A Health-Conscious Gastronome’s Tour of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Via the Philadelphia Independence Twitter feed:

Help her out #Philly fans! RT @karinaleblanc Just got in trouble…Cheesesteak = not healthy. What else u got, Philly (that’s healthy)? #wps

Picture of a cheesesteak from Pat's in Philadelphia.
I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that this isn’t good for you.

Being expansion clubs, it’s likely that many Philadelphia Independence and Philadelphia Union players — not just Karina LeBlanc — are unfamiliar with the unique foods of southeastern Pennsylvania and are anxious to try them. It’s also likely that, being professional athletes, they would like to seek out healthy eating options.

While the cheesesteak — grilled mystery meat and onion shreds on a bun smothered in Cheez Whiz —may not be the healthiest dining option, we in this corner of the country have plenty of nutritious foods befitting highly active lifestyles.

Philadelphians cannot live on cheesesteaks alone, which is why there are many other gastronomic emblems of the city. Among them are the soft pretzel: carbohydrate-laden dough baked until fluffy, covered in big chunks of salt, and usually smothered in Cheez Whiz — okay, never mind about that one, either. But never fear, there are also cheese fries: nutritious, all-natural potatoes sliced into strips, deep fried until crispy, and smothered in Cheez Whiz — okay, this clearly isn’t working.

A plate of scrapple.

Scrapple. Appetizing, eh?

While the city of Philadelphia may itself be a cesspool of Cheez Whiz, the surrounding area will certainly have healthier eating options. Let’s look at that wholesome region called “the Pennsylvania Dutch Country,” to which the Independence headquarters in Downingtown is conveniently adjacent. One regional delicacy here is something called “scrapple.” Basically, you take whatever’s still left over after hot dogs have been made, grind it up and press it into a vaguely loaf-like shape with the consistency of chunky pudding intermingled with goo. The best way to serve scrapple is to cut it into slices like bread, fry them up in a pan, and them mash them up with a bucketload of ketchup.

This being Pennsylvania, you must know that there is only one kind of ketchup, and that is Heinz. Nothing else counts.

So maybe scrapple isn’t so healthy, either. But don’t worry, we also have things like “Lebanon bologna” and “sweet bologna.” These are tubes of mystery meat generally made from whatever’s left over after scrapple has been made and eaten in chunks. Another very traditional delicacy is something called “pig stomach,” which, you guessed it, is a pig’s stomach stuffed with sausage, potatoes, and spices, baked for several hours and basted in its own juices.

Shoo-fly pie.

Sugar goo and sugar powder. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, maybe you can forget about meat-based healthy main-course traditional dining options around here. One good local vegetarian (but not vegan) dish is called “corn pie.” Healthy corn, potatoes, and celery are baked into a crusty pie with lots of eggs, butter, whole milk and heavy cream. Okay, maybe you can forget about all healthy main-course traditional dining options around here. But, I’m sure we have some healthy desserts and snacks.

One iconic Pennsylvania Dutch dessert is something called “shoo-fly pie,” which allegedly received its unusual moniker because it is so full of molasses and sugar that it attracts flies. It attracts so many flies, in fact, that you constantly have to shoo them away while eating it. We are also quite proud of our snack foods. The first commercial pretzel bakery in the nation was founded in Lititz, Lancaster County, and our local potato chips are much better than any national brand, probably because we fry them in lard instead of oil.

I won’t even bother getting into Fastnacht Day, and cup cheese should probably never be mentioned by anyone in polite company.

So, in summary, “what else u got” that’s healthy? Nothing. We got nothing. Sorry, folks. Wilkum, and try not to starve while you’re here.

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