Wanna know what pounds my cake? I’ll tell you anyway - ordering from the deli department at a grocery store. Lately they think they know better than you. They want you to be 1000% satisfied with your purchase, even though you’re 100% satisfied with what you’ve gotten for a billion years.
Since Covid restrictions have been lifted from most deli departments (including my favorite), customers are again allowed to taste a sample of meat, cheese, or macaroni salad before purchasing. I did so when spying a new type of beef pastrami. Now they have two types: “Classic” (my fav) and “Romanian” (the new kid—or rather calf—on the block, heh, heh, see where I went with this?). Anyway, I wanted to taste the Romanian type before making my choice.
For those who’ve never had pastrami, it’s a beef brisket brined with spices then rubbed with more spices and finally smoked to not even taste like beef brisket anymore. I’ve heard it described as “beef bacon” but I don’t think it tastes anywhere close to pork bacon. Just my opinion.
OK, so, back at the grocers, the deli dude sliced me a thin sample of the Romanian pastrami. “If you like spicy this is the one for you,” he said, handing it to me on a small wax paper sheet.
It was early morning, and my just-brushed teeth were not ready for so much spice. Nevertheless, I took a bite, chewed it while rolling it over my tongue a bit before swallowing. Even with a minty-fresh palate, I didn’t think it was any spicier than the Classic pastrami.
The deli clerk asked, “Well, what do you think?”
I answered, “Not bad; but it tastes the same as your other pastrami.”
He looked surprised, his big bushy eyebrows rising to his scalp. “Can’t you taste all the extra seasoning?
“Maybe you should try a sample of the Classic for a direct comparison.”
But I really didn’t want more pieces of pastrami with its coarse-ground peppercorns, and allspice stuck between my teeth, especially since I didn’t have any tooth floss in my purse. “No, thanks,” I replied, “I’ll just take a half-pound of the Romanian this time.” After all it was on sale—and at the time cost less than the Classic pastrami.
Deli Dude really wanted me to compare both. He even offered to make two mini-sandwiches—on pumpernickel bread no less—to make sure I could tell the difference in taste. Wow, talk about going to great lengths!
I wanted to be polite, but it was getting hard to refuse this guy. “No, thanks, I’ll just take a half pound of the Romanian pastrami.”
Shrugging his shoulders, he turned to the slicer, filled my order, and handed it to me. “Keep your receipt in case you’re not satisfied with its flavor.”
Yikes. I snatched my pastrami order and dropped it into my shopping cart. “OK, I will, thank you,” I said, speeding away and ditching into the produce department. I wanted so badly to pick the beef shreds and spices out of my teeth. Pastrami is just not the ideal morning breath to have in my mouth. I headed for the checkout hoping not encounter any produce clerks wanting shoppers to sample the many varieties of onions there.
Jane Ruby is an award-winning novelist, essayist, and short story writer. She’s also the Treasurer of the Arizona Authors Association as well as the Literary Contest Director.