“What type of brats you want? We got a lot of type of brats,” he said, gesturing at a glass case of meat.
There were many type of brats. Andouille, curry, Gyulai, jalapeño pepper jack, lamb, Nurenberg, Sheboygan, tomato basil, cheddar, bacon cheddar, veal – I don’t eat veal.
“Pork, I guess?” I said.
“We got fresh pork over here,” he said.
He was an old timer, that perfect age to be considered an old timer. Not quite chronologically old, but old-seeming, his gait, speech and mannerisms seemingly culled from a 1940s studio contract player.
The Burns and Allen extra was nice, smiley, a bit gape-mouthed but seemingly happy. White-skinned and white-haired, as the stereotype of old timey meat merchants pertains.
It was Paulina Market.
Paulina Market is, well, it’s beautiful.
Paulina Market is old white men in paper hats. It’s meat by the pound. It’s paper hats and ’40s-talking white men and did I mention meat by the pound?
Paulina Market is what shopping used to be.
When you walk into the place, you’re greeted by a red ticker of number to take. Rows of mustard, meat and buns follow. Under fluorescent-lit racks of Wisconsin, you wander toward the meat bins.
Then, you get there.
Then, paper hats. Then, sausages. Then, Andouille, curry, Gyulai, jalapeño pepper jack, lamb, Nurenberg, Sheboygan, pork I guess and steak burgers served to you by a guy who doesn’t blanch at 20 brats for the BBQ and 10 steak burgers for the folks who don’t show up right away.
There are places in the world that change over time.
There are places in the world that shift and move with fads and moments.
But then there are places like Paulina Market, which pride themselves on obstinate ways, places that look at the world decades ago and say, “You know what? That was all right.”
Places that fill their aisles with meat and customer service and don’t feel a need to change either.
The world has changed around Paulina Market. And as we bought 20 brats and 10 burgers for a barbecue you’re not invited to, the world changed around us.
We bought meat and hats and customer service. The rest doesn’t matter. At Paulina Market, a 1940s white man in a paper hat served me fresh pork.
And that was what I was there for.