The idyllic story of the Philadelphia Pepper Pot likens it to be a salve for the flagging would-be American rebel army in the time of Washington: a bit of ingenuity from one of the army’s chefs, who improvised a thick soup of, essentially, whatever he had on hand. That he managed to do so, and create a warming stew of tripe and vegetables to bolster the army’s flagging, sickly spirit, is a warming, prideful tale, which makes it a little sad that the soup comes from the Caribbean. If this chef ever did make his rustic soup, it was probably thanks to inspiration from a Caribbean counterpart.
That said, the soup is almost more famous for its cultural contributions than its dietary ones. In 1811, a German artist named John Lewis Krimmel had created his piece, ‘Pepper-Pot: A Scene in the Philadelphia Market’ depicting the soup sold along what would later be known as Market Street. (The piece is currently on display in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.) Later on, Andy Warhol would take to the touchstone in his piece, Campbell’s Soup Cans, with pepper pot soup sitting daintily on the bottom left of the artwork.
I confess, in this one experience, I have failed you. Though I attempted to seek out the Whetstone Tavern in East Philadelphia, where a certain onomatopoeic online restaurant review website that I shall not name insisted the soup was served, only to find that they were not serving it that day! (I ended up getting a crab cake sandwich and blueberry cobbler, if you’re interested. It was tasty.) The City Tavern, I would later learn, served it as well, but (for those unfamiliar) the famous 2nd at Walnut Street landmark that attempts to recreate a colonialist vibe is for those with a fatter wallet than mine.
I imagine it is a thick, spicy stew, but given to my distaste towards soups and chilis in general, and with a stew being somewhere in between, I do not think that I would have liked it very much. This is next-level reviewing, I agree: not even tasting the product in question. Rest assured, this is the exception, and not the norm — I have suffered through myriad pork products for the sake of you, the reader.
Pros: The heart of the American Revolution — that sort of grim determination to stand up for freedom feels more relevant than it has for a long time.
Cons: Could be one of the finest meals I’ve never eaten.