Confessions of a Former Supermarket Deli Worker

My first real job was working in the deli of a supermarket. (I won’t reveal the name of the supermarket here—though I have said it before. So, get to sleuthing if you really care that much.) I was in charge of slicing meats and cheeses to order, making sandwiches, scooping salads, and roasting and frying chickens. I was 16 and only just figuring out how to exist as a semi-responsible human in the world—or, at least, I was trying to. I got to work mostly on time. I used the slicer regularly without cutting myself once. I was friendly enough. But there were definitely some missteps. And those missteps have weighed on me for a couple of decades now. So, allow me to unburden myself and confess: 

I did not clean my shirt enough at all

I am a slob. In my heart of hearts I will always be a slob. But over the years I’ve learned how to hide it (somewhat) by doing things like washing my clothes on a semi-regular basis. When I was 16, I didn’t do that. So my shirt was regularly caked in chicken grease. I am sorry to anyone who was ever down wind. And I am not at all surprised that the cute boy from the pizza place next door never made a move. 

I colored my shoes in black marker as a loophole

The uniform called for black sneakers. But I was still pretending to be a punk/ska kid so I refused to wear anything but my converse, which were mostly black. To make them all the way black, I colored in the toes with a black Sharpie. It was very obvious—especially once they got oily and the ink smeared. 

I want only seasoned roast chickens 

If there was a protocol I was supposed to follow when seasoning the chickens after sliding them down the pole of a rotisserie, I was unaware. There were three or four different seasoning blends. I shook each one over a row of raw chickens until each bird was flavor-blasted. The dust went everywhere—including onto the other chickens. I’m sure some people were big fans of my lemon-herb-BBQ roast chickens. 

The Friends Cast as Grocery Stores

‘Friends’ Cast with Grocery Store Chains Instead of Actors

Here at Sporked, we answer all your burning questions. We tell you which ranch dressing is best, we finally give you the inside scoop on what Necco Wafers taste like, and now, I’m going to tell you which grocery store would play which character on Friends. You can’t say we don’t do the work.

I purposefully sliced extra meat and cheese

Oh, you wanted a quarter pound? Sorry, I heard a third of a pound. Oh well. Guess I’ll just have to add that Alpine lace cheese to the pile of other meats and cheeses I have going on the side. I never brought a lunch to work. Instead, I would over-slice customers’ orders and then feast on the bounty of scraps in my car. For dessert? A sample cup of ambrosia salad—a mix of marshmallow goo and canned fruit that I absolutely adore and literally no one ever ordered. It’s very possible I was eating the same batch of ambrosia salad in August that I started eating in May.  

I cleaned the ovens the only way I could—by getting inside of them 

I’m still not sure how I was supposed to clean the industrial-sized ovens in which we roasted our rotisserie chickens, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t meant to get inside of them and huff professional-grade cleaner. But the ovens got clean and that’s what matters—not this constant cough I mysteriously have. (Kidding. *Cough.* Oh no!)

I poured oil on a plant every time I closed 

During my training, I was told to dump the fryer oil out back. Easy enough, I thought, assuming the place to dump the oil would be obvious. So, my first night closing, I rolled the giant vat through the stock room and out the back door. I saw a big dumpster and some other containers—but nothing that screamed “oil container” to me. And I definitely couldn’t lift the massive oil container high enough to dump it into those dumpsters even if that was where it was supposed to go. So I poured it all onto a plant. It was a small bush—nothing remarkable. I did this many times. No one ever noticed. No one ever said anything. By the time my tenure at the grocery store was done, it was a very shiny, very aromatic bush. And on my last closing day, I finally saw the receptacle into which I should have been pouring the oil. I think about that plant a lot. 

Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better—and a little bit hungry for chicken.


About the Author

Justine Sterling

Justine Sterling is the editor-in-chief of Sporked. She has been writing about food and beverages for well over a decade and is an avid at-home cook and snacker. Don’t worry, she’s not a food snob. Sure, she loves a fresh-shucked oyster. But she also will leap at whatever new product Reese’s releases and loves a Tostitos Hint of Lime, even if there is no actual lime in the ingredients.

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