I am a late-to-the-party Marvelous Mrs. Maisel binge watcher and honestly don’t see what the fuss is about. It seems more than a little contrived. There is one Maisel scene that does ring true sixty-plus years later: Midge arrives in desperate need of deli items to feed the rabbi. Instead of patiently waiting (because Mrs. Maisel waits for nothing — not even a viable comedy career), she prances ahead of everyone announcing her supreme need for meat. She then ups the deli rudeness ante like she’s adding to her comedy set. She asks to look at the meat. Touch the meat. Would have tried the meat if it had been cooked. I fumed while watching her flounce past irritated deli-goers, fumed for those unnamed extras forced to wait in line while an entitled TV shopper cut in front of them.
I’m not a stand-up ’50s comedienne nor do I play one on TV. I have been privy to rude deli shoppers that act like they will wet their pants or miss a surprise Pope’s birthday party if they don’t get their deli selections immediately. Truth is they probably forgot to buy lunch meat on a Sunday afternoon and don’t want anyone to see them in sweatpants with their hair dry-shampooed into a Hello Kitty ponytail holder while desperately trying to keep their toddler out of the grape buffet. I’ve been that woman. I know the mom urgency of not wanting to send your kid to school with stale fortune cookies and a Weight Watchers protein shake. To avoid that, I now order my deli meat and cheese through a handy-dandy app. My perfectly-sliced Boar’s Head Honey Maple Turkey waits for me in the refrigerator case away from any line.
Recently, I forgot to order ahead and took my chances in a 2019 suburban grocery store deli. All for a Boar’s Head cheese from their Bold line. I was feeling bold. No sweat pants. Hair brushed. Kids at home. The line looked safe enough. Polite enough. A dad with a baby strapped to his chest and a toddler doing Cirque Du Soleil moves in the cart. A mom in scrubs with Lean Cuisines in her cart and 12-hour shift circles under her eyes. There are no red ticket machines anymore where you take a number and pray you won’t be in the bread aisle when your number is called. It is all a “No, YOU go first” middle-class politeness.
Boar’s Head bills their Bold products as an around the world trip with mouth-watering commercials. Since I’m not going to Europe anytime soon, I needed that bold around-the-world cheese. I politely jockeyed for line position with deli counter meat cutter number two, a bearded gentleman with a hairnet on his head and chin hair. Harried dad was being helped by a woman who looked like she cut her teeth in a school lunchroom while yuppie-bearded cheese dude finished up with tired doctor mom.
The plan was to order my Boar’s Head Bold MarBleu Marbled Blue Monterey Jack Cheese and exit. I had even practiced saying the mouthful of a redundant cheese name to avoid confusion. I’d say “thinly sliced please” and refuse to try any other new flavors for I had tried this cheese before. I knew what it tastes like: creamy and distinctive as described. I also know what vanilla ice cream tastes like and don’t hold up a Baskin-Robbins line to figure out what vanilla I want either.
And then it happened. She appeared. Mrs. Maisel time traveled into the Publix deli wearing a carefully-ironed Anthropologie dress and macrame wedge shoes with a more-expensive-than-my-car purse. She breezed past me and the rest of the line as if we were invisible on her bakery-to-deli counter journey. I wondered if all time travelers were rude. And then I heard her speak her funniest punchline of the Sunday 6:00 PM grocery hour show.
“What kind of turkey do you have?”
The deli counter cashier dutifully named off ALL her options (because he was a Boar’s Head specialist and that’s the Boar’s Head way) even as the deli line community gave a collective sigh. She proceeded to request different slice levels and cheese options and samples. Samples of everything. Each one presented on plastic deli paper as if she was the queen of the suburbs even though he’d do that for anyone.
While Miss Marvelous Cut-In-Line meandered through deli products to entertain her Baptist minister (the 2019 equivalent of the rabbi comes to dinner), I read the deli counter Boar’s Head recipe book. Turns out, the lady line-cutter was just exploring the Boar’s Head flavor voyage and I could do the same thing myself.
My cheese of choice was “inspired by the rich tradition of European bleu cheese.” And “just the aroma of Boar’s Head Bold MarBleu Marbled Blue Monterey Jack Cheese will send your senses on a flavor voyage.” It was international food porn right there in my suburban deli. But that wasn’t all. Boar’s Head planned a-Boar’s-Head with complimentary wine and beer options.
In Europe, Bleu Cheese is classically accompanied by celery, pears, and Port wine or Barleywine, a highly fermented British beer of Greek origin.
For a moment, I was transported to a country where people didn’t cut in line and if they did; they were French and probably drunk, so it is expected and no one cares. The best note in the Boar’s Head brochure: my bold cheese could be “sliced without crumbling.” I could quickly order a big hunk of cheese without having it sliced and move on. That was a Martha Stewart-level good thing. Meanwhile, my ice cream was melting while Midge took her international deli case sample tour. I wanted to politely tell her Boar’s Head Bold means GO Bold. Make a bold choice and GO. Instead, she chose the Boar’s Head Stay and Sample option.
As the European sampling excursion continued, the line grew. 2019 Mrs. Maisel finally settled on “plain turkey, sliced with cheddar, sliced”. There was an audible groan as she chose the most vanilla of all deli items. Even the baby, who just wanted his own turkey sample and had formed a full set of teeth while waiting, looked irritated but relieved.
The deli counter manager and I exchanged pained looks but he didn’t bring out the Boar’s Head ram device I imagined was behind the counter for difficult customers: a big beam with a huge Boar’s Head to break down castle doors and push pushy shoppers to the seafood counter.
It was finally my turn. My stomach growled and I asked for a now-hypocritical sample. He gave me a huge piece of cheese to tide me over until the free cookies at the bakery counter, where my fellow deli shoppers gathered like piranhas.
Mrs. Maisel was gone, transported to another time or another aisle in her magic car grocery cart. There was no child there. She had also selfishly grabbed the closest cart leaving tired dad with a wonky squeaky cart with no built-in wheel for his somersaulting toddler. I contemplated finding her in the organic food aisle but only had a basket and no cart to accidentally ram into her heels.
Instead, I went in search of Barleywine AND port to go with my cheese. Who needed bread or meat or pears or celery? I had my Bold cheese. And it was Bold. With a capital B. Just like the line-cutter.