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New Jersey’s Pork Roll-Taylor Ham Wars

Posted by

Oct 27, 2016

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

There's a giant debate simmering in New Jersey over the official state sandwich. Some favor pork roll, egg, and cheese. Others prefer Taylor ham, egg, and cheese. But those are two names for the same food—a processed meat roll that looks like a giant salami. People in New Jersey just can't agree on what to call it.

And this argument has its roots in a blood feud that goes back 150 years.

In this episode of The Sporkful, we talk with a bunch of locals, a pork roll historian, and comedian Chris Gethard to find out what this food is, why it's so important to the people of New Jersey, and why they can't stop fighting about it.

And one thing you have to understand off the bat is that most of New Jersey is either part of the New York metro area or the Philadelphia metro area. So New Jerseyans are very proud of the things that are distinctly New Jersey. And pork roll is one of them. It's hickory smoked and cured with sugar so it's salty, sweet, and smoky.

The iconic way to eat it is on an egg and cheese sandwich. Here's Dan's Taylor ham egg and cheese with eggs over medium, just the way he likes it. This one came from Daphne's Diner of Robbinsville, NJ, where they actually call it pork roll:

porkrollcourtesydanpashman

TC Nelson, a New Jersey native, says pork roll is as New Jersey as Bruce Springsteen. "It is at that level," he beams.

Comic Chris Gethard, another New Jersey native, had an aunt who left the state when she was 18. "This woman had a pretty hard life," he says. "[She] bounced around, never had money. And she'd call my mom and say, 'Can you ship me some Taylor ham?' That's not just, 'I wanna eat this thing.' That's, 'I remember where I came from. And the thing that gives me that is biting into this weird meat.'"

The pork roll-Taylor ham divide is regional. Like Chris, Dan's from northern New Jersey, so he grew up calling it Taylor ham. Based on a poll on NJ.com, the state breaks down like this:

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-2-16-01-pm-copy

The two best-known pork roll brands are Taylor and Case. Both have been making the processed meat product for nearly 150 years, and both companies are still owned by the families that founded them. They fought in court over a century ago about what the food should be called. And they've been at it ever since.

Now, as we hear in this episode, there's a new pork roll feud brewing.

In this week's show we dig deep into pork roll's unique history and culture. Can The Sporkful unite warring factions and bring peace to the processed meat galaxy? Listen to this week’s episode to find out.

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

Connect with Dan on TwitterInstagram and Facebook!

Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:

- "Summer Of Our Lives" by Stephen Clinton Sullivan

- "Steady" by Cullen Fitzpatrick

- "Mellophone" by JT Bates

- "Birthday Party" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

- "New Old" by JT Bates

Photos: Facebook/Pork Roll; Dan Pashman

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