Ancient Grease - History of The Philly Cheese Steak


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THE CHEESE STEAK
 
Ancient Grease - History of The Philly Cheese Steak

ANCIENT GREASE
The History of the Seventh Wonder of Philadelphia – The Cheese Steak

Prehistoric man was a hunter-gatherer. Studies of skull and jaw fragments confirm that he was carnivorous, and drawings found on cave walls indicate that he cooked beef on a rudimentary type of grill using a primitive spatula made from animal bones – a practice which continues today in some parts of the world. Anthropologists recently found a tribe of tailgaters cooking meat in this fashion outside Lincoln Financial Field.

Ancient Grease - History of The Philly Cheese Steak

The dawn of the Neolithic period saw the cultivation of crops and the domestication of animals. It was not long before bread, cheese and onions were produced throughout the Near East. A beverage similar to cherry soda was developed in Mesopotamia around 5000-6000 B.C.

Millennia passed. Finally, in the 18th Century, the Earl of Sandwich – one of the Age of Enlightenment’s most gifted men – demonstrated that meat and other organic matter could be placed between two slices of bread to create a “sandwich”.

Ancient Grease - History of The Philly Cheese Steak

Fast-forward to 1930, a mere century and a half later, when a brilliant but humble South Philadelphia hot dog merchant named Pat Olivieri happened upon a discovery that would forever change human history. One day, for no particular reason at all, Olivieri decided to cook some sliced beef on his hot dog grill and place it, along with a few onions, on an Italian roll. A cabdriver who frequented Olivieri’s hot dog stand saw Olivieri eating the curious-looking sandwich and asked for one to go. Pat’s Steaks and the “steak sandwich” were born.

A few years later, someone – perhaps Olivieri himself, or perhaps Chink, or perhaps someone else (but in all likelihood a Philadelphian) – discovered that the flavor of the “steak sandwich” could be further enhanced through the addition of cheese. Thus was born the “cheese steak sandwich”, better known as the “cheese steak” or simply the “steak”.

Ancient Grease - History of The Philly Cheese Steak

Lou Fufken, a resident of West Olney, observed the increasing frequency with which sandwich breakthroughs were occurring, and theorized that the trend would continue at an ever more rapid pace – and that in the future there would be a new sandwich breakthrough every 18 months. “Fufken’s Law” was in many ways similar to “Moore’s Law”, which holds that computer chip processing power will double every 18 months.

It turned out Fufken’s Law was wrong – which is not surprising, considering Fufken was a stupid drunk and nobody in his neighborhood ever listened to him anyway. There were no more breakthroughs. The cheese steak as it existed in the mid-20th Century is pretty much the sandwich it is today, save for a few interesting modifications made possible by Kraft’s introduction of Cheez Whiz in the 1950s.

And there you have it. Behold the Seventh Wonder of Philadelphia – the Cheese Steak! (But don’t behold it too long. It’s getting cold and some of the Cheez Whiz is running off the edge of the counter and onto your shoes.)

Ancient Grease - History of The Philly Cheese Steak

 

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