Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's a po boy anyway?

During my quest for lunch outside of the Cube Farm yesterday, one of my accompanying colleagues asked what was a "po boy?" My quick response was: It's just another name for a hoagie or sub sandwich from the South, particularly associated with New Orleans. The answer seemed to satisfy both of us as we waited in line outside of New Orleans Po Boy Shop. I had watched numerous shows about food and surely at one time was given the true meaning of a po boy? But as I sat down to eat my Carolina BBQ pulled pork po boy, I started wondering about the history of my six inch sub sandwich. And, was what I was eating really a traditional po boy? Aren't traditional po boys filled with fried shrimp--or other forms of seafood?

What is the "real" definition of a po boy--its history and how it differentiates itself from other sub sandwiches? A search on the web provided bountiful answers but differed slightly from one source to another. In the end, it all came down to the bread. French bread to be exact. It's what defines the po boy and differentiates it from other sub sandwiches. Although typically known to be filled with fried shrimp, oysters, clams, and other types of seafood, most agree: you can fill it with just about anything. And about the name? The po boy got its name during a street car strike in New Orleans during the 1920s when two brothers provided inexpensive sandwiches of gravy and roast beef (what, not fried shrimp?) from the back of their restaurant to street car workers, often referring to these patrons as "poor boys." The name eventually was shortened to "po-boy." 

So, do I think my Carolina BBQ pulled pork po boy (moist and piled deep on top of red cabbage slaw, by the way) was indeed a traditional po boy? Technically yes; the French bread qualifies it. But next time, I think I'll opt for the fried shrimp. Or better yet, I could just head down to the upcoming annual Po Boy Festival and grab one!

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