Happy National Scrapple Day!
I think it’s hilarious that today is “National” Scrapple Day, considering: (1) you can only get the stuff in a relatively small portion of the country and (2) in places where it is available, a solid 85% of the people won’t touch the stuff. But maybe what this horrendously under-appreciated delight needs is a day of observance to boost its reputation.
For those of you who don’t live in the mid-Atlantic states, I suppose that scrapple deserves a little explanation. Essentially, it’s a meat product made using pig offal. After the butchers have taken the “desirable” cuts off the pig, the rest gets boiled, the meat is minced and grain (cornmeal, usually) and spices are added to thicken the mixture into a loaf.
Once it gets to your kitchen or diner, it’s either pan- or deep-fried and what you get is a wonderful slice that is crunchy on the outside, smooth and creamy on the inside. There is a rich, meaty flavor here that you’re never going to get from a lifeless cut of meat like a quick-fry pork chop. Do yourself a favor and stop in a diner during your next trip through South Jersey or Eastern Pennsylvania.
I understand that scrapple can be scary. Shit, just the word is creepy. There’s the vaguely Germanic sound and the unfortunate inclusion of “scrap” and/or “crap.” But what really gets me is when I tell someone how much I enjoy it and they come back with: “But don’t you know what’s in that?!?” Yes, I do, which makes me like it even more. Here’s why…
First off, anyone who claims to be a foodie and then turns up his or her nose at eating the “icky” parts of an animal isn’t a real foodie. You’re more than welcome to not like kidney, sweetbreads or bone marrow, but to reject it out of hand is unacceptable. That’s the same mindset that allows people to skip Indian food because of the “weird spices” and sushi because it’s raw fish. If you want to be a foodie, you’re going to need to grow a pair (balls or ovaries).
But what’s even more galling is when people intimate that a dish made with hearts, trotters, brain, liver and more is somehow substandard. Scrapple, which has its origins in Old World Europe, was developed by the Pennsylvania Dutch, a group with as much respect for cooking the right way as anyone (try their pretzels too, and not just Auntie Anne’s).
Chances are the pork I’m eating in the scrapple was handled correctly, was more likely to be grown on a farm using sustainable techniques and represents a willingness to not waste even one ounce of usable pig.
Can you say the same about that national-brand chicken or bacon you’re eating?