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Scrapple: By Any Other Name . . .?

“And I said, What about breakfast at Tiffany’s?”  Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Deep Blue Something

So I’m running late.  No time for breakfast at home.  Figure I’ll grab something at the office cafeteria.  I’m not alone.  The long line of similar-minded colleagues placing orders for eggs and pancakes gives me time to ponder the contents of the steam table in front of me.  My empty stare glances past the usual suspects–bacon, sausage (both pork and turkey), hash browns, and even some corned beef hash.  Then my gaze seizes on something else–something both discordant and guiltily familiar.  Greyish brown, thin, rectangular slices, slightly crusted around the edges.

Could it possibly be?  Yes.  Most definitely– Scrapple!  The most ignominious side dish in breakfast history.  But also the most honest.

The Pennsylvania Dutch concocted Scrapple in the farmlands west of the Delaware River and east of the mighty Susquehanna.  Being candid souls, these hardworking immigrants from the German Rhineland (literally Deutsch, not  Dutch) refused to sugarcoat their invention with some euphemistic name.

They named it like it was.  A pudding formed into a loaf that combined buckwheat flour, pork broth (usually brewed from a hog’s head), and whatever scraps remained after  butchering the hams, ribs, chops, bacon, shoulder, and roasts.  And those scraps included not only bits of meat, but heart, liver, tongue and sometimes brain.  Come to think of it, with all that offal, the name Scrapple may just be a benign and inviting euphemism after all.

And from tables throughout the mid-Atlantic, thin slices of grilled Scrapple became the staple of a good, solid, workingman’s morning meal.

I first encountered it as an undergrad, where Scrapple anchored the $.99 “breakfast special,” served at the “Twin Gables” truck stop in Carlisle, Pa., near the intersection of I-81 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.   The savory blend of grain, pork, sage, pepper, and other spices had a strangely compelling allure.  Like a mealier version of a mild sausage patty.

Plainly, bacon had nothing to worry about in the competition for breakfast-meat primacy.  But for $.99, who could complain?  Night after night, semester after semester, we returned to Twin Gables to mingle with truckers and other weary travelers, to sip tepid coffee and to feast on Scrapple and eggs before returning to campus to either continue a long night of studying or end a longer night of extracurricular antics.

Decades went by without so much of a whiff of Scrapple crossing my mind or palate.  Until this morning.  Amazing how a humble slice of humble quasi-meat can instantly evoke such rich and satisfying memories.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “In nonsense is strength”  ―  Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions.

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