Today I met Kiki and Renee to discuss our latest book. Every three weeks or so, we pick a book, read it and then meet to discuss it. We all have similar eclectic tastes and will read just about anything, although I personally draw the line at cannibals and demons. Were they to choose a book about demonic cannibals, I would skip that month.
After our discussion, Kiki left and Renee and I hung out at the coffee shop for awhile. I love sitting in a coffee shop because it feels so grown up. I don’t drink coffee in any form, though. I don’t care how much sugar, cream, vanilla flavoring, or whipped cream you put in, it still tastes exactly like burnt dirt to me. It’s one of those things that smells soooooooo good and tastes sooooo bad! I usually order a diet coke; works for me!
There we sat and I was doing my usual stream of consciousness thing, blurting out whatever came into my head, when I remembered the scrapple. “I was in the Publix the other day,” I told her, “and I came across scrapple in the frozen food section.”
She looked mildly intrigued, so I continued “I picked it up and do you KNOW what is in that stuff???”
She did not, so I informed her “It’s made of pork, pork livers, pork hearts, pork eyebrows, pork skins and some other pork parts they can’t even list on the package because it’s just too disgusting.”
We fell into a discussion about scrapple, wondering who would eat it and how it would be fixed. We paused, looked at each other and I said “Do you wanna go look at the Scrapple??”
“Oh yeah,” she said enthusiastically. Because that’s the kind of friend Renee is. She is always ready for adventure. Not the hop a plane and head to Tibet to see the Dalai Lama kind of adventure because that is way too ordinary. No, Renee is the kind of friend who says “yes, I want to go to the Publix and find weird food items and mock those who might possibly consume them.” In other words, Renee is a true friend. And she can also write prescriptions, which is just bonus in my opinion!
So off we went to the Publix which, conveniently enough, was located in the same strip mall. I made a beeline for the freezer section and there it was: SCRAPPLE. We opened the case and solemnly removed the scrapple, handling it reverently as we read the ingredient list. I freely admit here that I am far removed from the farm and I refuse to eat organs of any type!! Yes, I have probably ingested them unknowingly, but there is honor and better digestion in ignorance!
“Ewwwwwww, pork hearts,” we squealed. There were two types of scrapple, so we debated the merits of the Philadelphia style versus the country style. We determined the Philly style looked slightly more palatable, being a beige color versus the sickly gray of the country style. The package gave no clues as to preparation, but I figured it was something probably fried in a pan. But more on that later.
From the freezer section, we headed to the canned meat aisle, drawn by a higher power to see what weirdness awaited our discovery. Publix has a more refined section than Winn Dixie and there are no cans of pork brains (in milk gravy…yum!!!) or tripe. There is, however, potted meat. Potted Meat comes in a tiny can and if memory serves, it is a sickly pink paste. I guess you eat it on a sandwich. I had it when I was a child. Imagine my horror when we picked up the can and discovered it was made with TRIPE!! For those of you not familiar with tripe, let me enlighten you….it’s the scrapple of the beef world. In other words, it’s parts!!
The other fascinating ingredient in potted meat was mechanically separated chicken. Many images popped into our heads, including that of a chicken being tortured on the rack or run through the wood chipper. Here is the actual definition:
- Mechanically Separated Poultry
- is a paste-like poultry product produced by forcing crushed bone and tissue through a sieve or similar device to separate bone from tissue. Mechanically separated poultry has been used in poultry products since 1969 after the National Academy of Sciences found it safe for use. In 1995 the final rule on mechanically separated poultry said it was safe to use without restrictions. However, it must be labeled as “mechanically separated chicken or turkey” in the ingredient statement. The final rule became effective Nov. 1996.
Yummy!! You would be amazed by how many of your favorite meat products, like Underwood deviled ham (I love that little devil guy!!!) and Spam contain mechanically separated chicken! It makes me hungry just thinking about it! “Paste-like Poultry Product: it’s what’s for dinner!!!!”
We moved back to the frozen foods and examined Goya Ham Croquettes. These beauties are deep fried to a golden brown and stuffed with a pink paste the color of pepto bismol! The ingredient list was 4 inches long and I am not exaggerating. The paste itself contained two different red dyes, #4 and #37. Intestinal cancer anyone?? The Goya chicken croquettes contain your favorite and mine, MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN!!! At least the ingredient list for the chicken croquettes was only about one inch long!
After we parted ways, I headed home to pick up my husband and we headed right back out to meet our friend Karen for lunch. Friday is my husband’s day off and I try to make sure we eat three meals out that day! We went to Olive Garden and I mentioned my trip to Publix over the salad.
“Oh, I LOVE scrapple,” said Karen.
I choked on a crouton because those were the last words I was expecting to hear from her. She has some sort of fabulous corporate job and is not the sort of person I envisioned eating scrapple. Renee and I had decided that the consumers of scrapple and olive loaf and other fine meat by-products were over the age of 90 and had been raised on farms in Iowa.
It turns out, according to Karen, that scrapple is a popular food in the New Jersey area. It is, indeed, sliced and fried up in a pan. “It’s one of my favorite breakfast meats,” she gushed. “Every diner in New Jersey serves it!” Ok, right away, I am crossing New Jersey off my list of possible vacation sites!
I gave her a sickly look and she said defensively “and you might as well know, I eat head cheese too. Only you can’t get it at Publix anymore.” FOR A GOOD REASON!!! HEAD AND CHEESE ARE TWO FOODS THAT DO NOT COMBINE WELL AT ALL!!!!
To be fair, my husband eats his fair share of gross meat products. His family all adore a vile concoction called “blood sausage”; I’ll let your imaginations go to work here. He is also a lover of fine head cheese and would probably eat scrapple if I cooked it up for him.
So the moral of the story is every region has its weird delicacies. We have chitlins (chitterlings) here in the south and scrapple is big in the north. But as for me and my house, we will serve the wholesome foods like Twinkies and Hershey chocolate and leave the meat by products to those with stronger constitutions!