the EXACT same way! I always asked about the butter, cause I was one of those kids that didn't eat anything weird. He never gave me a good answer. Tasted good tho. He also put butter on ham sandwiches. He'd toast the bread, then butter it, then ham. Served with pickles. yum.

Thanks hmptsd!

Joyce W., I'd be happy to bring you a jar of Best Foods mayonnaise on my next trip to Baltimore for a blind taste test against Hellman's.

Thanks azgal! But I think the last thing you'd want to think about schlepping in would be mayo! What do you think, having had both?

Joyce W. - honestly, once all the other goodies are on the sandwich, I don't think I could tell a difference . . . or maybe my palate isn't that refined. Darn, there's goes my option of doing a stint on Top Chef.

But, I promise I could tell a difference between Best Foods &/or Hellman's and Miracle Whip - my mother's preferred mayonnaise during her Weight Watcher's days. Ugh.

azgal - I used to joke that the miracle was that anyone liked that stuff (Miracle Whip). But fans they do seem to have. We were a Hellman's house. My mom did mustard in the tuna during WW times.

While I was growing up, our household's "mayo" was Miracle Whip. The first time I had real mayo I was about 10 and my playmate's mom invited me to stay for lunch--baloney sandwiches on rye with mayo. I ate it because I was taught to be polite, but when I got home, I told Mom about the weird bread and strange mayo. She explained that life wasn't just white bread and Miracle Whip, but on the other hand, that's all we ate.

Yet, Dottie, even though you say life wasn't just white bread and Miracle Whip, but on the other hand, that's all we ate, you turned out just fine!

Houses are quite expensive and not everybody can buy it. However, loan are invented to support different people in such kind of hard situations.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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