Thursday, August 30, 2007


I am a poser-vegetarian. Meaning, that when trying to decide between the cheeseburger and the black pinto bean burger, nine times out of ten I'll go with the veggie option. This is primarily for health reasons and to rationalize the ice cream that I had eaten for breakfast. I say "poser vegetarian" because I sometimes get the urge to transform my (admittedly preppy) self into one of those skinny-jeans-wearing, tofu-loving hipster chicks that frequent my West Philadelphia 'hood.

So, where do the vegetarian hippies and hipsters go when they crave a hoagie, one of the staples of the Philadelphian's diet? They flock to the Fu Wah Market, located on 47 th and Baltimore Ave., where they can purchase one of the famous tofu hoagies for a mere $3.00 and change. Personally, I have been dying to go to this place for ages. It's cheap, quick, and convenient, but some of my die-hard carnivore friends bemoan the bastardization of their precious hoagie when I beg them to join me in my quest.

Last night, however, I got my chance. When I sat down to unwrap my hoagie, I discovered a pleasantly spicy and fresh cilantro smell wafting from the wrapping. Thanks to the Vietnamese-influence of the Fu Wah owners, the spices were incredible. Sweet onions and tiny slices of carrot garnished the top of the hoagie roll. I had never tasted such sweet onions in my life! To compliment the sweetness, a few lone jalapeƱo peppers lay hidden under the layers of fried tofu, which made for a tantalizing combination of sweet and (very) spicy. Of course, one could ask the hoagie-makers to hold the peppers, but I do so enjoy living on the edge. The tofu itself had been marinated in some type of cilantro-Asian/fusion mixture and then fried, but the firmness of the tofu had not been ruined by the marinade.

The only caveat that I have with the "tofugie" is that the bread was sub-par. The white bread (I usually prefer wheat) was too crusty and mundane for my liking. Bread can definitely make or break a sandwich and this hoagie roll sadly didn't do the tofu justice. But for a mere $3, I'd return to this vegetarian's heaven again and again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hoagies or subs?

–noun, plural -gies. New Jersey and Pennsylvania (chiefly Philadelphia ).
a hero sandwich.
Also, hoagie.

[Origin: 1965–70, Americanism; a number of anecdotal hypotheses have been advanced as to the orig. of the word, most claiming it to be derivative of hog, either in reference to pork as an ingredient, or as an epithet for a person capable of eating such a sandwich, or alluding to Hog Island, an industrial and shipping area of South Philadelphia; but corroborating evidence is lacking; see
-ie ]

Cheesy here. Its been a busy week and will only get busier: I’m moving out of University City—escaping the returning UPenn students—and into the Graduate Hospital area of Center City. There has not been much in the way of culinary adventures or experiments in the kitchen. I’ve finally lost most of my patience with my present kitchen—small, dirty, badly stocked. That’s what I get for a sublet!

So I decided: instead of an account of a fine dish in a restaurant or one of my own failures or successes, I’d ruminate on something that’s been bothering me ever since I came from Virginia to the Philadelphia area: the word hoagie.

In my youth, I always knew this fine specimen of a sandwich to be a ‘sub’, short for submarine. So I looked submarine up, along with hoagie, at

The long sandwich featuring layers of meat and cheese on a crusty Italian roll or French bread goes by a variety of names. These names are not distributed in a pattern similar to that of other regional words because their use depends on the business and marketing enterprise of the people who create the sandwiches and sell them. Submarine and sub are widespread terms, not assignable to any particular region. Many of the localized terms are clustered in the northeast United States, where the greatest numbers of Italian Americans live. In Maine, it is called an Italian sandwich, befitting its heritage. Elsewhere in New England and in Sacramento, California, it is often called a grinder. New York City knows it as a hero. In the Delaware Valley, including Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, the sandwich is called a hoagie. Speakers in Miami use the name Cuban sandwich. Along the Gulf Coast the same sandwich is often called a poor boy. In New Orleans, a poor boy is likely to be offered in a version featuring fried oysters.

When I was still in college—this was about 3 years ago during my sophomore year when I was courting my first girlfriend—I would say, “Gosh, I’d like to eat an Italian sub right now.” I’d get a look. I would repeat myself, in case I was somehow misunderstood. Then I would get the inevitable response: “You mean, an Italian hoagie, right?”

This happened a few times, and every time I wondered, where did this strange word ‘hoagie’ come from? Why is Philadelphia so strange? So, today at work, I went looking for some answers. One is supplied above. Here’s another:

Amer.Eng. (originally Philadelphia) "hero, large sandwich made from a long, split roll," originally hoggie (c.1936), traditionally said to be named for Big Band songwriter Hoagland Howard "Hoagy" Carmichael (1899-1981), but the use of the word pre-dates his celebrity and the original spelling seems to suggest another source. Modern spelling is c.1945, and may have been altered by influence of Carmichael's nickname.

Wikipedia reports:
According to one reference[3], many older, Italian-descended, South Philadelphia residents, said that the real origin of the word "hoagie" arose in the late 19th-early 20th century, when there was a term "on the hoke" that was used to denote someone who was down-and-out. The word "hoke" may have been derived from a Scottish term, "howk," meaning "rummaging around." Men who were "on the hoke" would ask deli owners for handouts, who would put together scraps and off-cuts of their cheeses and meats and offer them in an Italian roll. The sandwich was known as a "hokie." The Italian immigrants, who spoke a slurred type of English, pronounced it as "hoagie."
Apparently, according to Mayor Ed Rendell, the hoagie if the official sandwich of Philadelphia (what? What happened to the famous Philly cheesesteak?). And May 5th is National Hoagie Day. Now that’s something to celebrate!

Friday, August 24, 2007

And now for....Queesy

It's a hard life, growing up in a family of extraordinary cooks. Why so difficult? Well, after years of being pampered/catered to, I had discovered that I had never learned how to cook for myself! However, this does not mean that I am…not inventive…with my own food concoctions:

Exhibit A: chocolate donut, circa 1999

Hypothesis: Chocolate is ALWAYS better when melted and gooey. Therefore, chocolate + donut + microwave = brilliant.

The burning and melting that ensued delayed my willingness to experiment with food for several more years. Which brings me to the present day…

…and the reason that I (as opposed to my cooking-inclined cohort) will be presenting the forthcoming column "What Not to Eat". Brace your stomachs, readers, you're in for a bumpy ride.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Call me Cheesy...

The chicken browned quite nicely and the shallots gave off their comforting smell as I prepared to pour in the chicken broth and white wine. Mmmm…this dish—braised chicken and red potatoes in a tarragon broth—had all the comforting smells of chicken soup with an added whiff of something more exotic. Of course, the exoticism could have been due to the tarragon or the fact that the white wine I had on hand to cook with was Carlo Rossi Chablis….

Since this is a first entry, I guess I should hold off on the food and talk about myself for a moment. I’m a (very) recent graduate from a women’s college and I’m living in Philadelphia for the time being as I work, muddle around the world, and decided what to do with myself. And I love food…talking about food, eating food, making food, looking at food, dreaming…you get the picture, right?

Now I’m not an expert chef, nor have I been cooking avidly for very long—only about a year. But I like to experiment and play with recipes, even if they do go badly sometimes (there’s a curry turkey dish that I made on accident that was special indeed…). And combined with my fellow cheeseordeath writer’s love of food (and our mutual passion for cheese), we decided it would be fun to give ourselves a forum by which we communicate our food joys and sorrows with the larger world. So here it is. Welcome to I’ll call myself Cheesy (it works, really it does).

So, the braised chicken dish actually turned out really well. It was like a mix between a stew and a soup—without being either in reality. It was aromatic and hot and comforting, really just like a slightly more sophisticated version of your grandma’s chicken soup (in fact, I made it for a friend—let’s call him the Critic—who said it reminded him of something homey and family-oriented but he couldn’t put his finger on it). It wasn’t too salty, and the chicken and potatoes were nice and tender. The broth, however, was the real kicker. It was SO GOOD. It was robustly delicate (if such a thing can happen) and full of flavor.

I liked this dish so much that I’m going to experiment with it. I think that beef, beef broth, and red wine would make a different, yet just as yummy, variation on the recipe. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll post the recipe later, if wanted. Make sure to serve with a nice piece of crusty bread!