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.
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.