pit beef snow ball girl

The Zippy strip from yesterday, 3/27:

(#1) Help wanted at the pit beef restaurant: a female server for their pit beef (the house entrée) and snow balls (the dessert), with the ensuing mantra that afflicts Zippy: PIT BEEF SNOW BALL GIRL (prosodically SW SW S; add a strong fourth beat — a shout YEAH!,  a drum beat, cymbals, whatever — and you can conga to it)

So, the obvious stuff: Zippy’s onomatomania, his attraction to certain words and phrases; pit beef (especially associated with Baltimore); snow balls / snowballs, shaved ice confections especially associated with the Italian communities of Philadelphia and New York. Plus the gender stuff, a girl needed to serve guy-food: grilled meat, especially beef, being at the peak of masculinity in the American food world (with the gender association reinforced by serving it in a bun); not to mention that beef with balls is covertly phallic.

The setting in the strip. Since this is a Zippy, the Pit Beef restaurant in the strip is no doubt based on a real place, but I haven’t found one that matches Bill Griffith’s in appearance.

The help wanted ad gives a telephone number (336-7603), with no area code, so the presumption is that it’s local — in Baltimore, that would be 410 or 443. Nothing approaching a restaurant number there, but Griffith would probably have invented a number for the strip.

onomatomania. My 3/17/22 posting “Disallusioned affection and onomatomania” notes Zippy’s disposition to onomatomania (among other names): the repetition of mantric material as a playful practice briefly obtruding into ordinary life. Here, PIT BEEF SNOW BALL GIRL.

pit beef. Starting with Wikipedia:

Pit beef is a dish of roast beef prepared over a charcoal fire, commonly using top round cuts of beef. The cooked roast is sliced thinly and often served on a Kaiser roll, accompanied by tiger sauce (horseradish and mayonnaise) and sliced raw onion. Unlike barbecue, the meat is cooked quickly at high temperatures, served rare, and has a light smoke flavor.

The preparation is a local specialty in the area around Baltimore, Maryland. … Although associated with the working-class neighborhoods around Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard, pit beef owes much to the German and Jewish food cultures of Baltimore.

Then an entertaining report from on the ground, in Baltimore: from the Eater site “Pit Beef: Baltimore’s Answer to Barbecue: Eating in Maryland when crab is off the menu” by Bill Addison on 1/17/17:

It’s a joke in my family that whenever I step off the plane in Baltimore, my hometown, the first thing I want is crab: steamed crabs, crab cakes, crab dip, cream of crab soup, crab fluff (a battered deep-fried crab cake), crab imperial — crab something. This past September I wrote a story about returning to Maryland to eat as much of its signature food as I could handle. I hadn’t spent over a week in the Baltimore area during the summer since I was a kid. That trip home fulfilled a deep longing, one I didn’t even realize I’d had, to become reacquainted with my complex, beloved city.

Winter, though, is not for Maryland crab. Restaurants may ship in crabmeat fresh from states along the Gulf coast (particularly Louisiana and Texas) or from overseas, but Chesapeake crabs burrow and lay dormant in the colder months.

But other Maryland-specific foods can be had this time of year. Like pit beef sandwiches. In food and travel articles it’s often referenced as Maryland’s answer to barbecue. I can follow this line of thinking, though I grew up eating these sandwiches, and no one I knew ever put them in the same category as, say, smoked ribs. Pit beef was pit beef. The recipe is typically top round roast grilled over charcoal; sliced to order into a thin, jumbled pile; and served on a Kaiser roll or maybe white bread. The classic condiment for these sandwiches is horseradish sauce, though sweet, tomato-based barbecue sauce had also slipped into the mix by the 1980s

Pit beef’s origins are muddy. Baltimore food writer Richard Gorelick did some digging a couple of years ago and found few references for pit beef before the 1970s, when the dish emerged as a popular item sold from stands centered around Pulaski Highway (also known as Route 40), a sometimes forlornly industrial stretch that leads to the city’s northern suburbs. I wonder if Marylanders didn’t just initially refer to this creation as a roast beef sandwich, and the term “pit beef” was coined later as a snappier marketing moniker.

However they were invented and whatever they might be called, these things are wonderful. Chaps Pit Beef, which sits on Pulaski Highway in the parking lot of the Gentlemen’s Gold Club, is the Baltimore restaurant most regularly featured when food-themed television shows zero in on this regional specialty.

(#2) The Chaps exterior

Having researched my share of pit beef, I favor a place on the other side of the Baltimore from Chaps, technically in nearby Catonsville, called Pioneer Pit Beef. Pioneer is little more than a stand flanked by two picnic tables; most customers get their order to go. The cooks offer the beef, kept hot, in every degree of doneness.

(#3) Pit beef sandwich (and fries with gravy) at Pioneer Pit Beef (photo: Bill Addison)

A staffer hands you a slice to taste before he thinly shaves the beef for the sandwich on a deli slicer. I ask for mine medium rare and with tiger sauce, a mixture of horseradish and mayo. Sometimes I dribble on some barbecue sauce as well, which reminds me of how I ate them growing up.

Pit beef restaurants have now spread, of course, from Baltimore to other places.

snow ball / snowball. From my 6/9/19 posting “Lemon is the vanilla of Italian ices”:

On the shaved-ice confections, see my 9/27/14 posting “Slush puppies”, on flavored ice drinks (Slurpees, Slush Puppies) and more solid shaved ice confections: snow cones and snowballs. On the last, from Wikipedia:

Snow cones are a variation of shaved ice or ground-up ice desserts commonly served in paper cones or foam cups. Although if it is in a cup, it is commonly referred to as a ‘snowball’. The dessert consists of ice shavings that are topped with flavored sugar syrup.

(#4) Classic lemon ice in a squeeze cup

Depending on the region of North America, the terms “snowball” and “snow cone” may refer to different things. Where the distinction is made, the former refers to a dessert made of finely shaved ice (“like soft fresh snow”), while the latter contains ground-up ice that is coarser and more granular (“crunchy”).

Female servers. The help wanted ad in #1 asks for a specifically female server, and that’s unusual in restaurant service (even at pit beef restaurants), where the staff almost always includes some women and some men. The notable exception is places that propose to draw men in with the lure of female bodies, especially breasts. Such places offer various kinds of guy-food: barbeque, hamburgers, monster sandwiches, chili, wings, pulled pork, and the like.

From the delish site, “11 ‘Breastaurants’ That Make Hooters Seem PG: Hooters started the trend — and now the concept’s more popular than ever” by Candace Braun Davison on 7/29/16, two of the 11:

[on the Twin Peaks (ahem) chain:] This sports-lodge-meets-sexy-lumberjack-themed chain is one of the fastest-growing breastaurants in the country, up 20 percent over last year, according to food market research firm Technomic. “Men are simple creatures and so you don’t have to get too crazy to get them in the door,” Kristen Colby, the chain’s senior director of marketing, told Huffington Post.

The menu itself features upscale bar food, like the Turkey Avocado Smash [a kind of Dagwood sandwich], venison chili and billionaire’s bacon, thick-cut slabs of pork coated in brown sugar, red chili flakes and smoked paprika.

[on the Bone Daddy’s chain:] The plunging necklines and Daisy Dukes [‘brief, tight-fitting denim shorts for women, typically made from a pair of cutoff jeans’ (NOAD)] take a backseat to the massive platters of brisket, pulled pork, hot link sausage and brown sugar-crusted ham. This BBQ-focused chain features plenty of Southern staples

But even if a guy-food restaurant doesn’t offer women’s bodies as a lure, it might choose to have only female servers as a means of boosting its customer’s sense of masculine identity by contrast (in gender), and also — since the employees are in fact serving the customers — by dominance (exploiting the contrast in power).

Regardless of the sex of its servers, the public face of a guy-food restaurant is almost always male, quite commonly a sports figure from a macho sport or even a kind of team of such figures — macho sports (especially American football, rugby, ice hockey, boxing, baseball, basketball, soccer / football) being the arena in which men exhibit aggressive masculinity in its purest form through physical contestation. In a guy-food restaurant, such sports figures boost the customer’s sense of masculine identity by reinforcement through contact (hanging with the macho guys makes you more of a macho guy).

In this vein, an accidental find of mine yesterday, a story about a small chain of barbeque restaurants in Columbus OH, the newest of which opened a little while back just south of the neighborhood I used to live in. From ThisWeek News (the community news section of the Columbus Dispatch) on 10/1/20:

(#5) The owners of the Pit BBQ Grille, from left, Chimdi Chekwa, Mike Johnson, Bryant Browning and D’Andre Martin, at their third location in Columbus: 4219 N. High St. in Clintonville [the former 9Round Fitness location] (photo: the Pit BBQ Grille)

The four owners are former football teammates at Ohio State. Their restaurants offer guy-food with a soul-food inflection. The photo is just about perfect (even I am charmed by it): smiling high-macho jocks offering to be your buddies and give you real man-food. Jolts of amiable manhood.

On the murky symbolic front. Back in the Zippy in #1: beef and balls at Pit Beef, taking us potentially into covertly phallic territory. (Meanwhile, pits are all-purpose sexcavity symbols.)

My 4/9/18 posting “The gay world of Yvon Goulet” notes that a genital triptych — a three-part painting with a central figure flanked on either side by figures that are either near-duplicates or (more often) near-mirror images — is a symbolic transformation of the male genitals, with the penis as central figure, flanked by the testicles, as in the male triad symbol.


One Response to “pit beef snow ball girl”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    The power of word association. From Tim Evanson on FB 3/28:

    Snow ball as in packed snow, or as in cum-swapping?

    In reply, AZ > TE:

    Or of course snowball / speedball, heroin + cocaine. I looked at snowballing, passing semen from mouth to mouth, in a 7/19/13 blog posting “More sexual slang”:

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