The origins of the intimidating mystery meat called pork roll can be traced back to John Taylor, a late 1800’s state Senator and well-known businessman who originally called the product “Taylor’s Prepared Ham.” But thanks to those tricky folks at the FDA, Taylor was forced to cut out the bit where it said “ham,” as it didn’t meet the new definition of “ham” established by the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. As such, it became a “pork roll.” Not long after that, Taylor tried to protect his invention from competition by trademarking “pork roll,” but failed. Like Cheez Whiz, if you need to tell me something is a food product, I’m a little skittish of it.
For whatever reason, this pork roll — otherwise known as Taylor Ham the further up north in New Jersey you unwisely choose to go — has become something of a breakfast/lunch staple among the ‘do-everything’ food carts of the world. A pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich is one of the things I hear ordered most often at my personal favorite (owing a great deal to convenience) food truck at Drexel University, Pete’s Little Lunch Box. While Sue, the operator of the truck, knows that I want a cheesesteak with fried onions with embarrassing regularity, it was when I ordered the pork roll, egg, and cheese that she nodded solemnly and I leaned back on the fence opposite to ponder my fate.
Not without a wistful glance to those who had been fortunate enough to get cheesesteaks, I unwrapped the aluminum foil and murmured a brief prayer to the father of modern animal husbandry, Jay L. Lush. I’m not too big on pork. This has been established. It might be an Animal Farm thing, I don’t know. I’m not too big on egg either — I like it fried and on a burger or bibimbap, but not as the main player in a dish. This is, from the start, doomed to fail. I should not even attempt it.
I took about two bites. It is bad. It is very very bad. The flavor is comparable to biting the sole of one’s shoe. For those who haven’t dined on shoe leather recently, I can only compare it unfavorably to Spam. Scrapple was a delight, comparatively. That said, I was determined to understand why people enjoyed pork roll, and as such, I interviewed former attorney and public servant, John Roberts. (John Roberts is still Rich Roberts’ father. –Ed.)
Whizzard: Mr. Roberts, why is it that you enjoy pork roll?
Mrs. Roberts (interjecting): Reminds you off your youth?
Mr. Roberts: That’s it. It’s a tradition. Nostalgic. Grew up eating pork roll, continue enjoying it. Like it with eggs.
Suggested wine pairing: Franzia Sunset Blush.