Can we walk the walk without talking the talk?

July 18, 2006
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As a born and bred Philly girl, I watched in wonder as the world media picked up the story of the South Philadelphia cheese steak landmark with the little tiny sign in its window demanding that all patrons place their orders in English. After all, this is America, right? Not really, it's South Philly where people are earthy, honest and anything goes.

For those of you who don't know, even if you speak English, ordering a cheese steak in Philadelphia can be tough. Just like the Seinfeld Soup Nazi, you better be prepared to order correctly or face ridicule. "Is that wit or witout?" you may hear as you place your order. If you don't know what that means in Philadelphia, you have no business ordering. Don't even try to order a soda at the same window where you order your sandwich. You must order drinks at the next window where you pay and pick up the sandwich.

As a lady with wanderlust, I had to laugh at the South Philly situation. I could never have made it around the world without a few locals taking me under their wings and being very patient as I tried to order food or catch the right train on the right track in so many places where I did not speak the language.

As the immigration capital of the world, I think it's only natural we should open our hearts and hospitality to non-English speakers. Our nation was built on the backs of people from foreign lands. The sad thing is that many Americans do not realize that our nation is still being built that way. As all readers of Food Engineering know, our industry would be in very sad shape without foreign-born plant workers.

Let's show some respect for the immigrants who came before and those who are here now. Some of the immigrants may be illegal, but the food industry and our nation as a whole would be a lesser place without them.

By the way, I take my cheese steak wit. Wit onions, that is.

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