Friday, April 1, 2011

The cheese stands alone



To secure your heart’s desire, where wouldn’t you go, what wouldn’t you do? Ask Shakespeare, the romantics, the impressionists, expressionists, the Beats, the Supremes.

Ain’t no mountain high enough, indeed. And no humiliation too great.

Pride? Who needs pride? Can you pare pride into long thin slices and stack it on sourdough? Pride is a poor cold substitute when it's late at night and all you want is a grilled cheese.

Which is why I’ve come crawling back to my Italian grocer. All four feet ten inches of him. My powder keg, my Mussolini of the Mortadella. My bad boy of the deli counter who has found an outlet for 80 years of broken dreams, rage, and hostility: Me.

Our relationship defies reason, sense, boundaries.

“Can I have…”

“No, you wait. I’ve gotta other customers, ya know.”

“But no one is here and …”

“No, you wait. I’ma busy.”

His is a gruff charm, a tough love. The way, when I’m in a line of 10, he passes out his sample slices of cheese heaven to everyone but me. And when it’s my turn in line, he stomps away mumbling something about checking his inventory.

Yes, he’s far from perfect and I’m not wearing rose colored glasses. I have no illusions about his wizened olives and fatty bologna. But I don’t think I can live without the aged Provolone.

Call the whole thing an obsession at this point. Like a dog who returns to the master who kicks him. Yesterday, a guy split his Genoa salami sample slice with me while we waited in line. He said it was the grocer’s 60th anniversary this month.

“So,” I said brightly when it was my turn. “Happy 60th!"

“You wait. I gotta check something out back.”

I've tried to quit him. I've tried to find more wholesome antipasti relationships. The heart wants what the heart wants.

36 comments:

Cafe Pasadena said...

You know a good Italian pizza around town too, KB<?

And as for me it's more like the heart wants what the stomach wants!

Paula said...

OMB, grilled cheese, don't forget the spicy mustard and the capers. And Mr Italy, he's a keeper, KB, he's got it bad for you.

Tony Van Helsing said...

If the food's good you can forgive a certain amount of rudeness.

Linda said...

I think you need to divorce this grocer and find another cheesy man....life is TOO short not to get freebies.

Anonymous said...

Whole civilizations have sold themselves for salt. For sugar. And now umami.

Anonymous said...

Summarized to I like the bite, you like the cheese or ...

D.

wv:skini

Vanda said...

There's an Italian deli in Burbank. I don't mind sharing.

Diana said...

Have you checked out the Pasadena Cheese Store (http://cheesestorepasadena.com/CHEESE_TEMP/Welcome.html) or maybe thought about a ramble over to Silverlake to check out their cheese store? I kinda feel like life's too short to take disdain from people you're paying money to. Just sayin'...

Mister Earl said...

Wassamattayou?

altadenahiker said...

Wassamattame? I'm Nordic. I think my ancestors went to war, sacrificed their mothers just to save a perfect gorgonzola.

WV: Rases. I rases the flag.

Bellis said...

You gotta his accent down well! What did you do to him? Ask for a second sample? Maybe you're not the only one he's rude to - I'll give it a try when I go for my prosciutto. He does love newbies who drool over everything and ask lots of questions.

The provolone on the plate looks delish.

Mister Earl said...

How do you pronounce "provolone"? So it rhymes with "macaroni" or so it rhymes with "alone"? I know how I pronounce it.

altadenahiker said...

Pro-vah-lown-ay, you philistine.

bandit said...

Now that's what I'm talking about!

Banjo52 said...

I'm hearing Seinfeld's soup Nazi in this. What a conflict!

Love your last sentence.

I was confident with
own-ay," but a few years ago everyone seemed to switch to "own." Still don't know what's right.

altadenahiker said...

When the moon hitsa the sky itsa big pizza pie, that's Pro-vah-lown-ay. I'm right.

Banjo, I believe the line you like belongs to Woody Allen. Thoughta you woulda know that.

(I can play this way. I'm 1/8th Italian. Itsa my better half of a half of a half.)

Petrea said...

I don't get it. What happened? Did you disagree with him about something? No one's allowed to disagree with him.

Ken Mac said...

the prisoner of second avenue!! Your ESP spooks me dagnabbit

Paula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paula said...

Maybe he's like Nicholas Cage's character in "Moonstruck" and lost a body part to the slicer and then his true love left him. Maybe you're his Loretta Castorini/Cher? Maybe if you tell him he's like a wolf?

TheChieftess said...

Awww...Mario's delicatessen on Broadway in Glendale...
my weakness...the Mario's classic combo...all meat and cheese with mustard mayo spread...none of that green stuff or salad dressing for me!!!

Anonymous said...

Which one? The red, white and blue.

D.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

whatsu matta sweety? (eye)talians and no weegies no get-a-longee?

I think you should go everyday. Warm the dark recesses of his heart; how about giving him one of your hand made ceramic masterpieces? (wink)

Virginia said...

When I come out there we a going to see the old curmudgeon and I'll make him smile if it kills me!!
I've never been that hot for provolone. Maybe I should give it another chance.
V

altadenahiker said...

Virg, you're on. You can make him one of your 100 strangers portraits. (Of course he'll love you and give you a piece of cheese.)

WV: Reste

Margaret said...

Hmm. I think there you might have years of therapy here. Tell me, when you look at this ink blot what do you see?

TheChieftess said...

Hiker...perhaps you could try a Southern Accent and turn on some southern belle charm???

Anonymous said...

... or a Southern Comfort.

D.

Kaori said...

I heard somewhere that Italians love the Japanese...I could use a slice of cheese right now :-)

Birdman said...

Sounds like he has a bit of the 'cheese nazi' in him. hahahaha

Pat Tillett said...

I was already hungry...
Now I'm starving!

Susan Campisi said...

Are you talking about Roma Italian Deli on Lake? I've only been there once and the old guy was gruff with me too - and I'm half Italian. Maybe he distrusted me because he sensed I don't like salami or provolone.

I think Paula's right: the Cheese Nazi has it bad for you. He keeps you waiting because he wants to keep you in the store longer.

Ken Mac said...

Caifornia sourdough. Heaven.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I think he has a crush on you. Bad Guys are that way, ya know? And girls just keep coming back for more...

altadenahiker said...

Hey guys, that sends shivers up my spine.

Patrizzi Intergarlictica said...

My daughter loves that man. You can both have him! Italian men are big babies. A pain threshold index of .03. Try asking him to balance a 16 oz can of roma tomatoes on his head while you give him a little arm wrestle.

bah.

I'm going to Claro's.