Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Hoagie, Philadelphia style

Here in Philadelphia we all know what an Italian Hoagie is. Yes, it's a very popular sandwich! In other states, it goes by the name of submarine or sub, hero, grinder, poor boy, etc. The names vary by region. This type of sandwich originated during the later part of the nineteenth century, in Italian-American communities of the Northeastern United States. It's composed by layering cheese, lunch meats and vegetables onto a sliced Italian roll, and it's flavored with  dressing and spices. Today the hoagie is popular all over the United States, if not the world. It's important to note that the roots of this sandwich are in the working class. It was an inexpensive, familiar, convenient and tasty lunch for immigrants and other laborers to pack and take with them to work.

It is said this sandwich was introduced by Italians working on the Hog Island shipyards. It was called the "Hog Island" sandwich, or hoagie for short. Hog Island was the name of an area southwest of Philadelphia, along the Delaware River. Legend has it that the island was so named because pigs were left by the local residents to roam free, as fences were not needed on a small island. During World War I, the island was turned into a shipyard. Then, during the Great Depression, the US Army Corps of Engineers used silt dredged from shipping channels and joined the island to the mainland.  Today the area is the site of the Philadelphia International Airport.
"Noon time at the canteen - Reading the Hog Island News." (Photograph is from Wikipedia). Besides the hoagie, Hog Island gave its name to the Hog Island 
String Band, which marches each New Year's Day in the traditional Philadelphia Mummers Parade. Performances are posted on You Tube.

Dear Reader, please consider: In a groundbreaking, seminal speech, Ed Rendell (Philadelphia mayor, Pennsylvania governor), declared the hoagie to be the "Official Sandwich of Philadelphia." Wow! We don't play around in Philly! Now, with all the gravitas required, I present you with my own Italian hoagie recipe. It's  really good.

Ingredients (serves 4)

From the Deli Counter, sliced:
1/4 lb Genoa salami 
1/4 lb ham such as Danish 
1/4 lb capicolla 
1/4 lb pepper ham 
1/4 lb provolone cheese 
1/4 lb American cheese 
4 fresh long Italian rolls
2 small or 1 large thinly sliced dill pickle
1 red pepper, roasted, seeded, peeled and sliced
1/2 onion, sliced very thin
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 head of romaine lettuce, sliced thin
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped well
dried oregano, olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper to taste


One of the most important things when making an Italian hoagie is to pick a good type of roll. Choose a freshly baked roll, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Do not get those hotdog type rolls that are soft and elastic. You can have the best deli meats on hand, and the freshest vegetables, but the sandwich will not be good if the roll isn't fresh and crunchy. Slice your rolls lengthwise and sprinkle the insides with olive oil and oregano.  Do not saturate, just use enough to flavor the rolls.

Arrange the American cheese on the rolls, followed by the ham and Genoa salami.  Then layer the vegetables, a few of each on each roll.  Season the vegetables with a little of the oil mixture, oregano and black pepper.  Top with the capicolla, the provolone cheese and the pepper ham.  How much of each to use? Just let your taste buds guide you.  Slice in half or in quarters and serve. With a diet Pepsi.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Antonio Vivaldi's Spring (Allegro-Largo-Allegro), from The Four Seasons.  Julia Fischer, violin, accompanied by the Academy of St.  Martin in the Fields.  Filmed at the National Botanical Gardens of Wales, UK.