We live mere minutes from Philadelphia: Philly, The City of Brotherly Love, or as we locals sometimes unaffectionately call it, "Filthadelphia" (though I'm sure with this area's penchant for spelling any word that begins with an F and has anything whatsoever to do with Philadelphia with a PH instead--think Philly Phans, Philly Phun, the Philly Phanatic, the Philly Phlash--I should spell it "Philthadelphia" but that is just a few too many "H"s in one word for me).
We call it Philly. It's shorter and to the point. I don't know any locals who call it Philadelphia, now that I think about it. And with our accent it's usually pronounced more like, "Philwy". Only the "L" is silent. The Philly "L" drop is not quite as pronounced as the Pittsburgh drop, but it's still there. Now you know.
So, why am I droning on about this? Well, as you probably know, Philly is known for, among other things, Ben Franklin! We have the Ben Franklin bridge, Ben Franklin parkway, numerous statues and memorials, his grave, countless impersonators and (I'm getting to my point) The Franklin Institute!
Ah, The Franklin Institute: destination of South Jersey first-grade-class field trips for over thirty years! You get to walk through a HEART! While it's BEATING! For some reason that was (and still is) so eye-poppingly cool!
Apparently, and I discovered this from a Homeschooling website, TFI has a free community night every third Wednesday evening of nearly every month. And yesterday was the third Wednesday of October. So Daria took Man-Cub for a fun-filled, excuse me, phun-philled, not to mention PHREE, evening!
One of the best things about going from South Jersey into Philly is taking the PATCO, which we call the Speedline and is just the train line that connects SJ to Philly. This was always a huge treat when we were kids and my kids feel the same way today. Man-Cub was almost as excited about that as we was about going to the museum.
My part was easy as pie: I dropped them off at the train station and then, three hours later, rode as Mom's passenger to drive in and pick them up. Man-Cub got into the car all breathless and glowing, chattering non-stop about the many wondrous things he got to see and do, despite not being able to see Jupiter and its moons at the Observatory because of the cloudy skies. They had a great time (even though the Cleopatra exhibit we've all been dying to see was stingily closed for the evening) and are even talking about going back next month!
And then, as we were making our way to the bridge, Man-Cub piped up, "I'm HUNGRY!" Daria chimed in, "Yeah, me too...you know, I've never had a Philly cheesesteak..." Mom couldn't believe that Daria had lived 20 minutes away from Philly for 26 years and never had an authentic cheesesteak! Then I timidly added, "I've never had one either!" I've had many cheesesteaks, many great cheesesteaks, but only from South Jersey where, truth be told, the cheesesteaks are just as good as in Philly.
Well, that did it. Mom made a sharp turn to the left and next thing we knew we were on South Street where we had to cleverly turn Man-Cub's attention in different directions a few times to avoid giving him the kind of education no nine-year-old boy should have. There are some...unique shops on South Street. You'll know what I mean if you've been there. Or on St. Mark's Place in the East Village.
Anyway...Mom knows a thing or two about Philly (honestly, she's the best Philly tour guide I've ever seen and an historical trip for both my children is being planned even now) so she took us to her favorite cheesesteak shop.
I know what you're thinking, "Was it Pat's or Geno's? Or even Tony Luke's?"
NO! I'm sorry, but a real, authentic, original cheesesteak does NOT have whiz on it! And that's Cheese Whiz in case you're worried and grossed out. Which you should be even after knowing it's Cheese Whiz! Cheesesteaks have been in existence before Cheese Whiz ever was! You get AMERICAN cheese on a cheesesteak (maybe provolone if you're feeling extra fancy) and it HAS to be on a soft Amoroso's roll and nothing else.
We went to Jim's Steaks a small hole-in-the-wall with its own walls covered with signed photos and napkins of the many stars and other notables who have eaten there. They do make steaks with whiz, but you can choose between that, American or provolone. Man-Cub went purist by ordering a steak sandwich, no cheese, no onions, I went Old School with the American cheesesteak and Daria went fancy with the provolone cheesesteak. We made the cashier's day by handing her $14 worth of Susan B. Anthony coins we'd been lugging around courtesy of the ticket machine at the Speedline (they were gold and made us feel like pirates) and Mom thoroughly impressed Man-Cub by leading us through the back of the shop to the "secret" side door near the service entrance.
I gotta tell ya, there's nothing more Philly than eating a cheesesteak in the car while driving across the Ben Franklin bridge into Jersey. We had a blast. And those cheesesteaks were divine!