Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hail To The Cheese

It was a brutal blast furnace of a day here in the Cradle of Liberty.

Things melted on contact with the air. There was a heat advisory up and people were warned to put off any outdoor physical activities until the weekend.

Hey, you don’t have to tell me twice.

Because of the briefness of my lunch break, I had little chance to grab anything substantial. Instead, I opted for something chocolate and I tried to eat it while I was driving. Even with the AC going, the chocolate was quickly melting by the time I got to the end of it.

So having eaten such a poor lunch, it seemed prudent to try and consume a healthy dinner. Which is how the subject of cheesesteaks came up.

It is, of course, the gooey ambrosia that every Philadelphian is brought up to cherish. Some favor the steak from their neighborhood joint, the tourists line up at Pat’s, but among those in the know, there are a handful of shops that offer the real experience: meat, cheese, onions, and sauce, laid out on an Italian roll as those who consume it will soon be laid out.

Truth be told, I don’t have them as often as I used to, but it makes for a nice treat on occasion. So we headed out for our favorite cheesesteak place, a little hole-in-the-wall just minutes from here that knows how to balance the delicate elements involved just so and at a very reasonable price. There’s very limited seating at a small counter, but most of the business is take out. The counter itself is awash in tubs of various peppers and chiles, to be added according to taste.

Shoulder to shoulder with our fellow steakaphiles, we huddled stoop-shouldered on our stools as we waited for our meals to arrive, cramped against the crush of the line of take out customers and biding our time with sodas.

It seemed to be taking a lot longer than usual, though, and at one point, Fate intervened and decided to entertain us.

Apparently a young couple recognized a group of friends who were also waiting for their taste of authentic local cuisine. Pleasantries were exchanged.

“So what are you doing here, dude?”

“Well, my friend Vermin here came all the way from Pittsburgh to see the bike race tomorrow!”

I can’t imagine anything more boring than driving from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, unless it’s watching a bike race in Philadelphia.

“You should stop by, dude. We’re having a kegger all weekend, man!”

“Dude, that’s so awesome!”

“What are you guys doing?”

“We don’t know. We just bought this case of beer, man!”

“That’s so righteous, dude!”

And then there was this laughter that seemed to come out of our deeply primordial past, a gut-rumbling blast that seemed to suck all the intelligence out of the room.

“Well, later, dude!”

“Later, man! Stop by some time this weekend! We’re gonna be wasted!”


Our cheesesteaks arrived and we ate them in a respectful silence. After all, it isn’t every day you get to meet a future President of the United States.


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