Now the other day, I was rocking along Screaming Eagle Road in Richland County and I was hungry and I saw a red and white sign sitting with a slight lean by the side of the road. It said, “FRIED BURNT BOLOGNA SANDWICHES.”
I poked down the road for a little while longer, trying to convince myself that a plastic tub of yogurt, waiting in my refrigerator at home, would be better for me than a sandwich featuring an oft-maligned and mysterious meat.
Turkey, I get. Roast beef, I get. Bologna? Um, not so much.
But dang, a FBBS (I’ve since learned that folks who love this sandwich shorten its name to initials) sounded sort of scrumptious. As a matter of fact, greasy, bad for me, and therefore, much more appealing than 5.3 ounces of acidophilus and some business called locust bean gum.
So I wheeled my truck around and wound up at Rogers Country Store where other signs posted out front announced “FILL DIRT WANTED” and “WE SELL LIVE BAIT.”
No, I didn’t have any fill dirt to offer and I didn’t need any live bait, but a hankering for a fried burnt bologna sandwich? Boo-yow! You bet!
Once inside the country store, I sat on a stool at the counter and ordered a FBBS from a young lady named Whitney Fleming. I told Whitney I had never had one. Her eyes opened like a family-size soup can.
“Are you kidding?”
“Nope, but I saw your sign.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place. What do you want on it?”
“I don’t know. Whatever you put on it.”
“Yellow mustard. Maybe some mayo? A fried egg. Cheese. You want cheese with it?”
Save for the fried egg, I went with everything.
“For here or to go?”
While my FBBS was being prepared back in the kitchen, Whitney and I chatted it up. The 21-year-old is taking some time off from school, where she is training to be a neo-natal ultrasound technician, to run the country store because her grandfather, Roger Fleming – the Roger of Rogers Country Store – has cancer.
I asked if Roger might feel well enough to come show me how to make a FBBS.
“Sure,” she said, “I’ll call him.”
In the meantime, my FBBS-to-go arrived on the counter wrapped in a piece of wax paper and put in a plain old brown paper bag. (How cool is that? The last time I had a sandwich wrapped in wax paper and shoved in a paper bag was probably elementary school.)
“Want something to drink with that?” Whitney asked.
“No, I’ve got water in the truck.”
So Whitney told me to enjoy my sandwich, we exchanged telephone numbers and I was on my way. Needless to say, the ride home was as delicious a drive as I’ve had in a long darn time.
A week or so later, I returned to Rogers Country Store where I met Roger. He’s a man of few words but with a kind smile.
We walked back into the kitchen where a long, round loaf of bologna was sitting on the chopping block.
“Cut a slice around a quarter of a inch,” he said. “Then, just put it on the skillet and let it brown. Got to press it flat. It tastes a little bit better burnt.”
While the bologna was cooking, Roger toasted some bread.
“It’s not fancy bread. It’s white. It’s Kroger. It’s 89 cents a loaf.”
Roger said he’d been making FBBSs for “about 25 years. I like ‘em. I’ve been all over the countryside. Los Angeles, New York, but I’ve not seen these sandwiches anywhere else but the South. I mean, not no fried burnts. I do some with mustard and mayonnaise and cheese. American cheese. French’s yellow mustard. Duke’s Mayonnaise. I’ve tried Kraft and the Hellman’s and Miracle Whip, but Duke’s, well, it’s about the best mayo.”
Roger, who will be 70 in November, said the FRIED BURNT BOLOGNA SANDWICHES sign that brought me into the store has enticed plenty of other folks too.
“They see that sign, they come in and they want to try it. I call ’em ‘anytime sandwiches’ ’cause you can eat ’em anytime.”
I asked Roger how many FBBSs he’s fixed up since starting his country store in the early 1980s.
He grinned. Maybe he even forgot about the Stage Four stuff for a minute.
“I don’t know,” he chuckled, “but we sell a (bleep)-load of ‘em.”
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