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October 3, 2018

Can we talk about the supermarket deli counter?

Admittedly, this is one of my big blind spots when it comes to food. As a kid, I remember the deli counter being one of the most crowded sections of the supermarket. My mother would always have to take a number, and sometimes the wait to be served felt interminable. Then she would order things mostly in half pound increments.

But even back then, I remember how much better the roast beef was at the independent German deli down the road. Instead of the bland, tough, and brown meat slices, the German deli had roast beef that was rosy, tender, and delicious.

Still, I have fond memories of the traditional deli counter. It was part of our regular routine. And I still recall when my father had to go on a reduced sodium diet, by our switch over to Alpine Lace cheese back in the 80s.

These days, however, I consider the supermarket deli counter to be no man’s land.

For the most part, the idea of sliced meats and cheeses in between two slices of bread, seems like a vestige of the past. I say this, knowing full well, that Subway is one of the country’s most popular fast food restaurants for a reason.

But it’s a heavy way to eat. Lots of salt. Lots of carbs. Lots of fat. And really, it’s a lot of heavily processed food.

Let’s be clear. I have nothing against sliced meats and cheeses. Charcuterie is fantastic. But the quantities of sliced salami, prosciutto, or pate on a meat board pale in comparison to what gets unceremoniously piled onto a sandwich.

Which perhaps is why, when I do order meat from the deli counter to feed my family of four, it’s in quarter pound increments. Yes. I do get meat on occasion from the deli counter.

Although it almost exclusively comes from Whole Foods.

I may have mentioned this before, but the Niman Ranch European-style ham is fantastic. Plus I recently discovered Whole Foods carries Old World Provisions pastrami, which is made locally in Troy, and is delicious.

Even the kids aren’t so into meat sandwiches. They prefer their sliced and cured meat as slices on a plate. And they eat it slowly to enjoy every morsel. Which means a couple of slices is usually sufficient.

It can take us a surprisingly long time to make it through a quarter pound of these meats. So if they start lingering around too long, I’ll chop them up and turn the remnants into a breakfast hash.

Fried onions and potatoes with ham and pastrami is no joke. Actually, it’s probably my favorite part of the whole thing. And even with just a couple slices of leftovers, that feels like a ton of meat.

It’s not.

Especially in comparison to the monstrous sandwiches available at every Italian deli in the Capital Region. Every once in awhile, I’ll indulge in a great big sub. Usually it will involve fatty cappy and aged provolone. And I’ll eat every last bite.

But just like the Super Bowl every year, when I’m done I ask myself, how do people eat like this on a regular basis? I would weigh 230 pounds.

Of course, I say that on the day I’m off to eat an oyster po’boy followed by a plate of Sichuan tripe. So take it for what it’s worth. The rant of a man who is entirely out of touch with the way most people eat, but still continues to write about food on the internet.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Zena, Goddess of Fire permalink
    October 3, 2018 10:03 am

    Keep away from my Reuben! Back off. Just back off!!! YUM. Big piles of juicy tender sliced meat on squishy seeded rye with mustard loads of swiss grilled on the flattop. (:

  2. October 3, 2018 11:25 am

    Interesting that Whole Foods is now carrying Old World Provisions pastrami which is a cured (with nitrites) product. In the old days the only Niman Ranch hams they would carry were the petite and the European style you mention, both uncured (i.e. cured with naturally occurring nitrites in celery juice).

    Maybe Jeff Bezos is making them a little less fussy….

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