I’ve come to realize that I have an odd knack for embarrassing myself.
Last year, there was the infamous “snow bunny” incident in which a waitress thought I was flirting with her when really, I was trying to get a free ice cream sundae. Briefly, a 50s-themed hamburger joint down the street was advertising a Facebook special that involved a secret phrase you had to repeat to your server in order to score a free dessert. The only problem was, my waitress didn’t get the memo, and thought I was trying to sweet talk her. Cue the red cheeks and uproarious gales of laughter from the young’uns.
So, when my mom mentioned the fact that our friendly neighborhood Fred Meyer grocery store had a “secret ham” in the deli section, I should have been wary. Instead, I was intrigued. What can I say? I like to feel that I’m “in the know” and on the cutting edge of things. I’ve always envied people who walked into restaurants and ordered secret menu items. Places like In-N-Out Burger are legendary for their not-advertised-anywhere meals. I want a little of that action, because it makes me feel important, dammit! Knowledge is power, right? Plus, it feels all mysterious and edgy to do something like that. Now I know exactly how James Bond feels.
Although, I suppose James Bond would have gotten the free sundae and nailed Snow Bunny…
“What exactly is this secret ham thing all about?” I asked.
“It’s ham they keep behind the counter,” my mom replied.
“Don’t they keep all the lunch meats behind the counter?” I wondered, ever the literal one.
“Technically that’s true. But they keep this ham behind the counter that’s behind the counter. Or in the back somewhere. They don’t put it on display, but if you ask for it, they’ll sell it to you.”
“What’s so special about it?”
“It’s only $1.99 a pound.”
Just like that, I was sold. If there’s one thing I appreciate as much as a well-kept secret, it’s a bargain. Which is why I was whispering sweet nothings to my waitress in the first place: it meant a free menu item. What can I say? I’m a cheap bastard.
So, the morning Tara and I were headed to the lake with the kids, we stopped in Freddy’s on the way and I sauntered over to the deli counter, hands in pockets, acting nonchalant as all get out. I glanced around to ensure that nobody was within earshot, and leaned in close to the display case.
“What can I get for you?” the deli woman asked.
“I’ll have a pound of the secret ham,” I replied, my voice practically a whisper.
“The what kind of ham?” she asked.
“You know,” I said, resisting the urge to throw a great big wink in her direction. “The secret ham.”
Deli Lady looked confused. A Second Deli Lady chimed in at this point. “Was that the mesquite ham you were looking for, sir?”
“Is that what you’re calling it?” I said.
“Yes, of course. It’s $6.99 a pound. How much did you want?”
“No, no, no,” I replied quickly, my heart beginning to race just a little. “Not mesquite. Secret.”
“The Black Forest ham, you mean?”
Oh, for the love of slaughtered pigs everywhere. This was turning into Snow Bunny: The Sequel, only Deli Lady and Second Deli Lady didn’t think I was hitting on them – they just assumed I was straight up nuts.
“It’s a secret ham you don’t advertise,” I explained. “You keep it stashed away somewhere out of sight, and customers who know about it can ask for it. Like I’m doing now. Hasn’t anybody else ever bought the secret ham?”
“Nope,” they replied in unison. Then, “Where do we supposedly keep it?”
“I don’t know. Because it’s a secret.“
“What’s so secret about it?”
“The price,” I said. “It’s something like $1.99 a pound.”
“Ohhhhhh.” Suddenly, recognition flickered across their faces. This was a beautiful sight, because by now not only were Rusty and Audrey dealing with spasms of laughter, Tara too had wandered away, barely able to keep a straight face over my embarrassing escapade. “That ham.”
That’s right, folks. It took some serious explaining, but in the end, I walked out of the delicatessen with one pound of secret ham. Were the two minutes of confusion worth it? The apprehensive should we dial the loony bin glances between Deli Ladies 1 and 2? The crimson cheeks? Definitely! The lunchmeat – really just a basic boiled ham – was surprisingly tasty. And, talk about economical! It set me back a mere two bucks.
Take that, James Bond!
- Chain Reaction: My First Time at In-N-Out (aht.seriouseats.com)