By Angela Reinhardt
There’s almost nothing better than a plain bologna sandwich. White bread. Mayo. Thick-slicked bologna. No cheese.
I was reminded of just how delicious they are when I went home for lunch last week to pick up a dog cage. I only had a few minutes after I made the drive, loaded the cage and fed our chicken, so I made one quickly and ate it standing by the counter. No plate, just a napkin and my unembellished, no-frills sandwich. It was the best lunch I’d had in ages.
On the drive back to the office I thought about my experience and scolded myself for my frivolous eating habits.
“Apparently,” I thought sarcastically, “I have so much spare cash to blow that eating out every day for lunch is a reasonable option. And apparently my lunch needs to be an event, and every meal needs to be different and exciting.”
I know what you’re thinking. How can I in good conscience write an editorial about bologna with such pressing issues at hand? Mass shootings. Racial tension. War. THE DONALD. But to me, bologna represents several very important issues – personal and household finance, healthy eating habits, excess and waste – and reminds me that the simple things really are most satisfying and, in the end, better for you physically and spiritually. But here we are, eating out, gaining weight, spending our hard-earned cash and throwing away plates full of decent leftovers. A SunTrust study actually found that participants were living paycheck to paycheck because they were spending too much on lifestyle expenses like dining out.
In April of 2015, revenue from restaurants overtook grocery sales in America for the first time in history. That means we spent more eating out than eating in. The Commerce Department data identified Millennials, the category I fall into, as being much more likely to eat out than other demographics. Now we’re the largest sector of the population, having overtaken Baby Boomers last year, and the market is shifting to accommodate. “Rise of the Foodie Nation: Cook it and they Will Come,” a retail trend study published by Jones Lang LaSalle, shows that food-related retail represents four of the five top expanding retail categories. Chipotle Mexican Grill is one of the top 10 most expensive stocks in the world.
Speaking of grills, you may have noticed that rest stops usually contain several, but unlike the ones at Chipotle they’re never used. Ever. Still, there they stand, rusty relics from a time when restaurants were uncommon and families actually packed lunches for a long road trip. It’s romantic and hopeful to me that they’re left, despite being rendered obsolete by the dizzying amount of dining choices just off the interstate.
I realize things are different now. We’re all busy. Modern families include working moms, like me, and cooking at home isn’t always appealing for either spouse, but meals don’t have to be entertaining or complex to do the job. If the word didn’t irritate me so much I’d probably label myself a “foodie” because I love cooking and trying new and exotic foods, but my bologna sandwich was delicious and cost less than a buck. I also love eating out, but not at the expense of financial stability or health (this not to mention the implications of a society of people who don’t cook anymore; people who prefer being served, are disconcerting).
So, after going home for lunch that day, my new plan is to reel in the excess and my delusional expectations of what a meal should be and be more like bologna. Simple, but satisfying as hell.