The Blessings of Philadelphia

<%image(20050311-cheesesteak.jpg|135|102|cheesesteak)%> When I consider the fact that Julie and I plan on movinig up to Vermont this summer (June/July-ish), I find myself often becoming nostalgic of the things of Philadelphia in advance. While I won’t miss the depressing cycle of false hopes and dashed dreams known as the Philly sports scene, I have been lamenting the native foods of my region. In such a spirit, I went to get a cheese steak at 8 pm tonight.

There is something about an authentic cheesesteak that I can’t put into words. Unless you have had an authentic cheesesteak from a place, there is no way to tell how good it’s going to be. Will the meat be chewy? Do they use good cheese? Is the roll decent? Will it be a sopping wad of grease? These thoughts and many more streamed through my mind as I drove toward my cheesesteak.

The place is untested by myself, but others have raved about it. Feeling assured, I walked in and was surprised that it looked more like a high school cafeteria than a cheesesteak joint. No fast action with spatula’s and mounds of meat. No rhythmic movement from grill to roll. Just a bunch of high school kids. They were cooking cheesesteaks, but I worried that they were mere amateurs at the task.

Undaunted, I got the steak, and drove home with my trophy. The smell of the steak intoxicated me. I was desperate to tear into it. I awkwardly fumbled with the tape on the wrapping as I drove down main street, using my knee to keep the wheel steady. Getting the tape loose, I tore in, grabbing the sandwich near the middle, only to recoil at the soggy mess of grease that coated my fingers.

I began to panick. The car was still under control, but my steak was not. Too much grease is a problem, but not the last word on the cheesesteak. Summoning my courage, I grabbed half of the soggy sandwich and ripped into it. It wasn’t bad. Too greasy, but not bad. It turned out to be a pretty decent sandwich with good meat, enough cheese, and an average roll. A solid 8 out of 10 in my book.

2 hours after consumption I felt a bit off . . . which is perfect. Cheesesteaks are the kind of thing that you shouldn’t eat that often and they conveniently make you feel lousy afterwards. You enjoy eating them enough that after a few months you’re ready to go back for another, not realizing that your stomach will feel like it has a ball of wet rags stuffed into it. Ah but no matter, I have the satisfaction of having eaten a good cheesesteak. Even if I feel sick all night, I have the sweet memories of shoving it in my mouth while zig zagging down main street. That’s just enough to build up the anticipation for 3 months from now when the urge will hit again.