Pork Roll – A South Jersey Staple

It’s as common in diners as burgers.  It’s breakfast on the go – pork roll egg & cheese on a fresh-baked roll.  I grew up on it and looked forward to it with my eggs when I went to visit my grandparents in Trenton.  When I moved to northern NJ I was confused when I looked on a diner menu and saw “Taylor Ham”.  The waitress swore to me “pork roll, Taylor ham, it’s the same thing.”  I didn’t believe her, but sure enough, there it was…smokey, salty and ample – my pork roll egg & cheese on a toasted bun.  I tried to convince the establishment to change the name/description on the menu but was unsuccessful.  As it turns out, it’s just dialect. The Northern Italians don’t speak the same as the Sicilians – dialect.  There’s proper English and then there’s slang – dialect.  In the UK those from London speak far more different from that of Yorkshire – dialect.

 How it all began…..Pork Roll has been made since 1856 by Taylor Provisions of Trenton. NJ.  It was originally called “Taylor Ham” but the product name was changed to “Taylor Pork Roll” in 1906.  North Jerseyans say Taylor ham, South Jerseyans say pork roll.  . Po-tay-to/po-tah-to….you get the idea.  It’s a bit like the war of the north & south so where’s the Mason Dixon Line?

 My mother discovered that she could buy a massive log of pork roll at Costco so whenever my aunt & uncle would visit from upstate NY my mother would buy two.  One for the house and one for my aunt & uncle.  It was always received with great joy and gratitude.  Thankfully, some things never change.  I recently visited them upstate and my mother made sure she sent me off with the traditional gift from South Jersey, the beloved and highly coveted log-o-pork roll.  When I arrived and presented the gift joy and excitement ran amuck, especially from their granddaughter.  I thought she, being young and an upstate “New Yorkian” wouldn’t know what it was or would turn her nose up at it but she was ready to tear into it!  I fell in love with her right then & there.  Yes, she was raised right. 

 When I lived in the south I couldn’t find good Italian cheese or pork roll.  Those were the longest four years of my life!  Someone conned me into trying scrapple but it just wasn’t the same.  I’m not just a Jersey Girl; I’m a South Jersey Girl and I EAT PORK ROLL!

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