Today is a sad day, a day of sorrow, a day of mourning. Today is the day we eulogize the passing of Harry Olivieri, the inventor of the Philadelphia cheesesteak.
Philadelphia is a grand old city. It is chock full of history. History with a big crack down its middle. History that can be viewed in art form and misunderstood. History full of rolling hills and lazy arthritic deer. Black history. White history. But there is only one kind of history in Philadelphia that can be smothered with onions and cheese and devoured to the accompaniment of beer. That is the Philadelphia cheesesteak.
I remember the first time I had a Philadelphia cheesesteak. It was four years ago and I had just arrived in this city, hungry, scared, broke and with a car full of plastic rectangles I had purchased in Walmart and didn't want to throw away when I moved. I had been unemployed for four months and had forgotten what meat looked like. Or cheese.
That is why when the city embraced me with open arms and handed me a big cheesesteak, I did not know what to do with it. I held it against the light and it was beautiful. I sniffed it and it smelt of happiness. I grazed my lips against it and it tasted of sunshine. I placed it on the carpet and knelt in reverence. I kept it on paper and traced its outline. I sang to it. I fixed it a bubble bath and lowered it into the bathtub. It sank to the bottom. That was not a smart thing to do. I went and bought another.
I ate this one. Anyone who's ever eaten a Philly cheesesteak can never have amorous relations with an ordinary sandwich with the same passion again. The combination of thinly sliced ribeye steak, cheese, onions and sometimes mushrooms, depending on whether you are gay or not, on a long roll is something every person on this planet needs to experience at least once during his lifetime.
This is historic Pat's King of Steaks, the place in South Philadelphia where the first ever cheesesteak was invented by Mr Harry Olivieri and his brother, Pat. I once biked 30 miles from Valley Forge to Pat's Steaks and back. It was my pilgrimage, my homage to this extraordinary sandwich that is virtually a food group for most Philadelphians, along with pizza, beer and hookers.
Rest in peace Mr Olivieri. Thinly sliced. Smothered in onions. And drizzled with cheese, of course.