Weekly Whack: Certified Angus Beef
Certified Angus Beef
July 21, 1996

This summer, when I haven't been writing masterpieces such as the new Feff World interactive story- The Race for President, I have been working in the appy department of a local supermarket, the Shoprite of Rockaway. Working in a supermarket deli involves a lot of cheese, and a whole lot of meat; so that is what I will fill this week's Whack with- a lot of cheese, and a whole lot of meat.

Now this particular job was not my only summer employment opportunity. I was also offered a job at a day-camp in town. Frankly the decision was quite simple since meat smells better, and definitely slices easier than kids, and watching kids wouldn't get me time and a half on Sundays. In describing what I do at my job, I could very easily use a lot of lewd allusions to handling the beef bologna, or the hard salami, but this is a family show, so I'll try and keep it as clean as possible. And talking about keeping it as clean as possible, that is not exactly the philosophy in a supermarket deli. I must have about twenty-five different varieties of meats and cheeses stuck in the treads of my sneakers. And the floors get so slick with fallen meat and juices, that it is like working on a hockey rink. I once did a triple axel going from the cutter to the scale, and four out of five customers gave me a six. Of course the Russian customer only gave me a four.

There are two main sections of the deli that I work in day to day, in the back preparing all the pre-packaged cold cuts, and up front at the counter dealing with all the customers. I prefer working in the back, since it is a much more relaxed environment. In the back, since you are out of sight of the customers, you don't have to worry about such annoyances as washing your hands, or wearing gloves. In fact, even if I wanted to wear gloves, I wouldn't know where to find them back there. Basically what you do in the back is you check the appy display case to see what sort of holes you have, you go back in the storage refrigerator to fetch out whatever meats of cheeses you need, you cut it, you either wrap it if it's any kind of cheese, turkey, chicken, or roast beef, or air seal it if it's ham, bologna, salami, or whatever, then you label it, and finally go back to the display case and stock it. And this is a continuous process, for whenever one hole is filled, another is quickly opened up by scavenger-like customers.

There are other responsibilities to working in the back, such as stocking the pasta case, and the cheese case. Stocking the cheese case is my personal favorite. It's kind of a lot like playing Tetris. The cheeses come in a large variety of shapes and sizes, and you have to arrange them so they are packed tightly together in a neat rectangle. All in all, there is only one drawback to working in the back, and that is the temperature back there is kept below forty degrees, so when you go from outside where it is in the nineties, and back there, where it is near freezing, it is definitely not healthy, and you're bound to catch something. But at least you don't have to worry about washing your hands every time you sneeze.

The counter, moving on, is a completely different atmosphere than in the back. The deli counter is a very stressful and hectic place to work. All day you deal with a never ending flow of increasingly annoying and demanding customers. You take any five customers at the counter, and each will want a different brand of ham, and each will want it cut to a different thickness. They want it shredded, wax-paper thin, so thin I can see through it, paper thin, just a little on the thin side, not too thick, not too thin, and medium thin. It's ridiculous. And the customers watch your every move, all it takes is the slightest cough, and they're on your back to take a bath in boiling water to sanitize yourself. If they had their way, you would have to wear a full radiation suit to slice cold cuts. Also on the counter, I tend to take a few short cuts whenever possible. Like if some guy asks me for a specific type of bologna, and I can't find it, there's nothing stopping me from substituting it with some other kind of bologna. If he can decipher the minute differences between the two bologna's, then fine, he is welcome to come back and complain to my manager. But if he can't, then hey, no harm, no foul.

However one place you can't take short cuts, is dealing with kosher meats. My first experience with kosher meats occurred not to long ago. It started when a customer innocently asked me for some kosher salami. Asking a co-worker where the kosher salami is kept, he replied, "Ooh, first you better change your gloves." Not questioning him, I changed my gloves, he showed me where it was, and then I started to go to a normal slicer to cut it. "No!!!" My co-worker quickly stopped me. "You have to use that slicer." He said pointing to a meat slicer way in the corner, that I never even noticed before. Sure enough, there was a separate slicer just for kosher meats. Personally, I think it is a bit excessive. It's like I have to recite the Talmud and sacrifice a live chicken before I can cut a lousy piece of meat. But it's not my job to question theological practices, so I don't.

Well I think that is definitely enough meat to hold you over for one week, so to conclude, there's a little bit of me in all the pre-packaged cold cuts I prepare; Russian judges always give American athletes the shaft; and bologna is bologna is bologna.

Now for this week's very special feature, Feff's top ten favorite types of cheese:

10. Camembert
9. Port du Salut
8. Brie
7. Limburger
6. Roquefort
5. Muenster
4. Gruyere
3. Edam
2. Asiago
1. Gouda