Cape Town - They’ve upscaled it and downsized it. They’ve modified and made it healthier. But can a Gatsby with anything less than 10 000 calories, still be called a Gatsby?
Simply put, no.
While the Gatsby has undergone many stages of evolution, its most extreme yet was the makeover it received recently.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation, along with its partners, took to the V&A Waterfront to launch its 8.24m health Gatsby to mark National Nutrition Week. While it resembled the original Gatsby visually, the taste was quite different.
The foundation’s dietician Jessica Bacon made the healthy Gatsby with the help of Cooking from the Heart author, Heleen Meyer.
The roll used was wholewheat, the deep-fried chips were replaced with oven-baked wedges, fat was cut off the 1.7kg of steak to make it lean, and baked beans were added for a second protein. It also had the usual salad components: lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
Bacon explains that the new version is higher in fibre, lower in saturated fat and much lower in salt content.
In South Africa, the leading cause of death in people younger than 65 stems from the silent killers: heart disease and strokes – so named because there are no visible signs.
“The first time you realise there’s a problem is when you actually have a heart attack or stroke,” says Bacon.
She suggests yearly blood pressure and cholesterol checks from the age of 20.
Bacon adds that the risks are higher in people who are overweight or obese.
Locally, two out of three women, and one out of three men are either overweight or obese.
“About 80 percent of all heart disease and strokes can be prevented with a healthier lifestyle. We live in a society where everything is supersized and we eat value-for-money meals. But we’re at risk of becoming overweight and obese,” says Bacon.
Meyer points out that people need to be more mindful not only of the ingredients – taking care to cut out processed foods, lower salt content, and decrease the fat – but also to reduce portion sizes.
The traditional Gatsby is about 60cm long, 15cm high, and 15cm wide. The Gatsby, being a social food, is cut up and shared among friends. The accepted cuts are generally three or four pieces.
In some cases – much to the horror of the nutrition experts – it’s cut in two. The accompaniment is usually a two-litre fizzy drink, or an artificially flavoured dairy-based drink.
Meyer suggests that the Gatsby be cut into no fewer than six pieces.
She assures people that eating healthily doesn’t have to mean sacrificing taste or facing starvation.
“We’re not asking people to go on a diet. We’re asking them to change their lifestyles,” says Meyer.
But, while well-meaning, this appears to be a tall order.
Response to the healthy Gatsby on social media was that of outrage. ‘Healthy hands off our greasy Gatsby’, was the general consensus.
Lovers of the classic Gatsby felt that if they wanted a healthy sandwich they knew where to find it.
This is not the first time the Gatsby has evolved.
The story goes that the Gatsby was created in 1976 by Rashaad Pandy at the Athlone-based Super Fisheries. Pandy was feeding labourers, but had run out of fish. He improvised and stuffed a roll with chips and polony.
The name was derived from the film The Great Gatsby, which was playing at the local bioscope. And so, a Cape Flats legend was born.
Several years later, the Gatsby was available in most fisheries.
It came in a variety of options: steak, calamari, chicken, vienna. It had become a staple among starving students, and the perfect meal in the wee hours after clubbing.
Recently, however, the food of mainly working class Capetonians has found its way on to the menus of upmarket restaurants like the Mint Restaurant at the Taj Hotel in the city centre and Moyo Street Market at the V&A Waterfront.
While they have the same elements of a Gatsby, it’s done on a much smaller scale. The designer Gatsby is about 20cm long, enough to feed one person.
The foundation would be happy that there are places, and people, adhering to portion control.
In light of these new developments, the Cape Argus put together a panel of taste testers who tried out the health Gatsby, a designer version, and the classic masala steak.
Health: My hopes were high. The health Gatsby caused quite a stir on my Twitter timeline when it was announced. So when I was told I’d be tasting it, I prepared well in advance. I skipped breakfast and sat patiently in the sun awaiting my moment with health greatness… But alas. The Gatsby felt dry, a little bland and the taste of beans just did not work for me.
Designer: I was pleasantly surprised by the sight of the calamari Gatsby, mostly because it just looked like a roll with chips, calamari and lots of mayonnaise. I loved the taste, but not sure I would pay R55 for one.
Classic: The taste was amazing, the chips were deep-fried, the steak was spicy and there were only a few slivers of tomato and lettuce. The last thing on my mind as I bit into that Gatsby was whether it was healthy or not. It was delicious.
Middle ground man
Health: With all its good intentions, cutting off the fat to produce a leaner cut of meat, adding the baked beans and lessening the chips, it’s hard to call this a Gatsby. More of an “okay” tasting sandwich, this is definitely healthier but just doesn’t hit that spot as well as a deliciously messy polony Gatsby can.
Designer: I’ve never ventured far away from my favourite vienna or polony options, but I was pleasantly surprised by the calamari Gatsby. It tasted great and was presented well. However, I attribute its neat look to the few chips with it, perhaps the biggest Gatsby crime that could be committed.
Classic: It may be the unhealthiest Gatsby option, but my stomach and taste buds agree it was the most satisfying. Packed with greasy chips and spicy masala steak (or any filling of your choice), this is what a Gatsby is meant to be.
Junk food connoisseur
Health: People aren’t (always) stupid. You can’t take the bacon and cheese off a toasted bacon and cheese sandwich and keep on calling it a toasted bacon and cheese sandwich. Same story with this heart-healthy gatsby. Don’t get me wrong, it was good to eat, but as a steak sandwich, not as a Gatsby. Good intentions do not a Gatsby make!
Designer: It’s “portion control” in action. Or maybe it’s just a rip-off. One third of a calamari Gatsby gone in three bites. Tasty – and with sufficient amounts of grease and oil – but too short-lived to be enjoyed.
Classic: Eating a Gatsby is a team sport – guilt loves company. The masala steak Gatsby is a social event. Oozing chips and meat, and barely a green to be seen. I could almost hear my arteries crying out in anguish… maybe this health food thing isn’t such a bad idea, after all… - Cape Argus