Baloney cooking over a bonfire at a baloney club meeting
I have discovered that there is romance in food when romance has disappeared from everywhere else. And as long as my digestion holds out I will follow romance.
—Ernest Hemingway, “Gastronomic Adventures”
Because I am a romantic, my ideal meal is one cooked in the woods. And because I am a romantic there is also a bonfire.
In the summer, especially in Montreal, we finish most days with picnics in the parks. Baguettes, cheese, charcuterie, smoked salmon, salads, stuffed vines, chocolates, strawberries, and cherries. There is usually an entire buffet on a blanket. In the cold and snow of winter, however, we rarely make a point of eating outdoors. In fact, I don’t know about you, but it’s rare to receive an invitation to a winter picnic. A few notable exceptions include eating maple taffy at la cabane à sucre and attending the annual baloney club convention. I’m kidding about the convention, but a baloney club is a real club that I’m proud to say I’ve been a member of since 2009. Let me explain …
Every December, when my husband and I go home to New Brunswick for Christmas, we partake in the annual baloney club. A baloney club entails a very elite group of friends and family members gathering around a bonfire in the woods in the early afternoon. After collectively adopting the proposed agenda, we cook rounds of baloney on the fire, toast bread, and drink rum with Pepsi or Coke. Condiments include yellow mustard and ketchup with chocolates for dessert. In recent years we’ve even gotten a bit fancier and have included cheese.
What I love most about the baloney club—besides the fact that we’re cooking baloney in the woods—is the act of eating outside, by which I mean outdoors. I suppose it might be my francophone mind thinking dehors, which provokes me to write the word “outside,” as though the baloney club somehow risked lapsing into oblivion. But in a way, thinking of the baloney club as somehow existing outside is appropriate, especially given the club’s remote location from civilization (or at least we pretend that it is).
In Meredith Graves’ March edition of her “Stargrazing: Food Horoscope” column at Lucky Peach, she predicts that “The month of March, according to [her] heroes over at Mystic Mamma, will be a great time to fire it up […] That means it’s time for everyone, regardless of your sign, to step out of your safety zone, branch out.” I agree. March is our month! Let’s take our baloney outside. No foolin’ around. Plus, with spring just down the road, the baloney club not only promises to lift your friends’ moral but it will kick off picnic season in a most unanticipated manner!
A Guide to Preparing Your Own Baloney Club
While there aren’t really any rules, there are some crucial elements that need to be respected. For one, the element of fire. If you’re like me and unable to make it out of the city very often, then heating up your BBQ will do just fine.
You will need:
- Coke or Pepsi
- White Bread
- Yellow Mustard
- Brie or Camembert Cheese (Optional)
Gather your supplies. For the beginner it’s best to keep it simple: no need to go to your local butcher shop to get a good cut o’ baloney. In fact, if you’re feeling iffy about processed meat, then simulated or veggie baloney will do just fine. To drink, you’ll need some kind of cola. Although rum is optional, it does add a nice warm feeling in your body and comes highly recommended. Save beer and wine for those warm summer days in the park. Condiments can be transported in tupperware containers. Sliced white bread is most delicious, so are hotdog buns (though I’ve never seen them at a club meet). For the foodie in you, Camembert or Brie will melt exceptionally well with the fire’s heat. For those of you thinking sauerkraut, I say: great idea! There’s no need to fret over which kinds of chocolates to bring. Even something as simple as a Kit Kat will please most guests. I suppose a grill isn’t entirely necessary, but it comes in handy for toasting the bread. Most importantly, don’t forget your matches!
Decide on a destination. I suggest a location that is as remote as possible. Ideally one you hike to rather than drive to. The walk to the baloney site is half the fun.
Start your fire. A medium size works best. Wait until the fire embers are glowing hot. Then place your grill on top.
The addition of bread, as directed by step four.
Place baloney rounds on the grill. Wait. Flip. Throw slices of bread on too. Careful not to charr the bread. Add cheese to bread slices. Then, with your finger, add your baloney and condiments.
Serve warm, enjoy, and repeat steps one to four. Add chocolate at the end.
Not sure about what to do after the baloney meeting? Why not invite your friends over for a game of cards and some popcorn. There’s nothing like some friendly, low-stake gambling to polish off an afternoon spent in the woods eating baloney.
This week, more food related content invites contemplation into a reading of surfaces. Coming up, Samara Chadwick ghosts Liberty Street while Mira Cuturilo explores food and fairy tales.