Still Smokin'

Todd Coleman

This small-town ritual is a bunch of bologna

It you had visited my grandmother Adeline Dion on a Thursday in Pierz, Minnesota, where she lived until she passed, last year, you'd find a note on her door that read, "Off to bologna!" She never missed Bologna Days.

Every Thursday at Patrick's Bar in this town of 1,200, crowds gather for ring bologna. Piquant with black pepper, coriander, and garlic, this German-style cured pork sausage passes through the smokehouse at Thielen Meats, my aunt and uncle's shop in Pierz, where it takes on a rusty pink hue.

Bologna Days began in the early 1960s, when Harold Meyer walked into the bar across from his shop, Meyer's Meats, handed the bartender a ring of his homemade bologna, and said, "Tell me if it has enough seasoning." When Meyer's closed, in 1990, Thielen Meats took over the taste-testing tradition.

Today, at Patrick's, grated horseradish and buttered white bread accompany bologna hot from the smoker. Though the casing is edible, diners' plates typically sport piles of peels. Most wash down their sandwiches ($5 for all you can eat) with a small pour of lager, called a snit—a toast to ritual, to the town's Germanic heritage, and to the lusciousness of freshly made bologna. —Amy Thielen

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