Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How I Ended Up With 3.7 LBS of Ham, really

So there I was, strolling around the local grocery store on my way home for work. Hungry, I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to eat that night and then I saw the Deli counter. Filled with all sorts of meats, not the American way, with a turkey section, and a chicken section, and a ham section, and then a cold cuts section. No, this is Austria.

There was a section that all looked like salami, several different kinds of salami, most of them scared me. Of course, this being Austria, there was no salami, or pepperoni for that matter. Then there was this other section. I wasn't quite sure what the meat was, but it looked familiar.

So I peered through the glass, trying to differentiate between dozen or so different types of what looked like the exact same thing. But the labels were all slightly different. I settled on the one that was called "farmerschinken."

I glanced at the farmerschinken one more time before placing my order, my eyes flicking back and forth between the label and the deli meat, trying to figure out what farmerschinken really meant. It didn't look like chicken, but my brain kept trying to reconcile my expectations that there should be a turkey/chicken section, and that chinken might mean chicken. (Low blood sugar will do that to you, you know?)

Anyway, I took the plunge, caught the deli worker's eye and said, "Farmerschinken, bitte." Then he asked me how much. I rapidly did some calculations. I wanted about a half a pound, and if I remembered correctly, there were two kilo's in a pound, just like there are two kilometers in a mile. So I asked for a kilo. Then I quickly backtracked, deciding that it would be nice to have three quarters of a pound, so I changed my order to one and a half kilos.

I watched him look down at the farmerschinken and heft it, then he looked back up. "Do you want it sliced?"

"Yes , please." By this time, we were speaking in English.

He started slicing, and my mind started wandering. You know, how you just start looking around, checking out the other items on display, moving out of the way of other customers.

I'm not sure how much time passed, but I distinctly remember looking up and seeing the quickly forming pile of deli meat and realizing that I really didn't know how much a kilo actually weighed. . . Somehow I managed to quell my surprise and look normal.

So by the time he turned back around, to weigh the slices, I was smiling looking pleased. Only a small piece of the original chunk of meat remained. It came to 1.68 kilos. (I guess deli counter people must be the same all over the world, always trying to sell just that little bit extra.) I smiled and shrugged that the overage was fine, (the ever gracious me…).

Then the price label spit out, he shook his head saying 26 Euro, I muttered that I was having friends over. (Yes, I'd just lied to the deli-counter man to save face.) I pinned a smile on my face and shivered inside, took the packaged cold cuts from him and walked to the checkout, trying not to think about how I had close to $40 of sliced something in my cart.

When I got home and opened up the package, I realized it was ham. Why I couldn't actually see ham, while looking at a ham, I don't know. Why Austrians need to choose between several different types of ham that look exactly the same is beyond me. But I guess we do the same thing with turkey.

Just remember when shopping in Vienna, anything labeled chinken is NOT chicken. It's ham. Oh, and perhaps more importantly, please remember that there are roughly two pounds in a kilo.

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