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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Chunks of smoked bologna make a fine snack treat. A bird-watching trip in Oklahoma led to finding the delicacy at a country store, but it's easy to make your own at home.

Watching rafts of mallards bolt from a glassy wetland was a highlight of our trip to Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oklahoma.

Such an adventure is more of a treat with a stop to eat, especially at a country store or cafe, which serves a delicacy that's famous across the Sooner State. Fine dining cannot be truly experienced until one says to the waitress, "I'll have the smoked bologna."

I lead a sheltered life because it was only last January that I first sampled such delicious fare. On that trip, our trio of bird watchers was on safari to see loons at Lake Tenkiller, armed with binoculars, cameras and a spotting scope.

A morning of loon watching works up a powerful appetite. Joe Neal, our leader, had had us loon hopping all around the lake.

At lunchtime, we veered into the parking lot of a country store situated on a lonely stretch of blacktop. Joe knew the menu well.

All the food is good here, he confided, but we might want to steer clear of the smoked bologna.

Smoked bologna? I'd never heard of such a thing, but it sounded pretty darned good. Bravely, I ordered the smoked bologna, with a side of Cheetos and a bottle of water.

Friends and neighbors, I found the smoked bologna to be nourishment of the gods. Tasty in every way.

So when we ventured into Oklahoma and Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge last month, I longed for another taste of the treat. You know what they say, a year without smoked bologna makes one weak.

A visit to the 20,800-acre refuge is highly recommended. On the way back to Arkansas, we detoured to Lake Tenkiller so Joe could check on the loons. I was at the wheel, in unknown territory, when I spotted a familiar landmark.

"Hey, is that the smoked bologna place?" I piped, pointing to the country store.

Indeed it was, Joe confirmed. I think my friends got whiplash when I hung a quick right into the lot. We'd already eaten lunch, so I ordered smoked bologna to go. The waitress packed a serving into a to-go box, and we were on our way.

"Got my Christmas dinner right here!" I hollered, waving my treat and opening the car door.

Christmas dinner my eye. That smoked bologna was gone in two days.

This was unacceptable, so it was off to the store just before Christmas. I bought a good-sized log of bologna, fired up the grill and made my own smoked bologna. It turned out delicious, almost as good as the smoked bologna from the country store.

In the interest of investigative journalism, I dug deep for some smoked bologna facts. Turns out Oklahoma could be smoked bologna capital of America. One slice of info calls smoked bologna "Oklahoma prime rib."

It's not just an Okie thing. More looking turned up smoked bologna on the menu at a couple of barbecue places here in our corner of Arkansas.

Smoking bologna at home is easy as lighting a match. Do a computer search and you'll find recipes and videos that walk you through the easy process.

It's already cooked, so a couple hours in some hickory smoke is all it needs. It's great as a sandwich or cut into chunks for a snack. You'll bask in the glow of treating your family and friends to smoked bologna, cuisine that doesn't get any hauter.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fputthoff@nwadg.com

Sports on 01/08/2019

Print Headline: Hot on the smoked bologna trail

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