Heady Cheese

I was waiting on my Swiss cheese at the deli counter, when I heard muttering.  I glanced over at the customer next to me, who was scanning the meats.  His face suddenly lit up and he scooted closer to me, knocked his elbow against mine and pointed at the display case.  “I’m getting me some of that!  Hot head cheese.  Woo!”

I looked at the head cheese and then eyeballed him sideways as I scrunched my nose.  “Um, ew,” I said.  I know, it was rude, but head cheese?  Do you know what that is?  It’s bits and pieces of a cow or pig’s head and possibly brain, all processed into a hard meat jelly.  Yes, meat jelly.


I kid you not, this is what it looks like. (source)


“Oh, no babe, it’s good,” he chuckled.  “Have you ever had it?”

“Well, actually no.  I haven’t.”

“You gotta try it then!  You’re missing out.”

“Okay, good point,” I said, nodding my head.  “I don’t really know what it tastes like.  But just the thought, ugh.”

“Well you’re gonna try it today.  Come on, I’ll have the lady give you a piece.”

I stared at him for a second, shrugged and said, “Okay, sure, why not.”

For future reference?  If you say something like ‘why not’, that generally means there’s probably a reason why not and you might want to give it some more thought.  But sadly, I didn’t.

When the deli server handed me my Swiss, he gave her his order and asked her to get me a piece.  She smiled at me and quirked her brow, but I didn’t say anything.  I was preparing to eat brains.

She quickly returned with a gigantic slice of head cheese.  I grabbed it from her and peeked over at my new friend who smirked and said, “Go on!  Try it!”

I jiggled the slice a little, wincing, before I took a deep breath, ripped off a piece and slowly put it in my mouth.  Now, I don’t want to give anyone nightmares, but I’m telling you, there were chunks.  I chewed globs of brain matter, maybe some tongue or snout, all mixed in with gelatinous pieces of I-don’t-know-what.

But I’m proud to say, I swallowed and did not gag.  This was a major accomplishment, under the circumstances.

“And?” the guy asked.  “What do you think?”

“Well, um, it was interesting?”

“Okay, you gotta try some more.  Eat the rest of that slice,” he encouraged.

“I think I’m good, really,” I said with a grin.

“You need to try it with Saltines,” he said.  “They cut the spice a little.”

“I’m actually fine with the spiciness.  It’s more the pieces of brain that are a little hard to take.  So I’m all set, but thanks.”

He burst out laughing, reached over, snatched what was left out of my hand and shoved it in his mouth.  I stared at him, mouth hanging open a little, wondering if he really just did that.  But, yep, he did.  He ate head cheese out of a stranger’s bare hand.  This guy clearly lived on the edge.

I laughed and shook my head, then thanked him again and walked away, wondering how long it would take to get that taste off my tongue. As it turns out, it takes a really darn long time.



**if you eat and enjoy head cheese regularly, please don’t be offended by this post.  I grew up loving Spam and liver sausage, so I clearly have no room to talk.


39 thoughts on “Heady Cheese

    • Here’s the really sad thing…I am mostly vegetarian, too! I have been eating whole food, plant based for the last three months or so, and have had meat only twice in that time. So why, given all that, I would eat head cheese, I have no idea!


  1. I think you handled the encounter very well. He obviously wanted you to join his brain-eating ghoul cult. You showed him you could taste the brain without getting addicted. I can recommend a good mouthwash for future incidents of this kind.


    • Ooh, what if zombies aren’t what we think they are going to be? What if it is a more gradual thing and people slowly become them and they start by eating head cheese? Brains. Oh my gosh, why didn’t I see it? That guy was a zombie and he was trying to turn me into one! Thanks for your comment…I would have never realized otherwise.


  2. There are few things, on a limited list, that I won’t try. Anything alive, bloody, or more likely to kill me than not… and head cheese because ew. Like just looking at it… No, thanks.

    The old guy though. Love him. I bet he’s great entertainment at parties. (Possibly the weird grandpa who gets drunk and tells crazy stories about eating head cheese from a stranger’s hand.)


    • Ha! The funniest thing is it wasn’t even an old guy! He was probably in his mid 30’s. I purposely didn’t put any description about him, because it wasn’t really pertinent to the story, but I’m curious to see if other people think he was an old guy, too. He must have been an old soul 🙂


    • I know, isn’t it crazy that he did that? I was just dumbfounded, because who eats cold cuts out of a stranger’s bare hands? I mean, sure, I look clean, but who knows where my hands might have been!


  3. Yep. I grew up on the stuff. We used the hooves. Very gross, I know. I loved mine with tons of garlic and vinegar and salt. I have not carried on the tradition, as I cannot seem to put hooves into my grocery cart.
    It’s been a long while since I’ve run into an interesting stranger. I’ve got to get out more.


  4. The city dweller in me immediately assumed that the man at the counter wanted something from you. Glad my suspicions were unfounded. Although, I suppose, he did want you to try headcheese. You are one brave brave soul.


    • That’s what people at work thought, that he must have wanted something or was hitting on me or some such thing. But, nope, he was a just a outgoing guy who has an abnormally strong attraction for head cheese!


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