I don't know if it's spring allergy season, but my head has been completely confused lately. The blogging world seems all out of joint to me.
Joe has just come back from vacation and is blogging about half-naked cappuccinos.
Bonnie has given up blogging in English and is just posting in Morse Code, which she claims isn't Morse Code.(No wait, update - she says in her latest post, "Wheeeeeeetweetweetweetweetweet!")
Tillerman is blogging about Lasers, as usual, but why do I have this idea stuck in my head that he's been ranting about wanting a - get this - power boat? I know, I must be losing it.
Meanwhile, over on Edward's blog, there's a picture of SF Bay area sailing superstar Paul Cayard sailing in a Pope hat. That would be strange enough, but I feel like I've actually seen that photo before. How could that be?
Like I say, for me everything is out of joint. There's nothi... wait, did I just say over on Edward's blog? That can't be right. Edward hasn't blogged in... see what I mean? Nothing is making sense this week.
I'm so confused, I'm going to try to get reoriented by returning to basics. I'll write a nice, simple post about sailing. And in the logic of this week, what better sailing topic to blog about than the Philly Cheesesteak?
I'm ashamed to admit it, but the Philadelphia Cheesesteak, as an institution, is something I never really got.
I may have a recessive cheesesteak gene.
But, invariably, when someone hears that you grew up in Philadelphia, they will ask about cheesesteaks. So, I'm always being asked to defend or expound upon the cheesesteak. Somehow though, in a city that is so well known for its diverse ethnic heritage, it is unfortunate that such a meager culinary creation should get so much press.
For me, hoagies had more merit, although I'm not sure I would have the courage to attempt one of those, with everything, today.
In my youth, Pat's Steaks in Sout' Philly was the reigning champion of the Cheesesteak, claiming to have invented the greasy thing. A large neon sign out front - well, two large neon signs actually - modestly proclaimed, "Pat's King of Steaks".
Throughout the neighborhoods of South Philadelphia, various factions favored one rival cheesesteak establishment or another. The preference seemed to be passed down, within families, from one generation to the next, and defending one's familial cheesesteak allegiance became a matter of pride.
As I recall, it was just such internecine differences of opinion that often made life in that part of town so colorful.
Geno's Steaks, just across the street from Pat's, has conducted a typically South Philly 'in your face' rivalry with Pat's for longer than anyone can remember. With each generation, the signs proclaiming supremacy grow larger, more elaborate, and consume more wattage.
But what was all the fuss about? Why the almost religious fervor for the cheesesteak? What exactly was the draw?
Try as I might to unravel those mysteries, to me the cheesesteak has always smacked of hoax.
At its heart, it was always just a cheap cut of almost inedible meat that someone had tried to coax into being a delicacy by slathering with onions and Cheez Whiz and whacking with a spatula to induce a faux tenderness. Many almost pulled off the hoax, but in the end, or certainly by two hours after eating one, the diner was beset with the sad realization that this was no haute cuisine. If he was lucky, that was all he was beset with.
I think Philadelphia clings to the cheesesteak more out of desperation than anything else. The titles to most of the town's claimed culinary originalities have been successfully challenged by other dominions. New York has the bagel, foot-long hot dog, and possibly even Belgian waffles. Soft pretzels probably came from Bavaria. Salt Water Taffy, Atlantic City. Other than scrapple - and who else would bother claiming that - we've got the cheesesteak and that's about it.
Like I say, I was mainly a hoagie guy through most of my formative years, so don't really care too much one way or the other.
As I matured, so did my palate, and I moved on to what I now look back upon fondly as my pastrami years.