Waitrose Food Illustrated, the British magazine put out by the Waitrose supermarket chain, recently listed its “100 Greatest Moments in Food,” and, initially at least, the Underground Gourmet along with the gluttonous staff at Sandwich of the Week couldn’t have been more pleased had someone sent them a six-foot hoagie. Coming in at No. 2 on the list, you see, right after the harnessing of fire for cooking purposes, was John (4th Earl of Sandwich) Montagu’s invention of the sandwich.
Although the UG had nothing to do with the invention of the sandwich, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pride at having had the good sense over the years to eat so many of them, an act sometimes frowned upon by his foodie friends and colleagues, but now proven prescient by this seemingly astute publication. Sadly, the buoyant mood was short-lived: When we reached the end of the list (Grimod de la Reyniere’s L’Almanach des Gourmands), we came upon a disturbing little sidebar entitled “Hall of Infamy: The ten least glorious moments in food history.” Setting aside the invention of margarine as Waitrose’s pick for the No. 1 worst moment in food history, and getting to the point, here in the ignominious No. 2 slot was the UG’s beloved cheesesteak. “1933 in Philadelphia, Pat Olivieri invents the Cheesesteak,” it read, followed by a real zinger: “Philadelphia is later named the most obese city in America.”
To say that this baffled the UG is to put it mildly. What kind of thinking ranks the sandwich the second best thing ever to happen to food, and then, in a stunningly schizo about-face, declares one of the greatest exemplars of the sandwich genre the second worst thing ever? That’s like ranking the automobile at the top of a list of man’s greatest non-culinary achievements and then denouncing the Ferrari. The only possible explanation is that the editors of Waitrose Food Illustrated have never tasted a true cheesesteak. To right this outstanding wrong, we’re naming the cheesesteak this week’s Sandwich of the Week. And assuming that the Waitrose gang’s palates haven’t already been completely destroyed by a diet of Marmite, chip butties, and Scotch eggs (none of which made it into their Hall of Infamy, by the way), we invite them to New York to try a cheesesteak at any of the following establishments: Shorty’s on Ninth Avenue, 99 miles to philly, Carl’s Steaks, Wogie’s, and Philly Slim’s. Philadelphia, of course, has a few good cheesesteak joints too, including the aforementioned Pat’s, Geno’s, and Jim’s. Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld