24 (Thu) August 2020
A Zep, A Large
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (4)
Endeavoring to read the 99 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922 – leading up to the 100th winner to be announced next year – I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book. Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal, literally give us this day our daily bread. The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.
(For additional posts relating to Newbery Medal books, see NEWBERY)
While baguettes are fairly common in Korea these days, soft long sandwich rolls are not, which would be required to make a zep.
Subway, the American sandwich chain, came to mind. A few days ago, while W was running errands in Wirye Central Plaza, I asked her to drop by the Subway there and buy bread, just the bread. She came back with a sandwich that included cheese, cucumbers, and lettuce. She said that the guy declined to sell only the bread, that this was the minimum he was willing to do. Alas, the moisture from the vegetables had kinda mangled the bread, so I couldn’t really reuse it for the zep.
Yesterday, on an unrelated matter, I happened to be at IKEA, where I was happy to discover ciabattas and sandwich rolls for sale.
Maniac Magee (1991) by Jerry Spinelli. The book is about Jeffrey Lionel “Maniac” Magee and his crazy adventures as an orphan/runaway in the fictional town of Two Mills, such as his epic encounter with Cobble’s Knot. I loved this book, which touches on serious topics, such as race relations, while the somewhat tongue-in-cheek writing style keeps the overall tone of the book fun, funny, ever optimistic, uplifting.
[paraphrased in part]
If the Wonders of the World hadn’t stopped at seven, Cobble’s Knot would have been number eight. Nobody knew how it got there. As the story goes, the original Mr Cobble wasn’t doing too well with the original Cobble’s Corner Grocery at the corner of Hector and Birch. In his first two weeks, all he sold was some Quaker Oats and penny candy. Then one morning, as he unlocked the front door for business, he saw the Knot. It was dangling from the flagpole that hung over the big picture window. And then he got an idea. He could offer a prize to anyone who untangled the Knot. Publicize it. Call the newspaper. Winner’s picture on the front page, Cobble’s Corner in the background. Business would boom. Well, he went ahead and did it, and if business didn’t exactly boom, it must have at least peeped a little, because eons later, when Maniac Magee came to town, Cobble’s Corner was still there. Only now it sold pizza instead of groceries. After a year, Mr Cobble took it down and kept it in a secret place inside the store and brought it out only to meet a challenger.
They brought out the Knot and hung it from the flagpole. They brought out the official square wooden table for the challenger to stand on, and from the moment Manic climbed up, you could tell the Knot was in big trouble. To the ordinary person, Cobble’s Knot was about as friendly as a nest of yellowjackets. Besides the tangle itself, there was the weathering of that first year, when the knot hung outside and became hard as rock. You could barely make out the individual strands. It was grimy, moldy, crusted over. Here and there a loop stuck out, maybe big enough to stick your pinky through, pitiful testimony to the challengers who tried and failed. And there stood Maniac, turning the Knot, checking it out. Some say there was a faint grin on his face, kind of playful, as the though the Knot wasn’t his enemy at all, but an old pal just playing a little trick on him. Only a few people were watching at first, and half of them were Heck’s Angels, a roving tricycle gang of four- and five-year-olds. More kept coming. Not only kids, but grownups, too, black and white.
Meanwhile, inside, Cobble’s was selling pizza left and right, not to mention zeps (a Two Mills type of hoagie), steak sandwiches, strombolis, and gallons of soda.
Zep is an American dish. A sandwich consisting of a long soft Italian roll with cooked salami, provolone cheese, tomato, onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. The local speciality of Norristown, Pennsylvania, part of the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The name derives from “zeppelin,” in reference to the elongated shape of the bread, which in other parts of America would be called “hoagie/hero/sub/grinder.”
I had never heard of a zep until reading about it in the book. Although the sandwich is not an integral part of the story, it’s a critical detail about Two Mills, a stand-in for Norristown, where the author Jerry Spinelli himself grew up – and ate zeps, presumably. Later in the book, zeps are mentioned twice again, casually, as if in passing but clearly to show that the sandwich is the go-to meal for the people of Two Mills.
“You still hungry?”
The kid flopped back down. “A little.”
“Wait here,” said Grayson, and left.
Ten minutes later he was back with a zep, a large. It took the kid less time to polish it off than it had taken Grayson to get it.
Intrigued by the notion of making a zep for myself, I was ultimately inspired to initiate this Newbery project.
The zep was okay. The olive oil, in lieu of mayonnaise and/or mustard, resulted in a more austere mouthfeel and further accentuated the Italian flavors of the salami and provolone, as well as the ciabatta. Not sure if I’d ever make it again, but it was fun trying.
(For more details about the food, see WHAT)
(For more details about the venue, see WHERE IN KOREA)