>“The Poboy is NOT a sandwich – it’s a way of life!” says Steve Zahn’s character in the HBO series, “Treme”. A series that I’ve grown to love and appreciate not only as a testament to New Orleans, but to the people who pressed on and continue to reclaim their city to this day. They are fighters for their way of life – music, people and food. Oh good God, the food. I may or may not have written about Poboys before and if I have, I must not have done them justice.
And like the statement above, a Poboy isn’t just a sandwich compared to the likes of a hoagie or sub – but a beacon of hope to the traditions of New Orleans and my Beloved Deep South. Everybody has their favorite and everybody has a place that does it just right. Once you get out of the Deep South and Louisiana, it becomes harder and harder to find a good Poboy. For one thing, it’s the bread!
It’s not French bread nor is it anywhere close to what they serve at sub joints. Poboy bread is painfully unique. I say painfully because what makes a good juicy Poboy is this elastic, airy, buttery goodness. It’s nearly impossible to find a recipe on the internet because it is such a widely kept secret for so many family run businesses. Don’t let this discourage you from building your own Poboy though – just sayin’, when you’ve eaten a Poboy out of New Orleans, there’s no turning back.
Historically, a Poboy was a way to stretch out your meager groceries. After all, bread is carbs and filler and we can’t deny that most things between it taste pretty damn good. One would simply pile leftovers in between two pieces of bread and feel the angels ascend from Heaven. Okay, it’s not that dramatic.
One of my favorite Poboy joints is located in Picayune, MS. — my hometown, where Jesus is Lord, according to the big blue sign off the North exit. Most of the women in my family go for their roast beef Poboy. It’s the kind that drips down your elbows as you watch your bottom slice of bread surrender to the salty brown gravy. Here, I prefer the fried shrimp – or fried anything, really. Soft shelled crab, catfish and my mom’s favorite, French fries! That’s right – the French fry Poboy (smothered in gravy)!
We are lucky to live close to a New Orleans style restaurant up here in North Portland called, “Eat: Oyster Bar”. They serve some dang good Poboys. In fact, I have a hard time ordering anything else here besides their debris Poboy. It’s basically a roast beef poboy with the usual fixins of lettuce/cabbage/slaw, tomato slices and either mayonnaise or some form of Creole concoction that brings it ‘over the top’ good.
Those who know… know. Those who have yet to fill their bellies with this beautiful creation of a sandwich, I hope can meet their rightful duties as citizens of this world. And like I said before, it has always been more than a sandwich. It’s about cold Abita and Zapps chips on the side or the sounds of those familiar streets, with those familiar smells. Like the smell of cut grass or the beach; it has the ability to take us back and fill us up.
And when we’re filled up, we’ll talk about what else we’re going to eat. Food and culture go hand and hand, and I’m thankful to have been born into southern food ways. There’s nothin’ like the hospitality that food brings. So if you’re there, do me a favor and remember these words when the gravy drips down to your elbows – the Poboy is NOT a sandwich – it’s a way of life.