On cheesesteaks, ketchup, liberty and The Karate Kid
I'll never forget where I was when I learned the "Subway sandwich artist" title was summarily relegated to the past section of Lawrence Ordone's curriculum vitae.
I was on my couch in East Falls watching The Karate Kid. At the time, Daniel LaRusso was cruising through the opening rounds of the All Valley Karate Tournament. It was then that word came over the transom of a tiff that Ordone, of Orange County, Fla., had with customer Luis Martinez.
Said beef was described as such: "'He wants ketchup on the Philly cheese steak and I have never put — we don't even have ketchup at Subway — I've never put ketchup on anybody's sandwich,' said Ordone."
Words were exchanged, "fight me like a man" threats leveled, suggestions of Martinez going to buy his own darn ketchup were offered and a job was lost.
Yet there I was on the couch neither disturbed by the All Valley cheap shot nor inspired by the redemptive result.
No. I was furious because someone had the gall — a Floridian, no less — to question why someone would put ketchup on a cheesesteak knock-off from a cardboard-cutter "deli."
This, because ketchup is not just a condiment when it comes to the Philadelphia delicacy. It is a necessary ingredient, a topper of a yin to the fried-onion yang.
Some may disagree.
Those tastebud-challenged people are offensively misguided.
First of all, no self-respecting lifelong Philadelphian — or, in my case, having grown up within eyeshot of the PSFS sign — would ever, ever, evereverever hold a chain-store creation up as the culinary standard
One needn't look any further than a 2003 taste-test that I and others conducted for the City Paper.
We sampled the McDonald's "McPhilly Cheesesteak," the Arby's "Philly Beef and Swiss," the Domino's "Philly Cheesesteak Pizza" and the Quizzno's "Philly Cheesesteak." In the story, headlined "Blech!," one reviewer wrote, "This was revolting. I nearly choked trying to get it down."
Point two: While "Blech!" is not an accurate term to describe how a genuine-215-Philly-prepped cheesesteak tastes sans that savory red condiment, "incomplete" is.
You can sit there and try to explain it away as something that "totally ruins" the cheesesteak, as a Twitter friend this morning, even after I declared my "Unfollow Friday" intentions for anyone who doesn't understand these facts of life. (No, I didn't unfollow. Yes, I think less of said friend, and I hope she sees this.)
That is a toothless, phantom argument except for those who think Reese's would be well served taking the peanut butter out of their cups.
(Side note: Fine. Maybe Subway doesn't have ketchup, which is a subject for another day. The reality is this: If they're going to offer knock-off cheesesteaks, they should keep a red stash somewhere, even if hidden from customers' line of vision, if only to protect their standing as a legitimate-foodstuffs provider.)
Listen, I'm not one of those people who buy into the whole foodies-know-best delusion. We all taste things differently. But Barclay Prime's Kobe variety, most cheesesteaks are not. To put a glass case around the $4 sandwich as if you're working security in the Louvre's Mona Lisa wing is Keystone Cop-ian.
In a bad economy, it's never good to see someone lose their job. Here's hoping Ordone finds gainful employment somewhere that doesn't involve serving sustenance, as he apparently knew not what he'd stirred up. But sometimes, examples must be made.
To get all high-and-mighty like Ordone did about protecting the sanctity of an arterial foe is an affront to all that's good about America's birthplace.
It's worse than turning one's nose up (well, down) at scrapple.
It's worse than pretending the Al Alberts Show wasn't kinda creepy sometimes.
It's worse than refusing to break ranks with your Cobra Kai brethren and taking the easy way out of any endeavor.
And most of all, it's worse than making statements so patently offensive that a guy's heart can't be warmed while watching The Karate Kid on his couch.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to get myself a cheesesteak, extra ketchup, hold the attitude.