Sunday, May 4, 2014

Derby day tradition

Kim and I successfully munched our way through another family tradition Saturday:

We shared a hoagie while watching the Kentucky Derby.

What? What? You mean you didn't? You mean you've never heard of this tradition?

That's OK. I don't think my own brothers are aware that eating a hoagie during the Derby is traditional for the Wehrles. It just might be a tasty figment of my own fertile imagination.


I do remember my previous life in the early 1970s back in Pennsylvania. I was a college student still living at home, and every first Saturday in May, we'd settle in to watch the Derby. I'm not quite sure how this all started, but it was just a simple walk down the street to the neighborhood grocery store, tucked in among the other houses on the block, to pick up several hoagies for an easy meal. The Derby, after all came on at dinner time.

There's nothing better than a properly stacked Philadelphia hoagie.
For some reason, we did the same thing the following year. And the year after that. I think the thing really took hold after Secretariat won the Derby, and for Derbys after that, we'd actually plan to have our hoagies by post time.

When I left Pennsylvania for North Carolina, eventually to find a wife, I told her about the Wehrle's hoagie-Derby fixation. Kim seemed somewhat amused but agreeable, and so, over the years, we've either brought home hoagies from restaurants or Subway, or even bought the fixings to make our own.

I'm sure we've missed a few Derbys through the years, but for the most part, we've been pretty consistent about making this something traditional.

This year, until I read my Sports Illustrated last week, I never heard of California Chrome. I usually don't pull for favorites, but there was something compelling about this story of a thoroughbred whose mother was purchased for a mere pittance, about a pair of first-time co-owners who repeatedly refused to sell the promising colt for millions in hopes of reaping even bigger rewards later (the ultimate wager), and about a 77-year-old trainer whose only previous Derby appearance was in 1955. It was good stuff.

So Kim and I went to the second-floor sports bar at Christo's about a half-hour before post time. This in itself is kind of a break in the tradition, since we almost always ate our hoagies at home in front of the TV. But not this time. We ordered a large Italian Supreme hoagie, no mayonnaise but with oil and vinegar please, chips and a small pitcher of draft beer. We made ourselves comfortable in front of the big screen HDTV and settled in. We were set.

I was halfway through my half of the hoagie when post time arrived. And they're off! The race was on. The field was large and the weather was perfect. As the horses made the final turn, California Chrome, keeping pace in third place, forged into the lead and never looked back. It was all great fun. It was all perfect. And I don't even really care about horse racing.

The rest of the Triple Crown is up for grabs. I seem to remember pizza being involved somewhere along the way, but I'm not as sure about that as I am about the hoagies.

But then, that's the neat thing about family traditions. You can make them up as you go along.

1 comment:

  1. You boys bring me back some Leb'non from Weaver's at the Lancaster Farmer's Market next month and we'll make one!