Is it Pork Roll or Taylor Ham?
Being in Central Jersey, we are caught in the middle of a never-ending debate between North Jersey and South Jersey. Who is wrong? Who is right? Is it pork roll or is it Taylor Ham?
Judge & Jury
Before I attempt to bring an end to this ongoing controversy, let me first explain my unorthodox yet rational reasoning for me being the sole mediator of this debate. Back in the days of yore, I was a student at Ramapo College up in North Jersey. My roommates were all locals from North Jersey but my girlfriend was from South Jersey. Being that I liked her, she would spend time at my place with me . . . and my roommates – which consequently meant I would have to deal with the constant arguing between the Northerners and the Southerners. The debate of whether it is called pork roll or Tyler Ham was hands down the worst argument of them all. And I had to listen to each side of the argument over and over . . . and over again.
Being from the mythical land of Central Jersey (some people don’t believe Central Jersey exist, which is another ongoing debate), I remain neutral. Pork roll and Taylor Ham are both breakfast meats to me, just like hoagies and heroes are both are both sandwiches or like New York and Philadelphia are both called “the city”. My decision in determining the difference between pork roll and Taylor Ham is unbiased. I therefore appoint myself mediator based both on natural birthright and personal experience. Now let’s begin . . .
Pork roll is a generic processed-meat product made from spiced pork grounds. But in a less formal definition, it is glorified spam for New Jerseyans.
It is most commonly used for breakfast sandwiches. The heavily salted meat is perfectly balanced when layered with egg and cheese.
In New Jersey, you can buy pork roll at any grocery store from a wide-variety of brands, and it is a favorite at diners. But before pork roll was New Jersey’s number one diner food, it was New Jersey’s number one military food.
It is rumored to believe that pork roll first came about in 1776 during the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Trenton. It was considered to be a perfect stock food for soldiers for many reasons:
- Inexpensive – the meat of pork roll came from the unwanted parts of a pig. It was therefore cheap to produce and easily mass-produced.
- Long Shelf Life – the meat was heavily spiced and salt, allowing it to last a long time.
- Compact – It was small and easily wrapped, making it easy to carry.
- Delicious – If you have to eat the same food everyday for weeks to come, you might as well enjoy it!
It is easy to see why soldiers would carry pork roll. When the war was over, soldiers must have thought it to be so good that they brought it home with them. And that’s why we still have it today. Now there are several brands of pork roll, each with their own mix of spices and unique taste.
In 1856, a man by the name of John Taylor created a pork roll recipe using special spices. He called his pork roll Taylor’s Prepared Ham. The product became an immediate success in the town of Bella Mead, New jersey and the surrounding areas in Northern Jersey.
When the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was formed, Taylor’s Prepared Ham failed to meet the new legal definition of ham set by the Pure Food And Drug Act of 1906. As result, the name was changed from Tyler’s Prepared Ham to Taylor’s Pork Roll.
By this time, Taylor’s Pork Roll was well-known throughout the state. Many copy-cat competitors began to emerge with similar brand names such as Taylor’s Rolled Pork. Taylor took legal action and sued several copy-cat compiles in 1910. The major result of the legal case was that the words “pork roll” could not be trademark. The name was then changed for a third time to Taylor Provisions, which remains the company’s name today.
In the debate of whether it is called pork roll or Taylor Ham, it seems the proper name for that delicious ham-like substance is pork roll. However, calling it Taylor Ham is not technically wrong. Taylor Ham is simply a brand of pork roll, and we often use brand names to identify product names. When we want a tissue we ask for a Kleenex, when need a bandage we ask for a Band-Aid. When some people want pork roll on their egg sandwich they ask for Taylor Ham.