Good to the last smoky detail

BensChiliBowl_01There are cities and regions in these here United States that, when you mention the name, certain foods instantly zoom into your mind. The Southern Highlands: Pulled-pork barbecue (get ready for intense theological debates about the sauce).

Baltimore: Crab cakes.

Kansas City: Steaks, of course, or beef brisket.

Boston: Clam chowder (New England, of course).

Cincinnati: Spaghetti covered with cheese and chili (containing a hint of cinnamon).

You get the idea.

Anyway, I'm not sure that Washington, D.C., has a signature food -- in large part because of its astonishing array of restaurants specializing in ethnic and regional foods from coast to coast and around the world. It's a crossroads city. Come to think of it, what's the unique signature food of New York City? How about Los Angeles (not counting the In-N-Out faith)?

Now, people who live here know that there is a big difference between "Washington," the power city, and "DC," which is a city of rich and poor, while its culture lives in neighborhoods and rides the buses.

I don't think there is an official food of "Washington," unless it's grilled crow with a side of bitter herbs. But what about "DC"? Yes, the District has an official food and it is called the "half-smoke." If you don't know what that is, then you haven't been to Ben's Chili Bowl. Get with the program, people.

The half-smoke is a sausage and if it's good enough for President Barack Obama, as well as an army of media and sports celebrities, it's good enough for you. As a veteran of this fabulous joint (this is not where you want to be during Great Lent or any other fasting season), let me assure you that the "half-smoke" is worthy of the hype.

Anyway, the "Ben" who owns this establishment died the other day and the Washington Post and other local newsrooms rolled out nice packages on Ben Ali, 82, and the remarkable story of the Trinidadian immigrant who wanted to be a dentist. However, he ended up running a restaurant in which working-class folks sit next to senators and listen to the same world-class juke book while chowing down on chili, hot dogs, sausages, cheese fries and, well, more chili.

So why am I bringing this up at GetReligion?

If you read all the way to end of the long A1 feature on Ali's life, you will hit a remarkable detail linked to his life and the practice of his faith. It's a stunner:

When Mr. Ali and Virginia Rollins were married October 10, 1958, she converted to his Muslim faith. Although Mr. Ali was reluctant to admit it in public, he firmly obeyed the Islamic prohibition on pork. Throughout his life, he never tasted the hot dogs and half-smokes that made his restaurant famous.

Now here is my question: Should this detail have come higher up in the report? I mean, I understand the impact provided by putting it at the very end. But I can also understand the temptation to put it earlier, perhaps even in a symbolic-detail lede.

Reporters and editors, what think ye? It's not a matter or right or wrong. I'm just curious. Wherever you play it, this is an amazing detail from an amazing life.

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