By Ross Markman
Two months into my Montana experience, I miss my family, friends and hometown, but there's nothing I'm more homesick for than my favorite food, the staple of Philadelphia cuisine, the reason people flock to the City of Brotherly Love: the cheesesteak.
Drenched in a pool of sticky cheese and engulfed by an extra large torpedo roll, the Philly cheesesteak isn't just a grease-soaked sandwich, it's a food group.
Nothing in this world compares to its aroma, a smell so intoxicating, Philadelphians are routinely arrested for driving under its influence.
Those extra chunks of meat. That glistening cheese. The crunchy roll, yet soft on the inside.
Makes you hungry. Makes me want to buy a plane ticket.
I've asked my friends if it's possible to overnight a cheesesteak. I'm sure UPS or FedEx has a heated box specifically designed for the shipping of Philadelphia foods.
Money is no object here. I'll spare no expense to acquire even one morsel of a Philly cheesesteak.
You have no idea how much I miss Pat's and Geno's and Jim's. And these guys aren't my uncles. They're Philly steak joints.
I pine for Mara's and Steve's and Tony Luke's, once again none of whom are relatives.
And it's not just the sandwich I miss. I have a hunger for the atmosphere and the mayhem that ensues when the grill guy is too slow or shortchanges you on Cheeze Whiz, the not-so-secret ingredient to a South Philly cheesesteak.
Philly steak places like Jim's are virtual celebrity meccas. Over the years, I've stood in line behind (former Batman) Adam West, ogled a former Miss America seated at a nearby table and was once forced to wait outside as Al Gore finished his sandwich.
And at Geno's and Pat's, 24-hour cheese-steak havens sitting on opposite corners in South Philadelphia, rumor has it Allen Iverson is a frequent visitor, and I swear, I once saw that guy formerly known as Prince there, chomping on a cheesesteak with his entourage.
So, I have a request, actually a challenge, for the restaurants of Havre. Make me a good cheesesteak.
I dare you.
I'm not expecting the same Philly flavor, but you know I'll compare. Remember now, I've had the best. It's all I know.
So don't insult me, and try to pawn off any Steak-um, meat substitute or vegetarian soy-stuff as the real thing.
I'd rather eat my fist.
And just so you know, I'm to picky eaters what Michael Jordan is to basketball. If being finicky with food were an athletic contest, I would transcend my sport.
So, no mushrooms, peppers, onions or any other extraneous items on the sandwich, please. In fact, let's go real simple no cheese.
I'm not planning to visit home until May, and I'm not sure if I can make it until then without a Philly steak fix.
Hopefully, I'll survive.
Unless, of course, I have a hankering for a Philly soft pretzel.