Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Positively 30th Street Early For The Train Cheesesteak Blogging

There has been radio silence for the past several days because, although she has many virtues and resources, the Mother of the Radical (MOTheR) -- with whom I have been visiting -- does not have WiFi. Fortunately, however, Amtrak now provides a WiFi connection in its Philadelphia station, and I have arrived here early enough for my Shoreline train to have a cheese steak sandwich for lunch. Hence, I am inspired, and wish to debunk the following three myths about what is known elsewhere as "the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Sandwich," or "Philly Cheesesteak."

First of all, there is no such thing as "the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Sandwich." It is called a cheesesteak, and the only place you can actually get an authentic one is in Philadelphia or its immediate environs. If you are anywhere else in the country -- with the exception, perhaps, of the portions of New Jersey that are in proximity to Philadelphia, and towns no further south than Wilmington, DE, what you are being offered is a simulacrum of a cheesesteak. But no one who actually lives, or has lived, in Philadelphia would call it a "Philly cheesesteak." The modifier is utterly and completely redundant: when you see it in use, you know you are dealing with a poseur of a restaurant (or more likely, a restaurant chain.)

Second, there are people -- most of whom have not been raised in and around Philadelphia -- who think that cheesesteaks are nutritionally unsound. This is crazy talk. The basic ingredients of the cheese steak are: American cheese; a portions of cow so tough and unwanted that they must be shaved razor-thin, frozen, fried and chopped up in order to be chewed at all; a white Italian roll with thick crust; salt; and grease. Lots of grease. I ask you -- under whose rules are these things not good for you? Particularly when you add fried onions and peppers, you have at least three parts of the food pyramid covered. In other words, you are practically done for the day in terms of nutrition, and should feel free to eat ice cream for all other meals.

Third, I have heard non-Philadelphians say that after a cheesesteak, you will be so full of calories you won't have to eat for hours. This is absolutely not true. You will need to eat again immediately. You will need a Tastykake for dessert.

This concludes today's advice from the City of Brotherly Love. Stay tuned for an item later in June on the nutritional value of Scrapple.

18 comments:

kb said...

you left out one crucial factor: the cheese has to be melted all over the "meat" so that there is a sort of sheen, rather than a visible patch of melted-ish cheese like you'd see on a cheeseburger.

well, and the amoroso's roll unless it you're at sarcone's.

also, i've had some first-rate steaks down the shore...

so where did you get your steak?

Lesboprof said...

You make a girl homesick, Radical!! The Mother of the Lesboprof has been known to send a Tastycake care package from time to time. Hope you enjoyed the cheesesteak. And yes, I only order them when I am visiting the birthplace.

sallieparker said...

I spent much of my growing-up in the Philadelphia area. Furthermore, my parents did much of their growing-up in the Philadelphia area. I believe I had a forebear or two at Valley Forge, and someone who dwelt in the Quaker City before Franklin invented his kite and (oft-mentioned but never-used) stove. And in all this time...I never ever ever EVER! saw or heard of a cheesesteak or cheesesteak sandwich or any variant thereof. My slight research tells me this: 1) It's not native to the real Philadelphia, but to the Italian ghetto of South Philadelphia. Traditionally outsiders never went down there; it was considered not only scary but another universe altogether, a popular attitude widely reciprocated by the neighborhood's denizens. 2) It only goes back thirty or forty years, putting it in a completely different geologic era from scrapple, the sticky bun, and pepper-pot soup. Cheesesteaks may be tasty and satisfying but they are NOT part of the Philadelphian patrimony!

Nik said...

Once, in not Philly, I ate two cheesesteaks in a row. Now, I need you to mail me one. From the train.

Emily said...

Oh, cheesesteaks. One of the many things I miss about being a vegetarian. I did, in honor of the Eagles making it to the Superbowl, manage a passible version with seitan. But it's a lot of work for a single sandwich. Sigh.

And, yes, you will never have a properly made one anywhere else, unless made by an emigrant who understands.

My parents know that two boxes of Krimpets (jelly or, if they're available, Alex's Lemonade Stand) are the price of a visit with their grandson. It's a good deal.

Dorothy said...

Wonderful! You can get a good cheesesteak at Citizen's Bank Park, we find. Did you go and watch our boys lose? Maybe the Phils need more cheesesteak! SOR

Historiann said...

kb, I think you're referring to "wiz wit," as in with Cheese Whiz. That in some corners is the only way to go. I am heterodox, and so like provolone instead, and with lots of ketchup for dipping.

AcadeMama said...

My Philly Hubby would read this with pleasure. And then, he would add that if someone refers to it as "bread," they clearly aren't from Philly. Everyone knows it's called a roll!

In two weeks, we're headed back for our first family vacation, and we intend to eat cheesesteaks on a daily basis. I'm even considering eating scrapple (shuddering a bit on the inside though) :)

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Particularly when you add fried onions and peppers, you have at least three parts of the food pyramid covered.

Peppers!?!?!?!!? Have you lost your fucking mind?????

Nothing is better than rolling down to Passyunk drunk off your ass and having one Pat's wiz wit and one Geno's wiz wit.

Anonymous said...

Provolone, wit, hot and sweet, and maybe mushrooms. D'Allessandro's (in Roxborough) or Jim's.

And the cheese goes under the meat and over the roll to achieve the state that kb describes. thus the grease mixes to achieve what Craig Labonne and a couple of Penn Charter Seniors described as "good drip." "The quest for the perfect cheesesteak" was their senior project. Best senior project ever. And I hate Penn Charter.

Western Dave

J said...

This is how Buffalonians feel about chicken wings. Not Buffalo wings, chicken wings. Cook with hot sauce, not BBQ, honey mustard, or any other kind of not-hot sauce; serve with bleu cheese; not ranch; accompany with carrot and celery sticks, nothing else. Done properly, you've got protein, calcium, and vegetables. What's not healthy and balanced?

I loved many things about Philly cuisine, but could never get a handle on the Tastykake. My favorite post-cheesesteak dessert option was always a stroll around the corner to John's for water ice.

Dr. H said...

You know tastykake delivers across the US -- my parents sent me a huge box as I started to write my senior thesis as an undergrad many years ago.

but, you forgot the soft pretzel to go along with the cheesesteak!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

And a tastykake butterscotch krimpet for dessert!

Tenured Radical said...

Dr. H: Didn't know this. Just ordered a box of French Apple pies. Bliss.

Kris Peleg said...

just had cheesesteak for lunch in Dhaka, Bangladesh. probably not even similar to the real thing...

kb said...

@historiann, not just wiz, i mean for any kind of cheese.

@TR, haha i gotta tell jamie hunter about this! he used to pay my brother a dollar to fetch him tastykakes from the little store when his mom banned them because he was too fat...

trixie dang said...

point of interest for the upcoming scrapple post:

are you aware of the phenomenon of vrapple? we were introduced by my old co-op in west philly. it is vegan scrapple alternative.

yep.

and won second place at Scrapplefest 2009.

not sayin' it'ss right, just that it happened.

kb said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zmwRitYO3w

opera and cheesesteaks - reading terminal's got everything!