The Mama C
What real bologna looks like.

“We’re going fried egg,” my buddy Aaron tells me a few hours before I’m due at his apartment for dinner. Good with me; more sandwiches should have fried eggs on them, I always say. Aaron, who recently launched the food blog Kicking Cooking, has invited me over to sample a new sandwich he’s been planning. “The first meal I ever made was a bologna and ketchup sandwich for my mom when I was five,” he explained. I know Aaron to be a talented cook and even better eater, and while his story struck an emotional chord, I didn’t need much convincing to eat and critique what he describes as his “fancied-up” take on the bologna and ketchup.

And why should I need convincing, anyway? I’m tempted to say Aaron’s story of preparing his first meal, and of serving it to his mother, is as important to me as the sandwich itself, but I don’t actually see any distinction between the two. Frequent readers of this rag and anyone foolish enough to engage me on the topic after I’ve been drinking are familiar with my theory of sandwiches-as-memories, and this is a perfect example. The bologna and ketchup is not just another sandwich to Aaron (if there’s such a thing as “just another sandwich,” which I question). It is more than a meal to him, or, at the very least, it evokes what sounds to me like a pleasant chapter of what I’m sure was a lovely childhood. You may call me sentimental, but I suspect these good vibes will come through in the final product.

By the time I arrive at Aaron’s door, the sweet aroma of what I soon learn to be pan-frying mortadella has already inundated the hallway. For the unititiated, mortadella is a cured sausage of finely ground pork filled with cubes of pork fat. If you never seen mortadella sliced three-quarters of an inch thick—and judging by the reaction of Aaron’s butcher upon receiving the request, it’s unlikely you have—it’s a sight to behold. Heated to a crisp, the Italian forebear of today’s bologna is the centerpiece of a gut-bustingly delectable, indecently messy sandwich that’s dressed with a homemade relish of diced tomatoes, red onions and olives (“I hate ketchup,” my host informs me) topped with the aforementioned egg, and stacked inside a fluffy kaiser roll. And as for the egg, why not? I feel safe in my presumption that anyone willing to consume a quarter-pound slab of salty, fatty pork will not be worried by a few hundred more calories.

I’ve met Aaron’s mother only in passing, and I won’t venture a guess at whether the sandwich her son has dubbed The Mama C in her honor is her cup of tea, or whether she even enjoyed the surely daintier version that inspired it. What I know is this: Her son knows his way around a kitchen, and to cook brings joy to him and the people around him. If she’s anything like my mother or any other mother in the history of the world, she’ll remember the sandwich that might have started it all, and she’ll be proud. As she should be.

Read Aaron’s recipe for The Mama C at Kicking Cooking.

February 6, 2013