Lately I've been following discussions about cheesesteaks on the Los Angeles, Bay Area, Boston, and of course, the Pennsylvania boards, and I've noticed many native Philadelphians who've made comments about its authenticity, which brings me to wonder about the origins of the cheesesteak. Is it an Italian-American invention, or is it an Italian-American/Pennsylvania Dutch hybrid invention? The other part of the discussion revolves around the use of Cheese Whiz. I found out that Kraft introduced the product in 1952, and I suppose the widespread use of CW probably happened in the following decade or so which makes the Cheese Whiz cheesesteak only about 40 years old at best. I'll enjoy a Whiz steak, but really, if it's authentic, shouldn't it use an old-world (relatively speaking) cheese like provolone?
OK, so Philly owns the naming rights to the sandwich, and the cheesesteak has evolved into its current incarnation with institutions like Pat's, Gino's, and Jim's, but I'll admit that the best steaks I've had are in the outer regions of Philly, where they seem to have a different view on steaks. Recently I had a cheesesteak (provolone is default) at the White House in Atlantic City which was quite fabulous, and unlike the Philly purists, I like mine loaded with lettuce, tomatoes, just a bit of hots (peppers) and raw onions. I've had a good one on Brigantine Island as well. But the best I've experienced is the cheesesteak hoagie at a local chain in South Jersey called Gaetano's (again, provolone is default).
I'm not even sure where I'm going with this anymore, but I guess I just need a little clarity on the idea of what "authentic" is when talking about cheesesteaks. Now, just gotta find a good one in NYC.