How is your ‘taste memory’?
Last week, my band had the pleasure of performing at The Pond restaurant and bar near Rehoboth Beach. On a whim I decided to see if I could ferret out some of our northern vacationers by wearing my “Taylor Ham – New Jersey Essential Eating” T-shirt. Wow! “Ferret out” was an understatement! No fewer than 15 or 20 people came up to the stage and mentioned the shirt. Each had a story that centered on the aromas of childhood breakfasts. And half of them weren’t even from Jersey! Go figure ….
Some call it Taylor Ham. Others refer to it (reverently) as Taylor Pork Roll. Call it what you will, but one of my fondest childhood memories of Rehoboth was slipping out of my parents’ room at the Carlton Hotel and ordering a Taylor sandwich at the now long-gone stand on the Rehoboth Boardwalk. Those immortal words still ring in my ears: “Double meat, please!” Slices were grilled before your eyes, then plopped onto a soft bun with a slice of white American cheese, lettuce, tomato and a slather of mayo. Hard to believe that I was such a skinny kid.
Denizens of the Jersey Shore had it best, with the little stands popping up everywhere from Sandy Hook to Cape May. There was even one in Ocean City, Md., for a while.
You could smell the fragrant aroma of the grilling meat, and there always seemed to be a line. Sadly, the little stands have disappeared from Delaware, but true pork roll lovers know that it is still available in many local grocery stores.
The true Taylor Pork Roll (beware of bland imitations!) was created by John Taylor, a colonel in the Revolutionary Army in the 18th century. As a merchant in New Jersey, he blended a spiced pork product that became popular in diners and taverns up and down the Delaware Valley. In 1856, Sen. John Taylor, the colonel’s great-grandson, increased production at his plant in Trenton, N.J. By 1889, it was John Taylor & Company.
Today’s Taylor Pork Roll is still prepared in the original buildings on Perrine Avenue in Trenton. Aficionados know that the delicately spiced meat is equally good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The proper preparation is quick and simple: Slice it thin, then fry it in a hot skillet with no added fat or oil. If it burns a little bit, so be it. It still tastes just as good. JerseyPorkRoll.com says it best: “Taylor Ham or Taylor Pork Roll! Slice it thick or thin, make the four little cuts around the edges so it doesn’t curl when you cook it, and brown it ‘til it’s just the way you like it in an honest-to-goodness Jersey Diner.”
Lucky for us, this Jersey-centric boardwalk favorite lives on at Surf Bagel and at Honey’s Farm Fresh in Lewes. It is also available on a burger at the lime-green Smashmouth Burger Bus. Other breakfast spots are also catching on, so always ask. I like my Taylor Pork Roll sandwich with white American cheese and a fried egg on toast. (Or at Surf Bagel, a toasted sesame bagel.) You can also order Taylor Pork Roll delivered to your front door from the website above. If you’ve never had the pork roll experience, you’re in for a treat.