Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Hoagie

As we debated over what to get for lunch today, hoagies became an option. We didn't get them, but I found myself pondering over the origin of the word "hoagie." I've eaten many hoagies in my life, and I don't think that I have once questioned why we call it a hoagie. I have come across the regional differences of the food item - heros in NY, grinders in New England, Subs in other places. I'm not going to debate that terminology (because they're obviously all wrong - it's a hoagie and that's final!)

Wikipedia gave a few origins, but was not very conclusive on a single one. The first comes from what street vendors were called in Philly back in the 19th century: hokey-pokey men. Odd term but apparently they sold a variety of food items, including antipasto. A bakery opened up that sold long loafs, and these "hokey-pokey men" cut the loafs in half and put antipasto salad in them.

A second theory comes from the Italians who used to work in the old Navy Yard in Philly, which was called Hog Island. The sandwiches they made evolved from the "Hog Island sandwich" to the hoagie.

The older, South Philly Italians consider the hoagie to come from the phrase, "on the hoke," which described someone as down-and-out. Apparently those were "on the hoke" tried to get scraps from deli owners and they put cheese and meat scraps between Italian bread. The sandwich was called a "hokie," which was transformed by Italian accents to the hoagie.

Personally, I like the third theory. Maybe I just trust it because it comes from older South Philly Italians. Anyone else heard of any other theories?


honey roasted peanut said...

so basically you're saying it comes from Italians in Philly, no matter which way you sling it.

KW said...

Well yes, we definitely have the Italians from Philly to's just a question of which Italians get the credit (the street vendors, the Old Navy Shipyard workers, or the "down-and-out" people)