Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Is your cheese a laughing matter?

Personally, I'm not much into "St. Louis style pizza". Other than South County's "That's-A-Nice-A-Pizza", I haven't found a St. Louis style pizza that does much for me. I much prefer Round Table Pizza's "King Arthur Supreme" from the area where I grew up. I don't get St. Louis style pizza, and I especially don't get the local fascination with "Provel" cheese. Provel is a St. Louis thing.

They even package it that way at Schnucks. In the cheese section, you can buy packages of Imo's brand Provel cheese. "The original St. Louis Pizza Cheese" they call it. We joke about it. People from outside the St. Louis area probably have no idea what's so funny. It's just cheese. What's funny about cheese? To appreciate it, you need to understand St. Louis. It's a St. Louis thing.

Which gets to the point of this post. After more than 250 years, St. Louis has established its very own, unique local culture. It is manifested throughout our daily lives. And it's a wonderful thing. With the leapfrogging growth of many places, there are lots of areas without much "local" culture at all. They're pretty generic. Not us. We're steeped in it, and it's one of the things that makes St. Louis unique.

The list below are some of the examples of what I like to refer to as "Unique St. Louis". Yes, not everything on the list is exclusively found in St. Louis. However, taken together, they make up the features of our community that provide a unique St. Louis experience, a lifestyle unlike anywhere else.

Granted, St. Louis may not be for everyone, but there's no doubt about it: we are an American original. How so? Well consider the following list. After reading it, perhaps you'll disagree and think we're not so unique. Or, maybe, you'll have some more things to add of your own...

We're a “city not in a county”
Our changes happen incrementally, not in rapid fashion
The Arch
Parish Culture
Ward Culture
Block party scene
2nd highest rate of parochial/private school enrollments
Near or at the top of the highest number of Catholic high schools per capita in the country
Affordable housing
Low cost of living
Long list of “oldest _____ west of the Mississippi River” things
Identity as a "Neighborhood City"
Historic neighborhoods and architecture
The confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers
Rich in Native American historic sites
2nd largest US inland port
Biggest concentration of Bosnian immigrants in US
Major presence of independent grocery stores
High number of pro-sports franchises in a smaller-sized market
High percentage participation in amateur sports
Gay friendly
Flyover Country
Forested neighborhoods
4 equal seasons
Hot summer nights and cold beer
Chilly winter nights around bonfires, sledding at neighborhood parks
Outdoor ice skating under CWE/BJC highrises
Winning MLB tradition/Best Fans in Baseball/Home of "Cardinal Nation"
Community-driven effort to renew Forest Park
Parades, parades, parades,
Especially, the Veiled Profit Parade
Proximity to Missouri Wine Country
Mardis Gras week,
Especially, the 5,000 decorated dogs in a dog parade with 50,000 spectators
Ethnic festivals
Emerging arts scene
Excellent local symphony and theater groups
Beautiful, diverse performance venues
Clayton Art Fair
Neighborhood butchers and bakeries
Neighborhood tavern culture
Active blog scene
Rich music history
Emerging new music scene
New Cathedral mosaics
Old downtowns, such as Florissant and St. Charles
Central US location, 2/3 of population within a day’s drive
"Gateway To The West"
Route 66 landmarks
Local language and pronunciations
Discouragement of privacy fences
Lush greenery
Missouri Botanical Garden
Forest Park
Vestiges of Civil War-no local control of police
Beer Town USA
Halloween culture, haunted houses, Alton
Decorated neighborhoods, holiday and year-round yard decorations
Salvaged broken glass and ceramic interior decorating displays
Strong union town
Brick streets
Stable local economy, not subject to wild swings like Sunbelt states
Best tasting tap water
Wide range of world class attractions offering free admission, a tradition which dates back to our European working class roots...
Especially, the St. Louis Zoo, free to all, historic and scientific
The St. Louis Science Center
Boeing's Prologue Room
The City Museum
Significant civil rights history
Loft District transformation
Local foods including Pietkowksi Krakow, G and W Grant’s Farm Bratwurst, Manzo’s Salciccia, Provel cheese and St. Louis Style pizza, Frozen Custard, and brain sandwiches
Italian products from the Hill

As a community, we are a work in progress. We acknowledge our weaknesses, and we work together to improve them. Suffering for so long has made us humble, and we welcome others to join us in our effort of community renewal. Given our humility, sometimes we are the last to recognize the progress we have made.

So while I may not be a big fan of Provel cheese, I think the rest of the stuff that makes us unique is pretty cool.


Hilary said...

Thanks for the positive post. So many other local bloggers are so down on St. Louis (often with good reason), but there is also a reason why we stay here and do our bit to make it better.

Lolololori said...

StL is so awesomely weird. Excellent list...you clearly put a lot of thought into it!

Rick Bonasch said...

Yeah, and to think someone put us dead last on the weirdness index!

Amy said...

I second Hilary's thank you for a positive post! (Although I don't care for St. Louis pizza either... I go for Blackthorn myself.)

Maybe to add to the list
-Love of toasted ravioli
-Lots of brick
-Many neighborhood parks
-The Moolah transformed to a bowling alley/movie theatre
-The Fox Theatre

UrbanReviewSTL said...

Sorry Rick but I am still not convinced that we are "unique" among cities. Yes, our culture is different than so many others (for good & bad) but so many older inner cities can claim as much.

My hometown of Oklahoma City has many characterists all to its own as does Tulsa, Kansas City, Little Rock, Nashville, Amarillo (72oz steak), Toronto, Boston, Detroit, Seattle, Portland....

I think when you start looking at a region at large they all tend to be much the same due to suburbanization. Being in SF is much different than simply the bay area, for example. It is Rice a Roni and cable cars vs generic suburbs. The same is true all over north america.

Yes, we have a culture that is distinctly St. Louis but we are not the only such city where that is true.

Rick Bonasch said...


Thanks for your reply. If St. Louis doesn't meet your definition of a unique place, what would?

Anonymous said...

"Big small town"

UrbanReviewSTL said...

I'm not sure that any place is truly "unique" --- a one of a kind. On one hand each and every city is different simply in a number of terms like geography and development patterns. Does this make every city unique? Technically, sure.

It this reason enough for even a hundred thousand new people to make the city their home from other regions? No. Because where ever someone else is also have their own one of a kind places and odd combinations for which they have become familiar.

Culture only goes so far. For example, I fell in love with New Orleans (pre-Katrina) but the heat even in April was too much for me. That and my perception of crime and the very real image of povery was not enough to attract me to that city as a resident. Their very colorful culture was not powerful enough of a draw over other factors.

s.j.simon said...

:) did you know how cheese was invented? It wasnt necessity, it was an accident, read this