My upbringing was fairly well-rounded in some ways. Some of my favorite memories with my Dad are Sundays.
He’d go to church, my three older brothers and I to Sunday school. As my brothers got older, they became choir boys. In name only.
Mom would stay home – communing in much needed peace and quiet.
Often after church, we would stop at Hymie’s, a Jewish deli, get bagels and bialies with lox, capers, and cream cheese, and French style donuts and bring them home to eat with Mom. With three older brothers, fortunately everyone else liked chocolate and I liked vanilla.
After lunch, Dad would take us for drive.
Sometimes, instead of stopping at the deli, we’d pick up Mom and go to Pat’s for a cheese steak downtown Philly. They were delicious in the 60’s.
And then for the historic drive where we would go see the historic Swedish church or the liberty bell (before they moved it) or Independence Hall or Betsy Ross’ house.
Having extolled its virtues and filled with great memories, I took General Yeager to the historic Pat’s a few years ago to try a true Philly cheese steak. It had probably been 20 years or more since I had last been to Pat’s which claim to have originated the cheese steak, been around for over 80 years, and call themselves the King of Steaks.
Lots of places serve “Philly cheesesteaks” but none like Pat’s, as I remembered them. Many others serve them with peppers. Not Pat’s. I suppose you could get them, but they weren’t the regular fare.
With excited anticipation of finally a great Philly cheese steak and sharing some of the best of my childhood with Gen Yeager, I got in line and asked for two cheese steaks.
Server barked, “Wid or widout?”
I was stumped but my Phili language did come back: “Wid or widout what?”
It was such a conveyor belt he didn’t have time for me – just barked, “Next!”
I stepped back and watched, determined to get a cheesesteak.
They now take the roll, put the cheese on the roll, slap the thinly sliced steak on there hoping the hot steak will melt the cheese enough. “Wid or widout” meant onions.
I practiced mentally and then got in line again.
This time I was ready.
“Wid or widout?”
“Wid,” I said.
“”What?” he replied. Guess I lost my Philly accent abilities
“Wid!” he yelled.
Oops I missed this one.
l”Whiz what?” (Was “whiz” the new “wid”?)
I winced as I was afraid I’d be kicked out of line again. It was getting embarrassing. But fortunately the line had abated and he had more time for me. Or just took pity.
Ewww. “No, thank you.”
“No whiz!” he yelled.
I got and paid for the cheese steaks. General Yeager and I sat down at a table.
As I unwrapped them, the grease from our cheese steaks started pouring off the table. They weren’t too awful but they weren’t like what we had in the ’60’s.
I have never been to Gino’s, the big rival across the street, and rather wished we had gotten one cheese steak from Gino’s and one from Pat’s so we could intelligently join the debate as to which was better. (Gino’s looked pretty greasy, too, though.)
With all that grease, Gen Yeager was not impressed.
We then went to see the Swedish church. Still there. Unchanged. Historic. Beautiful. No “whiz”.
I’m going to ask the Boys, (the older brothers/family I choose) as in Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban. They’ll know the best place to get a great Philly cheese steak.
And I’ll try again with General Yeager
It’s a Philly thing.