A Helpful Hint For Our Candidates

FACT: When I grow weary of political minutiae, things are very, very wrong. As those who know me best will tell you, I thrive on the smallest bits of political dirt. I revel in which low level staffer said what to whom and how that might, out of a voting populace of millions, change a single vote. That’s just how it is. Some people geek out over video games or music or sports stats, I geek out over whether Congressman Ivenever Beenim Portantbefore, esq., will have a measurable effect on a race with his endorsement.

I’m not at the breaking point yet, but I’m getting there, and with just under three weeks to go until yet another state holds a primary that is becoming decreasingly significant, I figured I’d better step in to prevent that breaking point from actually being reached.

Since the two Democrats started feuding over Pennsylvania, I’ve been in permanent cringe mode. For all the pitfalls that await any given candidate in any given state, there’s a little city, you might have heard of it, it’s called Philadelphia, that has one of the hugest. This catastrophe in waiting has taken out politicians before, and it will take them out in the future, and the last thing we need in such a hotly contested race is for this ugly little monster to rear its ugly head.

I’m speaking, of course, about the ordering of a Philly Cheese Steak.

For those of you who have never been, you may not see the big deal. Half the restaurants in the world have them, what’s so hard about saying, “I’ll have a Philly Cheese Steak, please?” The more clever of you out there may have figured out that being in Philly means you should probably drop the “Philly” from your order.

But you would be wrong. Ordering a steak wrong could lead to mass embarrassment, heckling, beatings, and in the most severe cases, death. For politicians who are expected to not only be able to single-handedly solve all of the world’s problems, but are also required to bowl at a semi-professional level, the stakes are higher.

Because we all know that partaking in good ol’ Americana is absolutely vital to serving as the chief executive of a nation of about 300 billion people.

So I’m here to help guide you through the pitfalls of ordering that landmark of American cuisine: the Philly Cheese Steak.

First, there are only two places in the world to get an actual Philly Cheese Steak: Pat’s King of Steaks, or Geno’s Steaks. On the upside, when you’ve found one, you’ve found the other since they are right across the street from each other. On the downside, they are sworn enemies in a blood pact of mutual annihilation with half the town allied behind one or the other.

Now, Geno’s looks glitzier with flashy signs and sparkling bright-works, but you want to go to the place that looks like a rundown tool shed instead. Pat’s is older, and in my personal opinion, better. I’ll have more on selecting which one to eat at later on.

You now have to actually order. As you wait in that long line that seems to wrap around the little shack several times over, you will notice a sign. You see signs like this all over the place just about everywhere you go, and you will think to yourself, ‘How quaint,’ before you go back to listening to your communications director who insists that he can put nude photos of your opponent in a thirty second tv spot that will guarantee you the race.

At this point you are screwing up. Read the sign. Memorize the sign. Love the sign. In fact, take a picture of it, and keep it in your wallet because if you’re lucky, you may just win and have to come back here for your reelection bid.

This is what it says:


Step 1. Specify if you want your steak with (wit) or without (wit-out) onions. (if you’re not a rookie, this should come naturally)

Step 2. Specify Plain, Cheese Wiz, Provolone, American Cheese or a Pizza Steak. (if we have to read your mind, it’s 50 cents extra)

Step 3. Have your money ready. (Do all your borrowing in line)

Step 4. Practice all of the above while waiting in line. (if you make a mistake, don’t panic, just go to the back of the line and start over)

The bit about going to the back of the line is not a joke. I saw a girl, probably eighteen years old at the most, wait in line for twenty minutes before she got to the window. She stuttered for thirty seconds before the guy at the window waved his spatula at her and sent her crying back to the end of the line. If this happens to you, forget it, you’re done as a politician and you may as well start handing your resume out to the finest high level corporate law firms and lobbying organizations you can imagine and hope none of them read about your debacle in the newspaper.

Despite the sign and the menu, it doesn’t matter what you want, what you like, or what they offer. Once you get to that window, only two words should come out of your mouth: “Wit Whiz.” If you absolutely, positively cannot stand grilled onions, you can get by with “Wit-out”, but you better have your spin team ready with a damn good excuse. We don’t want someone who’s not manly or womanly enough to handle onions like a true American.

As you order, do not stop moving. At this point you should be adopting the head-of-the-line shuffle that doesn’t really carry you any place but at least gives the impression of forward progress. Put your money in the first open hand behind the counter you see, and your sandwich should already be waiting for you.

Now comes the real hard part; actually eating the thing. For True Americans like us, our hardened arteries are more than up to the task of eating this sandwich. Being the ultra-liberal undercover Frenchy you are, your squishy and weak arteries are probably not going to be ready for this. You may die. The cholesterol and grease overload may kill you, but then, this is what you signed up for, so quit whining like a little bitty baby.

You are allowed no more than three napkins. Any more, and you are done for.

You are allowed to let only the grease drip from the sandwich; if any chunk of steak or dollop of cheese hits your napkin, I suggest a career change to zoo keeper or non-American citizen.

The lower half of your face must glisten with a moderate coat of grease.

You are not allowed to talk during the eating of your sandwich, you are only allowed intense groans of pleasure. If the sandwich is not actually causing you pleasure, fake it.

The only facial expression you are allowed to have is the one where you furrow your eyebrows and close your eyes in sheer ecstasy. By looking at you and listening to you, people must assume that this sandwich is several orders above having sex in the hierarchy of personal sensation.

When you are done, you must lean back, wipe your hands on your pants (wear cheap pants this day), and pat your belly in mild contentment.

Now, you may be done, but remember, there are two of these places, and both have a passionate, almost creepy following. If you eat only at Pat’s, you risk losing the support of every Geno’s follower out there, and vice versa. So while your belly is probably plotting a gruesome and brutal revenge against you, you must pick yourself up and head across the street.

Repeat all of the above, right down to the near orgasmic moans of delight upon tasting such a delicacy.

When you are done, you’re not just not going to feel like talking, but you’re not going to feel like moving. You’re probably going to want to crawl into a cave and sleep for the next few months, but while all of this has been happening, half of the journalists in the world have abandoned their stories because nothing, and I mean nothing, is more important than the question you are about to hear next.

“Which one was better?”

The Chinese using force against Buddhists doesn’t touch the sheer geopolitical ramifications of your answer, the dynamics of the recent show of force between Sadrists and Maliki’s government in Iraq is a drop in the bucket compared to this cosmically crucial decision.

The economy is taking a nose dive, crime is on the rise, people are losing jobs, a man who actually had Moses on his Christmas card list is running for president, and none of it, not one bit of it, is as important as what you say next.

Obviously, you can not say one sandwich is better than the other. No, no you can’t. But that’s all right, you did your homework. You sent small teams to canvass these places before you even got there. You hired culinary experts, master chefs, and food critics from around the world to analyze the differences between the two sandwiches. You put these people in the same room with your speech writers who all came together with the perfect response which you now give.

“Both sandwiches were excellent in different ways, and I don’t even think you can compare them. Pat’s steak has a rich, earthy taste to it, with just a hint of spice and tang. It’s hearty and yet amazingly smooth. Geno’s, on the other hand, is bold and sharp, with a kind of airy zip to it that gives you a kick. They are each, in their own way, the best steaks I’ve ever had.”

YES! You nailed it! You have achieved political Nirvana; taking an apple to apple comparison and turning it into an apple to orange comparison. You are smoother than smooth and there’s no way anyone can take that answer and turn it against you.

Feeling bloated and limp, you return to your car pool, and head back to the local campaign headquarters. The entire staff is huddled around the tv. They’re watching Fox. Teutonic Pretty Boy number one is saying, “And Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Obama stopped off at the two most famous Philly Cheese Steak restaurants in America.” Teutonic Pretty Boy number two says, “Yes she did, Teutonic Pretty Boy number one. He ate at both Pat’s and Geno’s and this is what she had to say.”

They roll the clip.

Teutonic Pretty Boy number one grins, and says, “Who talks about cheese steaks like that?”

“Oh, I know, it’s ridiculous. Senator Obama, it’s a steak sandwich, not a bottle of wine.”

“You know, I think this just proves that Hillary is out of touch with your average American.”

After all that hard work, and taking five years off of your life span, you managed to get pegged as un-American anyway.

Of course, you could save us all the trouble and just talk about the damn issues.

(editorial blessing from DrGail)

3 Responses to “A Helpful Hint For Our Candidates”

  1. Mark says:

    Being married to a lifelong Philly girl, I need to add a few corrections/additions to this post:
    1. There are, in fact, three places to order a proper ‘Steak. A large number of in-the-know Philadelphians will tell you that the greasiest, most delicious cheese steak can be had at Jim’s on South Street. Most days, the line at Jim’s is just as long as the lines at Pat’s and Geno’s. Depending on your viewpoint, the media’s long-standing ignorance of Jim’s is either the grossest oversight in the history of food journalism or a complete godsend that is the only thing keeping the line at Jim’s tolerable.
    2. Lest we forget, John Kerry committed the gravest cheese steak – related sin in American political history in 2004 when he ordered his cheese steak with lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise, and swiss cheese. Although all Philly cheese steaks are officially made to order (contrary to popular belief, one need not have peppers and onions to make a Philly cheese steak), it is commonly understood that one’s order must be limited to “Provie” or “Whiz” for the cheese and that the only permissible vegetables are peppers, onions, and – if you’re really good and lucky – mushrooms. While Kerry held on to the state of Pennsylvania, it is plausible that his grievous affront to cheese steak etiquette cost him the votes of several thousand transplanted Philadelphians in Ohio.

  2. MARK!!!!!! Thanks for the update. Actually, I had Kerry in mind when I wrote this because I knew he did gaffe on his order, I just couldn’t remember what that gaffe was specifically.

    Actually, I only been once. My friend had a bachelor’s party up in Atlantic City, and on the way back down to Virginia we stopped in Philly to get us some ‘steaks. We ate at both places, and really, I did like Pat’s better.

    I think I’ve heard about your other one, I got a coworker who’s from there and says he always gets his from another place, but I’m not sure what the name was.

  3. Dustin says:

    You two are welcome to your Philly steaks, I’ll stick with my good old Wisconsin cheddar burger w/ sauerkraut & bacon.

    The way I see it if you don’t like the local food in an area don’t make diners and other places for food a focal point of your campaign. It’s useless trivia but the media loves it at the expense of everything else. If you screw up and “look bad”? All the better.

    You could be 100% about every issue that matters but if you for one second look like an out-of-touch tourist during a campaign stop you’ll get crucified by the media.

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