For many, bologna is a nostalgia food, a non-negotiable part of summer time, and also a major part of school lunches. But how much do you really know about this mystery meat? Let’s find out where it came from, what it’s made of, and where it is now.
Bologna may be a low-cost lunch meat today, but it’s roots go way back to something surprisingly fancy. You might not know it today, but bologna is the great-great grandson of the Italian mortadella. Mortadella, much like bologna, is made from finely ground pork meat, which is first cured, and then cooked in a low temperature oven before it’s packaged.
The main difference between bologna and mortadella is that mortadella also contains added fat or lard, which gives it that distinct marbled appearance. Mortadella also sometimes has pistachios or green olives in it, which makes it sort of like a fancy version of bologna’s olive loaf. Mortadella also contains a lot of spices, and at one point it was considered a food for the rich and powerful, due to the cost of the spices used in the production of it.
And in some varieties of bologna, you can still taste this lunchtime favorite’s spicy roots. Yes, the standard grocery store bologna you’ll find pre-packaged in your grocer’s refrigerated cold-cut section doesn’t contain a lot of spices, but if you visit a meat market and buy sliced bologna, you will probably be able to discern spices like pepper, coriander, and garlic.