You Want to Know About Dem Beef Patties?

By Ben Adler

Spencer, you said you would recognize my Old Bay opinions when I dropped knowledge on beef patties. You think that just because I grew up on what was then the ass end of red-lined Park Slope — it was more like “South Brooklyn” when my parents moved in — instead of in some big suburban style house next door to a famous neocon by one of those streets with fake British names, that I can’t represent New York? Yeah, I know your type: the kid from one neighborhood deeper, whether it’s Sunset Park or Flatbush. You went to Kinderland and magnet schools and shows at Wetlands and were just like every kid from the Slope except you loved to talk about you were realer than them because you happened to live an extra stop or two out on the train.

Well, I been knowing about beef patties, since the days when a slice was a dollar from the window, a drink was a Tropical Fantasy and a snack was a five-cent gum. I started out with the generic ones at pizza places, like Antonio’s on Flatbush Ave by Brownstone Billiards, and at Roma’s, which I know Spencer recognizes is the best slice in the world, despite it being from the Slope he so despises. But the truth is that the beef patties, and chicken patties are much, much better at Christie’s Jamaican bakery, which just happens to be located on Flatbush Ave and Sterling Place, right up the block from me. The meat is thicker and spicier, the crust has a more complex, buttery flavor, and the coco bread is as soft as a newborn baby. Now, I haven’t been to every single Caribbean eatery in Flatbush or East Flatbush, so I’m not going to try to claim Christie’s is necessarily the best in whole city, although New York magazine thinks so.

I’ve never even thought to complain that, except for one place I’ve passed, and never tried, on H St, NE, D.C. appears not to have any Caribbean food at all. I don’t need to be educated on Mount Pleasant’s awesomeness. I love my neighborhood in D.C., with its tree-lined streets, proximity to the park, stately row houses, and diverse mix of hippies, yuppies, working-class families and immigrants. It reminds me a lot of… Park Slope, when I was a kid, before the last 10 years of invasion by Brown alumni turned it into what used to be Manhattan. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Radius, where one can find D.C.’s best pizza by the slice, is in Mount Pleasant. And I love my neighborhood not least for the delicious free meals I get to enjoy in my capacious group house, courtesy of Ezra, Ben Miller and the other talented IFA members who are kind of enough to join us, especially Spencer.

I think the truth is that Spencer knows that the merit of my position on Old Bay has nothing to do with the quality of my New York credentials. He just happens to disagree with it, and he wants to use what I readily concede is his neighborhood’s stronger claim to realness to make his point. Now, I’m not the one claiming that Old Bay is good or bad because of where I’m from, I just do not like it on my fresh seafood. Spencer is the one playing the sucker’s game of authenticity, instead of making a convincing argument that Old Bay on crabs is actually a good thing. I stand by my position that it isn’t.


16 responses to “You Want to Know About Dem Beef Patties?

  1. “The meat is thicker and spicier, the crust has a more complex, buttery flavor, and the coco bread is as soft as a newborn baby.”

    Eat a lot of newborn babies, do you Ben?

  2. DC Caribbean food probably can’t hold a candle to NY. But it’s hardly thin on the ground. I know Mount Pleasant types tend to stay off Georgia Ave, but if you you’re looking for a pattie you should venture the ten blocks and try one of the dozens of Carib spots that line the street. You should probably do this on the 27th during DC Carnival. Which is basically the best day to be in the city.

  3. Saying that that you don’t like Old Bay on your seafood is one thing. But stating a preference is one thing; saying a tradition is crap is another.

    “I don’t like it” isn’t much of a convincing argument either.

  4. I dunno, I’m of two minds on that. The “tradition” may not be crap. But Ben’s allowed to not like it, and even argue that the tradition is a bad idea culinarily. He’s wrong about Old Bay, of course. But he’d be right if he were talking about the bulk of Polish cuisine. And I say that as an Ashkenazi Jew.

  5. “I know Mount Pleasant types tend to stay off Georgia Ave”

    What, cause it’s so far across town? I say let’s keep our stereotypes isolated to which New Yorkers from which part of New York are the coooolest.

  6. You two chumps play fighting doesn’t answer the real question, which is why using the phrase “from a New Yorker” in the title of your post has any significance on how to serve and enjoy Chesapeake Bay blue crabs.

    Once you two settle your argument on who the really realest is, take a moment to explain why you think that matters.

  7. B. Adler’s original post on Old Bay and how crab meat is supposed to be “creamy and subtle” is one of the most idiotic things I’ve EVER read. How old is this guy? And how is it that he’s never had a crab feast before now, but is somehow elligible to write for the IFA? And yeah, there is something absolutely maddening about a New Yorker trying to tell anyone how a crab ought to be eaten. Jesus, I’m fuming.

  8. Ben’s absolutely allowed to detest Old Bay. If that’s all he said, this would not have made for such an interesting day on IFA!

  9. I think much confusion stems from misunderstanding of the “Angry Rant from a New Yorker,” column. The New Yorker part agrees with the Angry part, as in, New Yorkers are famously prone to rant angrily. So I label every angry rant that I write thus. That does not mean that every angry rant pertains to New York cuisine or lack thereof.

  10. I don’t think anyone is confused about the angry rant from a New Yorker bit. But if in your rant you are going to paint a regional tradition (that is well loved by many) as “crap” and “nonsense” then there’s gonna be a little push back.

    New Yorkers don’t have the monopoly on angry rants :).

  11. heh, touche Beth :)

  12. @benadler – I don’t think there is any confusion at all. Using phrases like ‘Sorry D.C. boosters, but …’ and ‘One thing that the “Mid-Atlantic” region does have to offer …’ make it very clear where you are coming from. You may not have intended to write the same pretentious article about regional food/culture that we read all the time, but you certainly did.

  13. Is it just me, or are people taking this all a mite seriously? Good grief, I love food as much as the next woman, but let’s keep some perspective.

    I’ve enjoyed reading all of these posts, and I can’t even eat crabs (with or without Old Bay) because I keep kosher :D Keep writing, folks!

  14. There’s a ton of good Caribbean food in D.C. — on Georgia Avenue (lots!), that place on H Street NE, and the Tropicana location at 8th/U/Florida NW.

  15. Kriston,
    That was a joke. I was surprised that he seemed to think you can’ t get carib food in DC since he lives so close to so much of it.

  16. Umm. I live in California. I have a tin of Old Bay in the cupboard. And it is useful in appropriate situations. I also have sesame oil, and fennel seed. They are also useful in the appropriate situation.

    No food or seasoning or herb is EVIL by definition, it’s just a matter of where you use it and why…


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