My Favorite Sandwich

Until my late teens, my Dad worked for a propane company.

He literally sold propane and propane accessories.

In rural Mississippi, propane is a big deal. I live in town now, and we have natural gas piped in, but folks who live out in the county buy propane, and a giant truck comes out to your house and fills up a huge tank, and that is what fuels your water heater and your cookstove and your heater. Every small town in Mississippi has at least one propane dealer, and in my hometown for most of my childhood, that dealership was run by my daddy.

Now, they sold propane, but the propane accessories was where the money was. The showroom at the front of his building had propane cook stoves, propane fish cookers, and propane grills for sale. The markup on these was high, and after all, the more things you owned that used propane, the more propane you would buy. So every summer, they would have an Open House of sorts, where they would do some sort of sale and set up a grill in the parking lot in front of the building, and there might be balloons and, to highlight the cooking ability of this grill, Dad would put a couple of pounds of bologna on the rotisserie.

It was smart on a number of levels: Bologna was cheap, so this promotion was low cost. It highlighted a rotisserie accessory, which most folks didn’t have, and so they couldn’t replicate it without buying one. It smelled amazing, so it intrigued people who stopped by. And it just tasted good.

It wasn’t complicated: He went to the meat counter in the Big Star grocery and bought a 5-pound chub of bologna, which is just bologna that hasn’t been sliced. It looks like a huge hot dog more than anything else. It has a red plastic skin, which must be peeled away. Then it was threaded onto the rotisserie spit and scored about a quarter inch deep along its length in a criss-cross pattern. Then it was cooked for a good hour or two over medium heat and was periodically basted with a cheap bottled barbeque sauce.

The heat made the surface split along the score marks, and the sauce would seep into the cracks, and the barbeque sauce would sort of candy on the surface. He would keep one going all day, and would have another cut up into small chunks, which were speared on toothpicks for the customers to try as samples. But one advantage of having a dad who was the manager was that you didn’t just get the small samples: You got a barbeque bologna sandwich.

It involved a hamburger bun, toasted. On it, you put a dollop of cheap bottled sauce, a half-inch thick slice of barbeque bologna, all topped by a generous scoop of cole slaw. It won’t taste right unless it is served on a cheap paper plate, accompanied by a handful of Golden Flake potato chips, and paired with an ice cold Coke in a glass bottle that was purchased for a quarter from the cold drink box in the warehouse.

And for best results, it should be handed to you by someone who loves you.

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