This Fake Italian Deli Meat May Be a Poser, But So Am I
Mass-produced prosciutto might be a little tacky, a little fake, a little gauche. But to me, it tastes like love.
Photo composite by MUNCHIES Staff
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Prosciutto is the ham of the gods. It’s delicately marbled like the thigh of a Roman statue; salty; a real meat’s meat. Its innate Italian-ness somehow makes it ooze with sex appeal. When you bite into that cured, fatty sliver of a pig’s hind leg, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t utility.
Prosciutto is also a pretty ordinary lunch meat. Displayed beneath a gauzy sheet of plastic, placed in the aisles of Trader Joe’s and/or WalMart under the Daniele Inc. ensignia, the quintessential antipasti addition becomes the stuff of sandwiches. And I want it no other way.
You can shut your eyes and eat a piece of Del Duca and imagine yourself in a tiny swimsuit on a Mediterranean beach, but you would be fooling yourself.
Daniele Inc.’s Gourmet Deli Selection Italian meat plates are that sweet spot between good old-fashioned American lunchbox puritanism and extremely idealized (by me, at least) European sensibility. There are three types of meat included: a Calabrese salami, some capocollo, and in the center—the heart of the plate, if you will—a healthy pile of Del Duca prosciutto.
Del Duca is a Daniele invention. It’s made in the US, but claims to be “authentic”—a bold move, since there is actually a special EU designation given to prosciutto and other products of a certain caliber used to prove their quality and authenticity—and uses the “ancient European” style of dry-curing. You can shut your eyes and eat a piece of Del Duca and imagine yourself in a tiny swimsuit on a Mediterranean beach, but you would be fooling yourself. I’m endeared to this particular pre-dinner snack specifically because of its deeply suburban flair. Daniele offers a virtual tour of the facilities where the meat is made, and when I went to see what that might possibly entail, I was met with photos of little old men named Marcello and Paolo, sweetly smiling in a colorful factory in Rhode Island. While these two grandfatherly gentlemen are always in my thoughts when I go to purchase my meat gourmet meat plates, ultimately, it is the loneliness involved in eating these spreads that I live for the most.
I find the act of buying meat to be sweetest when it’s a solitary endeavor. I relish the opportunity to peruse the refrigerated section of the supermarket and quietly make up my meat decisions on my own time, and even find it romantic and lonely (which I guess makes me basic). I like the feeling of taking a sleeve of the stuff and putting it in my shopping bag, shuffling to check out, making my way home, and then carefully taking a slice out of the package and rolling it around a breadstick in the peaceful comfort of my apartment. Buying Italian meats at a deli counter in New York is not for me (mostly because it can be pricey), but when I see people order some San Daniele at a nice grocery store, I often think to myself, Jeez! I wonder what it is like to be in that part of your life!
I am fascinated by things that try hard to be effortless but seem to fail along the way. Like these meat platters, I am also somewhat of a try-hard.
Prepackaged deli meats are probably one of the least sexy things a person can buy. Daniele’s packages are purely functional. There is nothing pretty about them; their purpose is being a vessel for something dead; they are layers of plastic and film surrounding a Frankenstein of a suburban appetizer.
All of this is enough for me, because that is the subtext of my life thus far. I am fascinated by things that try hard to be effortless but seem to fail along the way. Like these meat platters, I am also somewhat of a try-hard. A kitsch lord, even. I am someone who fronts a lot more self restraint than I actually possess. No matter how many white sneakers I buy, no matter how hard I try to deny that I’m from the second stupidest city in upstate New York, I remain me. This fake Italian deli meat platter may be a poser, but so am I.
But who am I kidding? The main reason I spend money on these adult Lunchables is because they are not expensive and they taste good. I encourage you to do the same, and to give yourself the space to do some serious self-reckoning.
I also recommend taking part in my favorite way of performing this culinary pastime, which is to shovel salami into my mouth like a demon and then immediately shout out in a fake Italian accent, “That’s amoré, baby!” Cuz for me and these cold cuts, it really is.