by Chason Gordon
– The Capitol Hill Times –
Every time I walk into the Pine Food Market across from Hot Mama’s, I see a lonely giant jar of cheese balls that no one appears to be buying. As a massive Costco-like item, it looks incredibly out of place in the tiny convenience store; a point which is brought home when you notice the jar is too big for the shelf and sits atop the metal divider between the shelves, towering over the other products, like a watchful protector.
The brand is Utz Cheese Balls. It’s about the size and shape of a small church bell, or those jars that hold brains in horror movies. The accumulated balls weigh 35 oz and are gluten free, like most things these days (like me). If the plastic jar looks light, that’s because it is, though with enough force and repetition, you could probably use it to kill a man. Don’t, by the way.
Though I often question its presence, the giant jar of cheese balls has become a familiar sight on Capitol Hill, like the Jimi Hendrix statue, or the frequently broken escalator in front of the QFC on Broadway. If it ever disappeared, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I wouldn’t know where I was.
I think about the cheese ball jar more often than I think about some of my friends. I wonder how many cheese balls are inside. 400? 401? Does the container feel ridiculous standing athwart the other smaller items, or is it proud, like a gargoyle perched on a majestic building? If I grab it, will a giant boulder run me down? I imagine customers from the neighborhood feel drawn to the cheese balls whether or not they’re aware of it, like the ending of “Field of Dreams.”
Whenever I’m in the store, I want to ask the owner about them, but always chicken out and silently buy my junk food. I assume that if I ever tried to purchase the cheese balls, the owner would say something like, “Oh, that’s just for show.” He probably can’t bear the thought of somebody else having them. Me either.
On Saturday night, however, as I returned home from a human foosball game (you heard me), the questions began to hound me. Why stock the item in the first place? Why doesn’t anyone buy the cheese balls? And how can the owner, in good conscience, keep what is clearly an extremely old jar of cheese balls in his store? It was time for some investigative journalism!
“Hi, uhh,” I said, “what’s with that jar of cheese balls? It’s always here when I come in.”
Apparently, the cheese ball jar had not been sitting there for years as I prefer to imagine, but was one of many that have been periodically sold over time.
“One day I just got one, I didn’t think anyone would buy it,” said the owner, “but they do. I only stock one or two of them at a time.”
Ah. Okay then.