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.
“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.