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What Makes a Po-Boy a Po-Boy? Three important things

 

OK so a lot of people wonder what the heck is a New Orleans po-boy (or poor boy), I mean in the sense what makes it different from say a sub sandwich and the like.

 

What Makes a Po-Boy a Po-Boy? Three important things

new orleans shrimp po-boy

An authentic New Orleans Po-boy. Take a good look at it, it ain’t no Subway, and you can only get it in New Orleans.

Well, first of all the only place you can get a po-boy is in New Orleans. OK. You can get one in Metairie and maybe Kenner but the fact is that a po-boy is only got in New Orleans.

You can go to a Subway sandwich shop and get one of their sandwiches, and it looks similar, it’s long, between two pieces of bread with all kind of stuff all over it but it just ain’t a po-boy.

Why? The first thing it’s not made in a New Orleans sandwich shop. You can only get a po-boy at a New Orleans po-boy shop. You can’t get ‘em at any chain shop. Nope. No matter how much it might look like one it just ain’t a po-boy.

Now here is next thing, the bread. Perhaps more than anything else it’s the bread that makes a po-boy. It’s the unique New Orleans French bread. What makes it unique? Well, the crust is crispy and the center is soft. There is something about the unique confluence of energies that make New Orleans French bread what it is, the texture and the flavor.

Now there’ve been folks who’ve tried to make New Orleans French bread in Baton Rouge and other parts of the state. Some’ve even tried to make it out of state. Yeah. Really. Making New Orleans French bread out of state. Ha!

Ya know what? They couldn’t do it. They followed the recipe exactly and could never make the bread the same way. Was it the water, the air, or strange mold down here that they got no where else? And to my way of thinking without that bread you can’t make a po-boy.

OK. Subway sandwiches are good and all. But the bread is soft and then tends to get soggy.

The third thing that makes a po-boy is the simplicity of what we put on it. We say “dressed” as in “yeah, I’ll take the ham and cheese dressed” which means mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce and tomato.

And of course the mustard we are talking about is the creole mustard (made here), the mayo most likely Blue Plate (made here), and the ham is Chesesi (made here).

I remember when I emigrated to Mobile for college I went to shop and asked for a sandwich dressed and they looked at me like I was speaking Russian or something. I tried that in Los Angeles and it didn’t even register. I think they thought I meant put a dress on it or something. Which is why they looked at me crazy-like.

And OK I’ll throw in a fourth thing for Lagniappe. What makes a po-boy is the fact that it’s made in a New Orleans establishment by someone born and raised here (or wishes they were) and it collects all the history, customs and culture and love of the place that someone making a po-boy puts into it. And there’s jazz music inside that po-boy, that wafts through the ethers and penetrates every morsel of that sandwich. It’s music and poetry in a lowly sandwich.

You can’t get that anywhere else but New Orleans.

==>Here’s an article by a transplant who tried to explain what makes a po-boy a po-boy, but she never was able to answer it.

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Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Food, New Orleans History, New Orleans Life.

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  • sachmo

    I have been out of state for some 30 years. And you a right – it isn’t the same elsewhere. Some out of state restaurants both run and frequented by ex-pats figured out it ws the bread. So they tried getting daily shipments. Made it closer to the real thing, but not quite … The roast beef and gravy didn’t have the same texture, the batter on the fried oysters or shrimp wasn’t quite right, etc. So I think the article is spot on that it is all of the above. Just can’t be done.



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