Food Fights: The Difference Between Cheesesteak and BBQ Lovers

Ed. Note: Long-time Simmer favorite Belmontmedina is pretty pissed off about what a certain Washington Post reporter tweeted yesterday. Let the rant begin.

The Washington Post‘s Tim Carman (who I am quite fond of, since his days helming the food coverage at Washington City Paper) ventured this opinion on twitter yesterday, pictured above.


Pizza and burgers I get. I am obsessive about pizza. Everyone has a favorite crust, preferred toppings, feelings about sauce (classic Neapolitan with buffalo mozz for me please). And burgers…well, you’re talking to a girl who stuffs various cuts of meat in her grinder like a mad scientist (chicken burgers are actually quite tasty with ground thighs). But Cheesesteaks? Not igniting the passion of BBQ? Please.

Let’s examine, shall we?

Pizza and burgers are pretty universal, with various regions claiming various styles. So it makes sense that pizza and burgers would inspire strong convictions across the board. But I am under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that no one outside Philly and its immediate environs cares about cheesesteaks. (Except, of course, for those transplants that insist on irritating the rest of us by going on and on about cheesesteaks and the Eagles– sorry gansie).

But I’ll be charitable. Let’s give the cheesesteak-ers the Eastern seaboard from DC to Boston and the entire state of Pennsylvania, although I hear Pittsburgh is more Primanti Bros. than cheesesteak. Done.

Moving on to BBQ. I think we can all agree it inspires great passion. There are books. There are maps. There is an episode of Good Eats. You can immediately tell where someone is from based on their barbecue allegiance.

Brisket? Probably a Texan. Pork? Probably the Carolinas. Burnt ends? A Kansas City specialty. Dry rub ribs? Hello, Memphis! Hell, I can tell you where you’re from in North Carolina based on your barbecue sauce preference and/or what part of the pig you’re eating (Lexington style for me, please). So that’s what…Virginia, south of Richmond, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and large chunks of of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky. Lest you think this is an unhinged ranter (which it is), let’s go with something marginally more scientific.An Amazon book search for “cheesesteak” gives me 155 results.  “Barbecue” yields closer to 3,600. Google? Barbecue gives you about 136 million results, compared to 5 million for cheesesteak. It’s a little closer for poems about cheesesteaks (1.99 million) versus poems about barbecue (2.26 million). Poems not your thing? There are 8.2 million hits for songs about barbecue, but only about 750,000 for songs about cheesesteaks.

All this is to say, Mr. Carman, sir, I respectfully disagree. People feel just as strongly about barbeque as they do about cheesesteaks. In fact, while I can’t speak to the strength of their feelings, I would go so far as to say there are more people out there who feel strongly about barbeque than there are cheesesteaks.

Bottom line, pizza and burgers obviously warrant inclusion on any list of  “foods people get overly enraged about.” But if cheesesteaks warrant inclusion as well, it is an egregious sin—on par with putting cheese on your pulled pork sandwich— to omit barbecue.

I mean, for heaven’s sake, I just wrote 500 words about it. Doesn’t that count for something?

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  • BS September 15, 2011  

    awesome research. I never would have thought to do a google poem search.

  • September 15, 2011  

    I mean, if BBQ can’t inspire poetry, what can?

  • Lexa September 15, 2011  

    Being from RI, I am happy to supply you with an epic lobster roll rant. Other than that…I have failed you.

  • Benji September 15, 2011  

    If Tim wants to see a strong opinion I would like to invite him to the Lexington BBQ Festival in Lexington, NC. I’ll let him tell a few people that eastern style is better or that Texan BBQ is supreme. When he’s done he’ll know the passion that BBQ lovers have.

  • John September 16, 2011  

    BBQ clearly outclasses cheesesteak, but if anything, I would push burgers off of the list. Not that burger lovers aren’t passionate, but I just don’t hear as many arguements about burgers as other types of food, even cheesesteak…and I live in Idaho. I think burger fans are just more inclusive; make a good patty and we can dress it however we want, but BBQ and pizza’s flavors are cooked in, and a cheesesteak is a more firm archetype.

  • BS September 16, 2011  

    I agree with John. Everyone loves burgers – but they’re not controversial.

  • Jeremy September 25, 2011  

    Growing up I was under the impression that all barbecue was Eastern Carolina pulled pork covered in vinegar sauce barbecue. Upon growing up I can confirm this fact without any doubt. without any doubt.

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