Freudian Slips: Hold The Mayo Clinic

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

December 05, 2004

Hold The Mayo Clinic

If I ever need to add members to my social circle, I will turn to the supermarket for friendship. The supermarket is a breeding ground for conversation, whether I open my mouth first or not.
I handle the food shopping for the family, which makes me no stranger to coupon clipping or supermarkets. I even devoted an entire chapter to my book, Stop and Smell the Silk Roses, to tabloid conversation in the supermarket. Of course, life is always more interesting when you have to wear a costume.
Whenever I approach the deli case, I love to find Joe the Deli Guy on duty. He is as old as Rome and as Italian as they come. Although he is "Old School", I consider him to be a breath of fresh air. He will let me taste a cut of meat. He lets me know when new selections are in and informs me of what is on sale. He is a little hard of hearing, but if you speak loud enough, he is glad to answer any questions. You can retrieve more information from him about what you eat than you could extract from a pharmacist about the medication you ingest.
Joe the Deli Guy is not shy about his Italian roots and prides himself in not only retaining his heritage but promoting it as well. If he sees a cantaloupe in your shopping cart, he is heading straight for the brochiutta thinking you need a salty meat to drape over the fruit as an appetizer. Joe does not know I am Italian and I want to keep it that way. Even though my biological father was born in Italy, I only know a few Italian words and remain ignorant to many Italian ways. Since this is embarrassing, I often hide behind my blond hair in public. What would Joe think if he learned that I stopped serving raviolis on Thanksgiving? I don’t want him to think of me as an Italian whose ignorance of the culture causes it disrespect. Instead, I intend on continuing to use Joe as an instrument to download Italian until the swallows return to Capistrano. By then, I hope to be a better Italian.
At the deli case, Joe greets me with a complimentary smile. “What can I get for you today?” says the host to the parasite in waiting.
“Hello. I got a hankering to make a homemade Italian hoagie tonight. Now I could follow my mom’s recipe, which calls for Genoa salami, but what other meat would you suggest as an alternative?”
Joe gobbles my spoon-fed question like a robust red gravy. “I got just the thing for ya.” Joe removes a slab of meat from the case and places it up on the stainless steel counter for me to get a better look. “This is…Fiorucci Sopressata.”
His introduction had a drum roll flare to it. I had never heard of sopressata but was pleased to meet its meaty acquaintance. A phonics lesson convinced me this Italian lunchmeat called sopressata sure sounded like Superman in a vulgar German. There is nobody else waiting in line. Time is in our favor.
Joe the Deli Guy’s gravel voice had a disarming grandfatherly quality to it. “Old Italian butchers in South Philly used sopressata for sandwiches. Not too many of them around anymore.”
I knew enough about Philadelphia to understand that Joe referred to a head count of Italian butchers not a disappearance of sandwiches. I shook my head in the affirmative so as to not interrupt him.
Joe continued, “Mom and Pop businesses keep going under because the sons don’t want to inherit the business. Too much work.” He flips his hand in the air disgustingly.
The show of force reminded me of my father’s backhand slap when I stepped out of line. That much hot-blooded Italian I will never forget! My milk warmed in the shopping cart but I didn’t care. If you wanted to learn something from Joe the Deli Guy, you were on his time clock so take a number.
“How is sopressata different from Genoa salami?” I asked invitingly.
His index finger pointed to the heavens. “Ah,” he answered. He ducked back into the glass case then a second slab of meat appeared on the counter. He maneuvers them side by side for comparison shopping. “Look closely.” he gently teaches. “The Genoa salami is not as coarsely pressed and there is less seasoning. Genoa is a slender milder taste. But the sopressata...” he raised his voice like an Italian opera virtuoso. “Sopressata is alive.”
He turned his back to me and headed to the slicer. He returned with an open palm of sopressata. I gladly tasted it and together we agreed, “That’s Italian.” short of the three pinched finger routine. Joe smiled with gusto. He had made a customer happy while sprinkling a little Italian seasoning in the air. It must be the best of both worlds for him, new and old.
Joe asked me, “How much do you want?”
“Give me a half of a pound of the newfound glory.”
“Coming right up." Joe obliged. "Sopressata.”
I started to make a dash to grab a loaf of hard crusted Italian bread from the bread section. Even with his back to me, Joe anticipated my next move.
“You need a nice Italian South Philadelphia bakery right about now.” he recommended.
“This is one stop shopping. I’m going to have to see what you got. Bread isn’t what it used to be, huh Joe? As a kid, Mom used to have to rake the filling from the middle of the bread to get out the bundles of extra dough. Now you’re lucky to find a thin crust with bread crumbs."
“Ain’t that the truth.” he agreed. “Why don’t you get yourself a juicy tomato, lay it next to the sopressata. It’s a marriage made in heaven.”
Marriages made in heaven and good tomatoes are rare commodities these days. Life seemed less complicated just concentrating on building a hoagie. “Good produce is also hard to find.” I added. “Produce tastes more like the wafers in that Charlton Heston movie Soylent Green.”
“Umm, you might have to pick out the ripest tomato from produce.”
“I can hardly wait to plant tomatoes in the garden in the spring.”
Many times, I have heard Joe ask other customers if they are of Italian descent. I reconciled to the fact that my gig was finally over with the admission of tending a tomato garden. If he asked me and I answered the confessional honestly, I worried whether a fig tree was in my immediate future. He hands me the wrapped sopressata and doesn’t say a word. My secret remains safe.
As I accept it, I say “Sopressata.” as a form of communion, a way to break bread.
Joe finishes my order with a few more cuts of meat and cheeses. Before leaving, Joe adds finishing touches to both the conversation and the hoagie at large. “Use a nice virgin oil on the bread with a little oregano on that hoagie. No mayo.”
“No mayo.” I solemnly promise.
I pick out a few loose tomatoes and at $4.29 a pound they were a steal…somebody else’s steal. After two hours of food shopping, fifteen minutes of talking to Joe the Deli Guy, and putting the groceries away, I line the ingredients for a hoagie in front of me on the kitchen counter. I remove an unopened jar of mayo from the cupboard. If he could bear to see me now, Joe would consider me a mongrel. Once in a great while, I substitute mayo for oil. It didn't mean I was going straight to hell in a hoagie tray. Nonetheless, I stared at the mayo all the while wondering if its usage would somehow continue my delinquency as an Italian. A butter knife slapped the mayo on the bread in a rich creamy consistency. On went the suppresata, provolone, Swiss cheese, oregano, lettuce, onion, and the pricey garden variety tomato.
I bit into the bread and moved it around my eager palette. The hoagie tasted awful. Was it the sopressata? Is this what Italian hoagies tasted like in hell? I ate a few more mouthfuls before declaring the hoagie a natural culinary disaster. I smelled the cold cuts in their cellophane and they all smelled fresh. The tomato, onion, and lettuce checked out. I raised the bread up to my nose and it too passed quality assurance. The only thing left was the mayonnaise. I, the mongrel, spun the jar around to read the label. The expiration date was clearly stamped May 10 2004. A full bodied smell confirmed the mayo as spoiled. I should have used oil and not broke from tradition.
When Joe the Deli Guy orders “Hold the mayo.” he means in English or Italian, “Hold the mayo.”



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sopressata and provolone cheese on fresh italian bread is a gift from the heavens. No oil, no mayo and no sharing. It's too expensive! Good narrative. Post from ET.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sopressata and provolone cheese on fresh italian bread is a gift from the heavens. No oil, no mayo and no sharing. It's too expensive! Good narrative. Post from ET.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

shocking...a self proclaimed ocd has expired mayo in the pantry

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like your on a Roll!

2:26 PM  

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