There’s nothing like a good deli. Like it’s sister the diner, it would be hard to find an eatery that draws a more diverse cross-section of people. It doesn’t matter if you’re worth millions or a laborer, nothing beats freshly-sliced pastrami. Normally, when one thinks of a quality deli, they tend to go Italian or Jewish. Some examples are, for my Central Jersey friends, Joe’s Italian Deli Pork Store and more famous, New York’s Katz’s Delicatessen. We tend to trust a mom and pop shop as a place that will give you quality meats and a quality, personal experience. If the Boar’s Head logo is in the window, that will seal the deal. Where people tend to not have the same level of confidence is their supermarket deli. A&P, Shop Rite, and similar chains tend to have a bad rap for not having the same, personalized flavor. A guy who works at a family-run deli is a professional, someone who chose a career in meats whereas a dude who gives you a half pound of bologna and some potato salad at Winn-Dixie is just there to pay the rent. Or at least this is often the perception. At the deli counter of the Jersey City BJ’s this past Friday, I came across one of the greatest delicatessors of my time.
When my girlfriend Aly asked me to get some assorted meats at the wholesale warehouse, I knew it was for it’s severely discounted meats, not the quality or the service. As I came up to the counter and saw some 20-year-old, I was certain I was right. But,he was nice enough and I put in my order of a pound each of turkey breast, salami and American cheese. For those of us who are on a budget, we tend to watch the digital counter on the scale like hawks. However, you almost expect them to go over your request and, as long as it’s within.25 lbs, that shouldn’t be a problem. Eugene (that’s what we’ll call the deli guy) first took care of the turkey breast and, at $5.99 a pound, handed me a package of $6.23, which I was okay with. The American cheese, at $3.50 a pound, came to $3.63, which was also fine. Initially, when he handed over my order of salami, at $4.99, I didn’t think much of it. But, as I paid closer attention to the sticker, it was clear as day: $4.99. Mr. semi-pro delicatessor measured out EXACTLY one pound of salami! For all you skeptics out there, Eugene did not have one of those discreet scales next to him and he did not stop to weight the salami in between. He got my order right in one take.
“Eugene,” I said excitably. “Do you realize what you just did!? You gave me exactly one pound of salami without under or overestimating!”
“Well, I am a math major,” he replied.
“Really? Well then that explains your accuracy but could you please explain how you did it?” I wasn’t letting him get away without an explanation, even if the housewife behind me was growing impatient.
“You really want to know?” Even Eugene was taken aback by my enthusiasm for his feat. “Well, hoping each slice would equal…”
Eugene went on to explain his math and I was delighted. However, I will not reveal his salami-slicing formula, not because he asked me to not reveal his secrets but because out of all the people I’ve told this tale to, nobody seems to give a shit. Even my own mother, who acts as if everything I do is genius, seemed disinterested. In fact, I am not sure why I revealed this story to you all. Chances are, I lost you at pastrami. But it is my belief that deli workers are like TSA agents. Due to low wages, it’s hard to find one with such skill, precision and professionalism. So, Eugene, or whatever your name is, I salute you.