How to explain to a non-Jerseyan the biggest debate in NJ
As if you didn’t know, the Taylor ham vs. pork roll debate is a long-standing argument among residents of New Jersey over the name and origin of a popular breakfast food.
But would you believe I mentioned it to someone lately who had no idea what I was talking about?
I didn’t realize it was possible to live in this state, and not know that this debate existed but even if you do know that it exists, do you understand the underpinnings of it?
My Brooklyn friends have heard of it, but do people outside of New Jersey understand it what all the fuss is about?
The meat, how ever you refer to it as, is typically served sliced and fried on a roll. It’s known by different names sometimes depending on the region of the state in which it is consumed. But sometimes not.
In North New Jersey, (the exact geography of which is another debate entirely,) the meat is commonly referred to as Taylor Ham, named after the company that first produced it in 1856.
In central and southern parts of the state, it is called pork roll, a name that is believed to have originated from the process of curing the meat with a mixture of salt and sugar, a technique known as "rolling" in the meat industry.
The debate over the correct name for the meat has been a source of frustration for many New Jersey residents, with each side feeling strongly about their preferred term. And believe me, people are as indignant about their side as they are about their favorite sports team!
Those who refer to the meat as Taylor ham argue that it is the original and proper name, as it is the name of the company that first produced it. They also point out that the name “pork roll” is vague and could refer to any number of processed pork products. And I have to say, I see that side.
On the other hand, those who call it pork roll argue that the name is more descriptive and accurately reflects the curing process that the meat undergoes. They also contend that the name “Taylor ham” is a trademark owned by the Taylor Provisions Co., and therefore should not be used generically to refer to the meat. Shoot. I see that side, too.
Despite the ongoing debate, the Taylor ham/pork roll remains a beloved and iconic food in New Jersey, often featured in local diners and delis. It has also gained a significant following outside of the state, with fans of the meat often debating the issue on social media and online forums.
In the end, the debate over the name of the Taylor ham/pork roll is likely to continue, with each side steadfast in their belief that their preferred term is the correct one. I mean, after all, this is Jersey. We don’t give in easily!
Regardless of what it is called, however, there is no doubt that this delicious and unique breakfast food will continue to be enjoyed by New Jersey residents and fans around the country.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.
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