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differences in food cultures

Differences In Food Cultures: Don’t Mess With A Cheesesteak

differences in food cultures

Over the summer I collect ‘little stories’; these snippets that might seem normal to an American living in the United States, but they are my ‘little stories’ because they are situations, conversations, images of how Americans approach food and meals that seem so culturally different to my adopted France. Here is the third ‘little story’ about a Philadelphia foodie faux pas that makes realize that in some foodie ways Americans act totally like the French.

If you missed the last ‘little story’ you can read it here: Differences in Food Cultures: Mindless Eating on 5th Avenue

Differences Between French and American Food Culture: Don’t Mess With Food Traditions!

This ‘little story’ is about a food tradition in Philadelphia, the one and only Philly Cheesesteak. As a foodie girl, I liked what I heard, so much that I did some ‘googling’ on it and realized that in some food culture ways Americans act similar to the French: Don’t Mess With The Food!

In France there are food traditions that you respect like a religion. Baguettes at the table with every meal, the certain way to cut cheese, or the art of apéritifing.  After living in France you learn to accept and adapt to the French obsession with food. It is this strictness with the art of eating and their standard recipes for everyday foods that keep the French food culture a high standard throughout the country. In America, the food culture is more (how could I call it?)relaxed. Pretty much anything goes in America, it is a melting pot of nationalities and there is no strict standard (such as you would see in France) on how people eat or should eat. American cuisine is in constant motion with new food fads and tastes.

So, I was pleasantly surprised and amused when I heard this story on the famous Philadelphia Cheesesteak. So much I wanted to share it with you. ‘Cause I was proud.

Philadelphia Cheesesteaks: Provolone or Whiz, (But never American)

My sister, mom and the crew and I were eating dinner when the conversation changed direction.

“Did you hear,” my mom said,

“That Scott Walker ordered American cheese on his cheesesteak?”

First I didn’t know who Scott Walker was (I know shame on me for not following American politics like I should), although his name sounded familiar. And secondly, I didn’t realize that the type of cheese in a traditional Philly Cheesesteak had food rules. My sister who used to work and live in Philadelphia knew and knows the rules on cheesesteaks. And knows you don’t mess with this food. The two places to buy an authentic cheesesteak are Pat’s or Geno’s , the roll has to be from Philly, and the cheese is either cheese whiz or provolone. And no ketchup!

Apparently Mr. Walker, a GOP presidential candidate broke the food laws in Philadelphia because he ordered his cheesesteak with American cheese. And this didn’t sit well with potential voters in Philly. Note that ordering American cheese is one option on the menu and it is patriotic to use American cheese but this cheesesteak faux pas did not make Mr. Walker look good to some Philadelphians. But he wasn’t the first to err, Mr. John Kerry, then a presidential candidate in 2004 election, also did a Philly cheesesteak faux pas and ordered Swiss cheese for his cheesesteak .

Ah oui, Americans are very proud about food tradition and have food laws too. On the right way to order a Philly Cheesesteak. And on other nostalgic food rules sandwiches.

Other food traditions you don’t want to mess with

differences in food cultures

Philadelphia has cheesesteak, but over here on the Jersey side, we have our own food tradition sandwich that is also keen in the hearts of Jerseyans. This is called a Pork Roll sandwich, but depending on where you live it could be called Taylor Ham. And in Jersey, there is an equally heated debate on what goes on these sandwiches. Move out of Jersey and you see other famous sandwiches with tradition. New York has the Reuben sandwich, Maryland has the soft shell crab sandwich and there are those rules that go with these sandwiches too. You just don’t mess with them.

So, while we can view the French as being a bit uppity and food tradition culturally strict, here is one example of how Americans defend what goes into a proper cheesesteak, or pork roll/taylor ham, reuben, or softshell crab sandwich.

C’est superbe!

Let’s keep those food rules and traditions going. N’est ce pas?

Do you have a traditional food from where you live? A signature sandwich, dessert or drink that has to be made with certain ingredients? Oh, please share!

My next ‘little story’ is about Wonder Bread. Do you know what that is? Follow the ‘little stories’ series this summer to find out. You can receive new articles directly in your inbox by subscribing below. Your email will remain private and you won’t miss an article or the monthly newsletters. Subscribe by clicking here: Subscribe to BrightonYourHealth or on the button below. And I always appreciate when you share my articles.

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Thanks for your support. Warmly, Mary

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3 Responses to Differences In Food Cultures: Don’t Mess With A Cheesesteak

  1. Jennifer @NourishedSimply August 1, 2015 at 14:49 #

    I was born and raised in Philadelphia and love cheese steaks! I make my own though and do use American Cheese (low fat even) and ketchup. Don’t tell Pat’s or Geno’s!!

  2. Michele July 31, 2015 at 16:01 #

    Here in Arizona, guacamole certainly doesn’t have cream which I’ve seen in recipes, restaurants and when I was cooking in France:) Great post!

  3. Sonya July 31, 2015 at 15:31 #

    Yes there is something in common there, for sure! We don’t have any strict rules about food here in San Diego, but maybe I will think of something today. Enjoying this series!

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