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Sep 17, 2008 06:04 PM

What regional foods do people just get wrong?

I am from Philly and my biggest pet peeve are all of the abonomations that they I see called a Philly cheesesteak. A true Philly cheesesteak is thin sliced steak, possibly onions, cheese (american or whiz) on a crusty roll. Done. Why does every "Philly" cheesesteak I see advertised have peppers onions and sauce on it? That is not even close. And don't get me started on other cheese -swiss, mozarella, cheddar. I have even seen roast beef and cheddar sandwiches called a Philly cheesesteak. The worst is the new hot pockets Philly cheesesteak. Ugh.

Does this happen to any other regional foods?

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  1. I think i might have seen some roast beef and cheddar sandwiches being passed off as Philly cheesesteaks around here (Dallas).

    1 Reply
    1. re: iluvtennis

      yeah I used to work at a subshop that actually made great Phillies, and cooked our own roast beef. Some people would get confused and think we used the RB for the Phillies. There are also places around here that do it that way. It's not a philly if it's chopped up roast beef it's just a hot rb and cheese.

    2. New England clam chowder you could cut with a knife.

      1 Reply
      1. re: tatamagouche

        Ooh, that is such a pet peeve of mine.

      2. BBQ
        Growing up in Canada, my family 'barbecued' almost every summer weekend. I soon discovered that it was simple grilling. (BBQ has since become a passion)
        OK, it may be more a case of a misnomer, but I could understand how a true barbecuer's hair would bristle when hearing how a northener 'barbecues'...
        or simply slather KC Masterpiece on meat, cook, and call it BBQ...

        It seems a few years back, cajun was all the rage, but most people didn't have a clue. Want a cajun chicken? Just sprinkle cajun seasoning on it before cooking (whether roasting, frying, grilling, or smoking - don't matter)
        Want cajun shrimp? Just sprinkle some of Emiril's Essence and VOOOila.
        Well, you get the idea.
        I have an interest in cajun/creole/bayou cooking, and perhaps only an inkling on the multitude of nuances involved, but c'mon, I don't think that chicken burger in Nebraska is cajun just cause the short order cook slapped a paprika/chile spice blend on it...

        And on a wider note, many, many ethnic cuisine restaurants who dumb down the flavors for 'north american tastes'.
        OK, I can understand in some instances where small restaurants have to do this for a limited clientele. But when I ask for a spicy dish 'like I had in Mexico' or 'Thailand' or wherever, the cooks are most always timid.
        C'mon, if the traditional dish is supposed to make me sweat, well then bring it on!

        6 Replies
        1. re: porker

          I've realized that in the UK and Australia, grilling is referred to as BBQ (and there's that cliche Ausiie-ism of "throwing it on the barbie"), but then again, they call the broiler the grill, and also don't have American barbecue, so it may be that this is for semantic clarity.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath


            Do not worry, In the US the words barbeque and BBQ have totally different meanings. Take South Carolina for instance - the term BBQ had different connotations and recipes. Though a "son of the Old South," I have to get qualification when these terms come up.

            In really, really general terms, BBQ (and all variations) usually mean some form of slow cooking - almost smoking of meats. Some areas use sauces at various points in the prep. Gilling is cooking over a fire on some sort of "grill," but might encompass different protiens and sauses, or no sauces.

            Just like another thread on the NOLA board, regarding "snowballs," the nomenclature can differ from state to state, and even region to region within those states.

            I do not blame you, especially as you are "looking in." Now, some take this with great seriousness, while others are not such sticklers.

            What were we talking about?


          2. re: porker

            Yep... I think things like this are why so many people say "I don't like _____." It's amazing how many things that are outright bad get perpetrated for perpetuity. Take Cajun. A good Cajun dinner gets replicated into a bad one and the bad one pervasively becomes what's known as Cajun to many people - and they still eat it, a vague memory of something they've never experienced.

            1. re: Cinnamon

              Paul Prudhomme once referred ruefully to bad "Cajun" restaurant fare as "burned fish with a whole lot of red pepper on it."

            2. re: porker

              Agree with you on "barbecue" versus "grilling." In my neck of the woods, a hamburger is not barbecue. Barbecue refers to smoked meat, preferably doused with a sweet tomatoey sauce. But I understand barbecue can raise a lot of controversy depending on what part of the country one is from (or what other countries). No way can fish be barbecue--that is unless your shrimp or salmon have a nice sweet-smokey rub.

            3. Having lived in the Philadelphia area my entire life (4 years out for USAF), I have to tell you, AmblerGirl, that sauce has been around for a long time! I recall going to a place called Berry's in South Philly, where my parents were from, (I think it was at 4th & Jackson but I'm not sure) and getting a cheesesteak with sauce & fried onions and a black-and-white shake. It has to have been 40+ years ago and I can still recall the taste. But, I agree with you about other places. I've been in just about every major city in the US and just about everyone has someone who's selling "Philly Cheesesteaks" that bear no resemblance to what you and I know are the real deal. One other thing - you really need an Amoroso roll to make it authentic!

              4 Replies
              1. re: bucksguy14

                Isn't imitation supposed to be the most sincere form of flattery? Everyone wants to be like Rocky & chow down on a cheesesteak while running up and down those Art Museum steps.

                I'll show my age here.

                When my dad was in pharmacy school in Philly (and my mom in nursing school), they used to take friends to Pat's for steak sandwiches after an evening of festivities (ie. drinking). This was in the late 30's. To hear my dad tell it, Pat's used to have fishbowl-like containers outside with condiments for your sandwiches. There were two bowls of red sauce; one was tomato sauce, not unlike a pizza/pasta sauce, and the other was a hot pepper sauce. You might well guess where the cheesesteak virgins were directed. Go ahead, slather it on! Much laughing, much sputtering, and much pain the morning after! There is a joke my dad used to tell with the punchline "come on, ice cream!", but that story's for another day.

                I think that the reason regional foods get bastardized is that cuisines are continually morphing. Now that TV has opened viewers' eyes to the enormous varieties of ethnic & regional cuisines, home chefs are exposed to things they've never seen before. Savvy marketers pick up on that & play to the trend. Unfortunately, that means creating products that have a better shelf life or have a spice level Joe Lunchbox can accept. If I can't visit San Francisco, I can at least serve my family "Rice-a-roni, that San Francisco treat". I can experience Poland by serving frozen pierogis; pass for a Southerner by ordering a "sweet tea" at my fast food place; be Rocky by eating a cheeseteak Hot Pocket. Is the thing you get at Subway remotely close to a Philadelphia Hoagie?

                Come to think of it, sometimes the morphing of a regional;/ethnic dish creates something new & different. Didn't Italian pasta morph from the Chinese noodles Marco Polo brought back?

                I think the worst "Real Philly Cheesesteak" I ever had was a slab of meat stuck into a soft long roll & smothered in ketchup at the Mall of America in Minnesota. Bleh. Gack. Hey, those Minnesotans/Wisconsinians are the people who also bring you fried cheese curds. We Philadelpians have morphed THOSE into fried mozarella sticks......

                1. re: bucksguy14

                  OK, OK I hear ya on the sauce. I grew up in Philly and never was into the sauce thing, I considered that more of a pizza steak. I went to school in Reading and the cheesesteaks out there had sauce and came on a soft roll! It remionded me of a sloppy joe. To me, it was heresy!

                  For me, whiz and Amoroso rolls all the way!

                  1. re: AmblerGirl

                    Albright was not the center of Philly CS, give me a Philly pork sandwich instead. Went to college in Allentown and Philly CS were not a part of the local scene. Yakko's rule!

                2. What an awesome post! I agree about the cheesesteak. For awhile some national pizza chains were doing cheesesteak pizzas. Groan. And chopped and formed steaks for cheesesteaks. Shudder. I'm from the Philly area too and you can request sauce in some places but most people don't. Agree about the barbecuing too. I'm a Yank but I spent time in Raleigh NC and Gainesville FL and what an eye (and mouth) opener that was! Around PA barbecued beef is like a sloppy joe, always made with hamburger and canned manwich or something. The horror! But at least I have great true cheesesteaks to console me with. I lived in Miami Fl for awhile and got desperate enough to drive fourty five minutes in Miami traffic to get a cheesesteak somewhere. What was I thinking? Oh and what about pizza? I only thought I was eating good pizza until I got a tomato pie from Trenton NJ. Ruined me for life. That reminds me it's time for a road trip!