Nothing captures the spirit of Myrtle Beach like lunchmeat. Salami, bologna, pickle loaf and all the rest are bad for you, but whoever said a place that sells saltwater taffy is good for you?
The Grand Strand is all about having fun and instant gratification. So what if it’s fattening and unhealthy? What else is a beach trip for?
Years ago when I’d pack a cooler to head for a few hours under the umbrella, lunchmeat was the entrée of choice. Still is. Ham, salami and cheese on white bread, add mayonnaise, chips and beer and voila, instant lunch. I throw in a few carrot and celery “stix” to counteract calorie-laden Hershey bars, as if I will actually pick raw vegetables over chocolate. The stix usually become four o’clock floaters in the bottom of the cooler.
Beach food should not be complicated. I’ve seen Yankees with upscale servings of tabouli and low-fat wraps with yogurt cups, but who are they kidding? Myrtle is no place for diets or health food. Grab lunchmeat, chips and a Bud and you’re good to go.
My mother introduced me to the lure of lunchmeat convenience. A diehard, kitchen-hater, she’d forego the stove at every turn. Bologna sandwiches, pickle loaf or ham. Accompanied by a bowl of Campbell’s chicken noodle or vegetable soup, we had a banquet.
Mom never called these entrées “lunchmeat.” “Lunch” was the townie name for “dinner.” My mother called any sliceable sandwich substance “cold meat” as in “You want mayonnaise on your cold meat?”
Cold meat can technically refer to anything from leftover fried chicken to Underwood deviled ham. At our house cold meat meant cold cuts: sliced bologna or its salty relatives with rinds. Growing up, our cold meat selection was limited to the chilled logs of processed meat at the general store: bologna, salami, ham loaf, liverwurst or liver cheese (with the white margin at the edges), pickle loaf and its salty cousin, olive loaf. Sliced cold meat came wrapped in butcher paper so it dried out quickly unless you took extra efforts with waxed paper.
I am grateful to live in the era of Baggies and plastic wrap. They’re far better packing material than waxed paper, yet I like the crinkle sound and the old-fashioned notion of a packed sandwich in its glassine envelope.
I’ll always be a sucker for low-brow picnic fare, especially under an umbrella at Myrtle Beach. You could perish without a cold-meat sandwich.