On bologna

16 Aug

“Quality Meat, No Fillers”

Yes, I purposely made that a lower-case. Because I don’t really mean the town of Bologna, here. What I really want your brain to do when you read that title is to pronounce it like I used to when I would see that yellow and red package of Oscar Mayer mystery meat in the grocery store when I was like, all of 8 years old. I said it like this: “Buh-LOG-nuh.” That’s right. Buhlognuh. That’s how I thought you were supposed to say Buh-LOAN-yuh. Whatever.

Just so that you know, by the way, I was lying in bed drifting off to sleep when the thought for this post occurred to me, and I simply had to get it out. Are any of you like that? No, I didn’t think so. That’s ok. I’m not ashamed to admit that my thoughts pre-sleep range from counting sheep to debating the merits of the pronunciation of buh-LOG-nuh versus the ever-so-mysterious BALONEY. Not to mention the fact that I’m blind as a bat (-4.00, in case you were wondering) and with my contacts already safely removed for my nightly slumber, I am forced to type this here ditty up while wearing one of my broken pairs of glasses, missing one of those thingys that hooks over your ears. Crooked glasses. I am a sight. No pun intended—and yet, what a pun if I ever saw one! Wait, there I go again!

Back to business though: a few (rhetorical) questions, here.

1) Where the hell did the word baloney come from?
1a) Why was my favorite childhood stuffed animal, a dark brown bean-bag dog, named Baloney? Was I already obsessed at the tender age of 5?

2) Why did Oscar Mayer decide that the package would say “bologna” but pretty much everyone I know called it “baloney”? (You know, saying bologna would sound so pretentious, right? I mean, after all, you’re buying a processed food product that claims on its label “made with chicken and pork,” which, if that doesn’t raise a few red flags for you, well, read it again.)

This vocab conundrum…it’s like “catsup” (pronounced exactly as you read it: CAT-SUP) versus “ketchup” (pronounced like “catch up!”). I have never called that red sauce “cat-sup” in all my live-long days, and yet the labels continue to proclaim it is so. And don’t be mistaken: this varies wildly from the whole tomato versus tomahto debate. That, my friends, is pronunciation. Here, we are talking about a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SPELLING of a word meant to represent the SAME PRODUCT.

I know. It boggles the mind. I know!

Yes, people. This is what goes rattling through my head after a 16-hour day chasing around 3 children under age 5 in 90-plus degree weather, while trying to hold down a full-time job, grocery shop, provide clean clothing and clean non-paper/plastic dishware and utensils for my family, and, on the rare occasion, actually bathe as well. Ah yes, the little luxuries of life! Clean armpits! (Shaved would be asking far too much on more than a bi-weekly basis).

And yet, before I digress too heavily, allow me to show you the inspiration for this mind-blowingly intelligent post. If you follow me on Twitter, perhaps you are just the 1% of those who are so above-average you are like in a realm with those people who scored 1600 on their SATs, and so you might have already seen THIS:

Who, on God’s great Earth, might I ask, was the marketing genius that green-lighted this poster that was proudly covering every single window of my grocery store today, while my children and I ate popsicles straight from the box sitting out front, like the desperate heat-exhausted people that we are? Because I want to meet him or her and shake his or her proverbial hand. Sheer genius—nothing less, nothing more. Let us analyze:

1) You have successfully paired two consumable items, which, when taken separately, are fairly digestable, and yet, when paired together, are a marriage of culinary trash the likes of which are rarely seen in full-color print, let alone for a whopping 40% off.

2) Why can’t we just call a spade a spade, and call baloney by its proper name, the breathtakingly elegant Mortadella Bologna IGP? I mean, it’s mortadella di Bologna. Not like the only damn thing they produce in Bologna is baloney, right? And why the hell can’t the Italians just call it buh-LOG-nuh like we Americans do?

3) What the hell is that white stuff?

3a) What in God’s name is THIS nonsense that used to scare the living daylights out of me when I was still small enough to ride in the front part of a grocery cart? Thank God my mom never had the inclination to buy anything as dreadfully named as OLIVE LOAF. Jesus H. Christ, people. Speaking of marketing geniuses. And, I dare you to name the key meat. It’s … three.

Anyways, my point is this:

[fill in the blank space with something meaningful]

I don’t buy mortadella. And I think that just *might* have some kind of correlation to my traumatic Oscar Mayer experiences. I lived on baloney and cheese processed-cheese-food sandwiches on Wonder bread with a so-called “baggie” of orange wedges in a brown paper lunch sack for, like my entire second grade year, if memory serves. That may have also been the year I had a plastic Miss Piggy lunchbox. I can’t quite recall.

It’s just a crying shame that my mom never thought to pack a Heineken in that there Thermos(R). Or I, for one, since I think I was the one packing my damn lunch already at 8 years old.

(cue cymbals and drums, wave to the crowd, commence throwing of flowers, mixed with launching of hastily scribbed bits of paper containing the phone numbers of various incredibly hot and temptingly available men who can’t resist my wit regarding lunch meats, curtains closing, etc.)


18 Responses to “On bologna”

  1. Keane Li (@keaneiscool) August 16, 2012 at 11:14 pm #


  2. Gil August 16, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    Sounds like you led a sheltered life before you hit Italy. Well, at least in the food department.

  3. Filottete Manfredi August 16, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    I went in Ireland and I took this A difference between Baloney and Blarney

  4. Filottete Manfredi August 16, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    I went in Ireland and I took this picture the difference between Baloney and Blarney

  5. Kristen August 16, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    Only you could make a read on bologna … I mean BALONEY … interesting. Your writing is always entertaining and I love your wit!

  6. gooddayrome August 17, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    You know what scares me, Shelley? That giant mortadella on via dei Baullari near Campo dei Fiori.

    Thanks for the laughs!

  7. D'Amore August 17, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    This post made me think of this clip from the Daily Show- too funny!!

  8. liz August 18, 2012 at 4:50 am #

    Have you tried mortadella?
    I actually like it…not to say I would eat it all the time…but occasionally, yes!
    Love reading your blog…always brings a smile to my face.

  9. Arlene Gibbs Décor August 18, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    My parents didn’t buy Oscar Mayer but mortadella (aka mortadel as they say in Sopranos land) from the deli and would put it on the skillet. I LOVED it fried and I love mortadella. I think the white stuff is delicious lardo.

    Hilarious post! The Italians won’t call it baloney for the same reason Italians from Italy don’t say cannoli when they ask for only one cannolo. I love it when I’m in the States and the counter person gives me attitude as they get correct me, “You mean cannoli.” No, I mean cannolo. Stronzo.

  10. Danielle August 18, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    triple like on this article…and on the added bonus of the john stewart video!

  11. Catherine August 22, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    And to boot it’s RESEALABLE! You can keep it for five years in your fridge!

    We grew up on a substance called DEVON which was stuffed in bread rolls (I’m talking Australia not England). Yet another unidentifiable child-filler…

  12. Samantha Cibelli (@samanthacibelli) August 24, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    I was actually just discussing this with my Italian man. And found that in the original ditty commercial ( it’s pronounce “baloney” only by the little kid. Although the “gna” sound is nearly impossible for us… Americans: always learning from the best sources and pronouncing words however the hell we want.

  13. Dee August 25, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    You are so funny. And, do I dare admit that as a child I LOVED to fry spam and make it crispy. Mmmm. But, olive loaf? Who the hell eats that stuff??

  14. Gil August 25, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    I’ve seen olive loaf in Polish meat packing houses.

  15. Un'americana a Roma August 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    Ha ha! That’s great! Unidentifiable child fillers. Love it. I try to avoid those with my kids… here in Italy that is one positive thing, there are a lot less fillers to stock up on at the grocery store.

  16. Un'americana a Roma August 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    Oh man you are so right about that pesky “gna” sound. I challenge you to say Anagnina correctly three times in a row. My ex husband used to always make fun of how I pronounce it. Then again, he is my ex, after all. Ha ha! I also find “gli” nearly impossible and prefer the Roman version “je” pronounced like “yay” … but if I go around saying “je” then everyone thinks I’m some kind of ignorant kid from the outskirts of Rome. 🙂 Win some, lose some.

  17. Samantha Cibelli (@samanthacibelli) August 25, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    You could say “ignorant kid.” I choose to think of it as “picking up from the natives.” Your “je” can’t be any worse than my “HO-sa”… or “cosa.” Tuscany has ruined me.

  18. tracie p October 1, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    i’m still weirded out by mortadella too from my childhood. i never really liked “boloney” unless it was kinda fried.

    and my eyesight is -7.00. so remember, it could be worse! 😉

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