Pass me a hunk of hoop cheese, please

Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I’ve written about the poor man’s Gatorade — an ice-cold soda with salted peanuts poured in the bottle — several times in this column. As I was thinking about that concoction over the weekend, some other “country-store” staples came to mind.

The best bologna sandwiches I ever ate were made with bologna sliced from a tube of bologna. Those slices had that red rind around the edges. Sometimes, I would fry the bologna. Fried bologna slices went between slices of bread smeared with ketchup. Other times, unfried bologna slices went between slices of bread smeared with mustard.

To this day, I get a hankering for bologna sandwiches made either or both ways. To this day, I prefer my bologna slices with the red rind, which, sometimes, I forget to remove.

Back in my boyhood days, it was easy to find hoop cheese. You know, those big, round wheels of cheese — also with red rinds — from which the owner of the store or a clerk would cut a wedge. Said wedge would be weighed and one would pay the appropriate amount. In many a country store, a customer would be allowed to obtain a “sample” from the hoop cheese without cost as long as the customer provided a bit of community news or told a hunting or fishing story. Usually, there were several crackers around the hoop cheese for those who wanted a cracker of two with that sample of hoop cheese.

I can’t recall anyone sampling the hoop cheese to determine its taste. Hoop cheese always tasted like, well, hoop cheese. A slice of hoop cheese makes a bologna sandwich better. Hoop cheese makes great macaroni and cheese. Some folks have been known to put a hunk of hoop cheese in their coffee. Other folks, myself included, have been known to make a meal from a hunk of hoop cheese.

How many folks around here had sardines for lunch on those days they worked in the tobacco fields? I know plenty of such folks. They refer to those tins of sardines as a “seafood” dinner. Some sardines came packed in water. Others were packed in oil. For a fancy “seafood” dinner, folks ate the sardines packed in mustard sauce. And if they didn’t have a “seafood” dinner, they likely opted for a “pork” dinner, otherwise known as potted meat. Potted meat is the poor man’s chopped liver.

For dessert, a moon pie was an option, not to mention those little cups of ice cream that came with a small, wooden spoon or a cookie or two from the Jack’s Cookies jar.

With the temperatures heating up these days, a poor man’s Gatorade, a hunk of hoop cheese and a moon pie would go down good at lunchtime. The only thing missing is a cane-bottom chair next to the drink cooler in a country store.

Mike Voss is the senior member of the newsroom at the Washington Daily News.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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