I’m scared of scrapple.
Wikipedia charmingly describes it as a “semi-solid congealed loaf.”
Congealed is a creepy word. Semi-solid might be an accurate description, but it just doesn’t sound the way food should be textured—it is not a phrase you would read in food critics’ reviews, though they unashamedly will write “dried lacto-fermented,” “carbon-negative vodka,“ “beguilingly unctuous,” like a come-hither slime mold and “salt-macerated,” in just one essay alone. Semi-solid has a gloppy, mucus-like sound to it.
The website for one of the two major manufacturers of scrapple boasts “high quality Scrapple Products,” and my mind boggles at thoughts of scrapple pot pies. Scrapple pizza. Oreos with scrapple filling. Larger-than-life carved scrapple pigs at state fairs. Scrapple spiced lattes.
I thought that after moving to Pennsylvania, it would behoove me to become more familiar with it, but that was because as an average gormless New York City transplant, I hadn’t realized just how big Pennsylvania was, and that the scrapple part of Pennsylvania is not the part of Pennsylvania that we live in. Here in Equinunk, we are closer to the New York Southern Tier tradition of spiedies, which we first met while visiting our college student in Binghamton. Speidies are quite delicious and nearly identical to the souvlaki found in nearly every other corner food truck in NYC. But in the Southern Tier, the marinated chunks of meat, grilled on a spit, are served on a hoagie roll! Woo-hoo!
In college, fighting off the dinosaurs in the quad to get to class built up our appetites, and our meager allowances barely covered cigarettes and beer. School policy required us to be on the school’s seven-day-a-week meal plan while we lived on campus. I remember well some of the cafeteria’s glories: banana pancakes with the heft and flavor of packing blankets that Grandma forgot she left in the damp basement. Scrambled eggs, whose sloshing around the plate suggested they had been prepared with a bit more liquid than their recipe called for—not quite congealed, sort of semi-solid. The entree listed on the blackboard menu as “Braised Cubes,” which a classmate explained was “a French thing, they just love to braise their cubes.”
Faced with that interesting diet, in those late, long, barely post-adolescent talks in our dorms, we spent more hours reminiscing about the real food we used to eat than the meaning of life.
In my after-college life, I loved being in the city, with its roiling exotic restaurants on every block, even if I was squeamish about the undisguised animal body parts in the ethnic groceries. I’ve been willing to try a lot of different stuff, from sauce made from rotting anchovies, to mysterious vegetables with no known American suburban counterpart. Moving here, I thought I ought to try what many people, including myself, associated with PA.
But when my husband and I went looking for scrapple, it was easier to find gochunjang, the spicy Korean chile paste. In the local general and grocery stores we could find sambal olek cheek-to-jowl with German mustard and bottled hoagie dressing and kimchi and spiedie marinade. But only one of the four groceries within a single stoplight’s reach of our house stocked any scrapple, and it was an interesting assortment.
One congealed block was from one of the original mass-manufacturers, but that version had added bacon. Another had beef byproducts. As a scrapple newbie seeking the purest version, I fully insisted upon only PIGGY byproducts. We bought a pound from Lancaster, PA.
I’m told it is delicious when fried up crispy for breakfast with eggs.
It’s in the freezer. Might be there a while.
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