Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I don’t know that I have a lot to learn from New Jersey, but she sure wants to teach me.

I’ve been down the shore, weathered the inanity of the jughandle, been called a “Benny,” parsed out the different accents, been thwarted by the blue laws on Sunday, tasted the coffee at Wawa, and toured countless vinyl-coated diners.

I first came to New Jersey three years ago this week. I’m back. She is awful persistent.

And yet (resignedness) I can admire a place with an “indigenous” food culture, completely contained within New Jersey borders. I’m talking about Taylor Ham: It’s not a secret, but New Jersey keeps it.

Taylor Ham is a sausage-like porcine product, with a texture at the midpoint between Canadian Bacon and Spam. The salient element in the very popular “Taylor ham and cheese” sandwich, it anchors NJ’s pork roll culture. It’s worth noting that this is strange to a Midwesterner—until only recently, the breakfast sandwich, or generally consuming breakfast with your hands, was relatively foreign. Plates. Bowls. There are reasons why this is accurate.

In the summer of 2005, my green ignorance of both Taylor ham and beach culture was met with astonishment, and quickly I was ushered to the deli.

Now, Taylor ham is usually prepared by slicing the sides so that the middle doesn’t bubble up, then placed on the griddle until it’s crispy.

Its sodium-nitrate-infused succulence might be sandwiched, or lay atop an omelet. As I mentioned, Taylor ham rarely leaves New Jersey (I guess the rest of the country can make do?) but it is worth sampling should you find yourself, sandy and terrified, on the boardwalk this summer.

Naturally, in New Jersey, all paths lead back to politics: John Taylor of the Taylor Provisions Company (1837-1909), was a New Jersey State Senator who punted street vendors in NJ and presided over the Inter-State Fair. To this day, Taylor ham is made not far from Taylor Street in Trenton.

Photo sources: No Frills Marilyn, Buba69


Anonymous said...

you are a benny


Kerri said...

I don't know anyone who calls it Taylor Ham. I always hear just "pork roll." Maybe that's a North Jersey thing. Most NJ natives at the shore order their breakfast sandwiches by saying it in one word: porkrolleggandcheese.

Also, I agree that you are a benny, however if the Dan in the comments is the Dan I think he is (perhaps he introduced you to pork roll not so long ago?), he is a benny too. Living in Belmar for 2 years doesn't absolve one.

Beth said...

no one will tell me what a benny is, so perhaps i won't bother asking but will take a shortcut to complaintville?

can one shape that pork into things? it'd make a hell of a laminated bowl.

ravi said...


Maven said...

A "benny" is someone from north of the Raritan River, who goes to the shore for the "benefits" of the surf, sea and sun.

Back about 100 years ago (thereabouts), when folks would take the train in from Philly, they were called "Shoe-bees" as they typically would have packed their lunch in a shoe box.