Food For Thought: Is It Time For Philly To Just Let The World Have The Cheesesteak Already?

BY JOEY SWEENEY

There is a point in everyone’s life where the physical thing that identifies them, that defines them for others, comes to be an oppressive symbol of the ways in which they’ve boxed themselves in. Might it be the same for places and foods? And might it not be better, in the interest of the greater good for all, to stop guarding that item, that totem of identity so closely? Not so that all might enjoy it and experiment with it free from scorn, but also so that its original holder might breathe new air, forge new ways, do new things?

You know I’m talking about the cheesesteak, my babies: Perhaps we should let it go. And by "let it go,” I don’t mean disavow it, forget we were ever in a long-term (often abusive) relationship with it. That is public record; that cannot be erased. And furthermore, those who forget the past (as if we ever could, Philadelphians hold grudges measured in geologic time) are doomed to repeat it. That’s not what I’m talking about: I’m talking about the way we cringe when we travel and see “Philly cheesesteak” on any menu anywhere and roll our eyes and snap photos and send them to, well, my inbox almost exclusively, it feels like. 

Because here is the thing: The cheesesteak belongs to the world now. We’re just the last people to process that, work it through our emotions, and acknowledge it as a fact. We have given the world the cheesesteak, for better or for worse. Do we really want to the be the type of people who give a gift and then make fun of other people for using that gift? Can you imagine if this happened with all foods? We’d have to live on nothing but cheesesteaks, just to have a clear conscience. (I know some of you out there do, and while I applaud your resolve, you and I both know that you are broken.)

Meanwhile, look! David Chang is now fucking around with the cheesesteak! And, #sorrynotsorry, it looks fucking amazing. Do you see? Joey Vento is dead. Our long nightmare of cheesesteak xenophobia can be over. In our hearts — in some of our hearts, our clogged-up, coughing, drunken hearts — it already is.