Monday, December 19, 2005

Some baloney about Bologna.

Today, December 19th …

If you had been a Second Cabin guest aboard the famous “Lusitania” in 1911 on this day, this would have been your luncheon menu:

Lettuce Sliced Tomatoes
Bordeaux Sardines
Puree of Split Peas
Fillets Flounder, Florentine
Steak and Kidney Pudding
Roast Mutton and Onion Sauce
Corned Brisket of Beef with Cabbage
Spinach Parsnips, Creme
Baked, Boiled, & Mashed Potatoes
Roast Beef Brawn Ox Tongue
Galantine of Veal Bologna Sausage
Plums and Rice Small Pastry
Sago Pudding
Ice Cream
Apples Oranges Dates Roasted Peanuts
Cheese Tea Coffee

I bet the sago pudding was popular. What about the Bologna Sausage?

The mystery that is sausage meat causes us a great deal of food anxiety, and this is reflected in our word “baloney”, meaning nonsense or “rubbish”, which supposedly derives from the idea of Bologna (or “Poloney”) sausage. This is grossly unfair to Bologna, which has no more sinister a potential than any other type of sausage.

Genuine Bologna sausage is Mortadella. It has been made for at least 500 years from pure pork studded with distinctive cubes of white fat, flavoured with pepper, coriander, anise, and pistachio nuts, without smoking or drying. Someone once got an inspiration from it and created luncheon meat, which really is baloney.

The only constant factor in recipes for Bologna sausage in old cookbooks is the name. Robert May’s recipe (1660) comes pretty close to the real thing. He uses “a good leg of pork” and a lot of lard, flavoured with cloves, nutmeg, mace, pepper and caraway seeds. Rabisha’s “Poloney Sassages to keep all year” (1682) are all wrong from point of view of authenticity, although they do sound delicious: they are a smoked dried sausage made from a gammon of bacon, with cloves, mace, nutmeg, pepper, and red wine.

Mistress Margaret Dods, the Scottish pseudonymous author of the very amusing “Cook and Housewife’s Manual” (1856), says in a footnote: “Bologna sausages labour under the calumnious imputation of being made of asses’ flesh”. She does not commit herself to an opinion as to what the correct ingredient should be, but plays it safe by using a bit of everything in her version, and calling it:

Imitation Bologna Sausage.
Take equal weight of bacon, beef, pork, and veal. Mince, and season high with pepper, salt, and sage. Fill a well-cleaned gut, and boil for an hour; or smoke and dry them for future use.

Tomorrow: Another sort of shipboard victuals.

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