Aside from their rugged independence and long beards, another Pennsylvania Dutch contribution to Philly is scrapple, otherwise known as pan rabbit or Pannhaas. Broadly, one might consider it a meatloaf. Described kindly by Wikipedia as “…a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, and slices of the scrapple are then pan-fried before serving.”
Fried meatloaf. It’s a terrifying premise and a terrifying foodstuff. If you were to google scrapple, and I don’t recommend it, you would be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally let your mind wander and had googled ‘brick,’ instead. One could generously call it unappetizing. But it’s somehow become a staple breakfast food across unknowing Philadelphian diners far and wide, thanks to the hardworking spectre of the Pennsylvania Dutch.
I think I’ve made it abundantly clear — scrapple scares me. But don’t let it be said that I don’t try new things for the sake of this blog. I am the Bizarre Foods of the internet, except not bald and with an extremely limited budget. After steeling myself, saying farewell to my loved ones, and asking for extensions on all of my papers, I took to the Dutch Eating Place in the venerable Reading Terminal Market to face my destiny.
Sidebar: I love the unofficial Pennsylvania Dutch / Amish corner to the Market. Their prices are always reasonable, and the employees, while perhaps occasionally a bit stiff, are always kindly and quick to refill. Nothing but love for those folks. Leftover pancakes from the Dutch Eating Place has gotten me through many a study session.
A lucky star.
It came with a side of toast, perhaps to mop up my tears for being such a baby. I had depleted my orange juice. There was nothing else to be done.
Breaking off a corner of the loaf with my fork, I put it in my mouth and chewed it. I didn’t really swallow it, so much as it sort of just disappeared. It was like eating a ghost. Longing for the blueberry pancakes just delivered to my neighbor on the right, I continued on in my dark task. This second bite did not disappear so easily, and I was able to gauge a measurably more pork-ish taste. Not necessarily a good thing — I was forced to compare it to the Jake’s pork sandwich I had had just a few days previous — but again, I am an internet professional, and continued on.
A crispy exterior, an almost creamy interior, and well-seasoned with spices that I couldn’t really place. They weren’t particularly in-your-face, more spicy, umami, to round out the tastes of sweet bread and savory pork. I ate it, finished it, wolfed down my toast, paid, and left. It was a Phyrric victory — though I had eaten the scrapple, it was at the cost of eating the scrapple.
I would not have scrapple again. Not because I hated it, but because of the competition — toast, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, quiche, and omelettes, just to scratch the surface. There’s a wide world of breakfast foods that one might put in their mouth and I prefer most of them over scrapple.
Pros: It was about five bucks for the scrapple platter. I was full afterwards.
Cons: All those lil’ pigs had families. And I’d eaten them! I was empty on the inside.
(The Whizzard is always empty on the inside. —Ed.)
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