Where the bread is salty

Dante perfectly, precisely captured the inner disorientation of the exile when he wrote of a place where "the bread is salty and the steps are hard to climb".

Tasting salty bread was a reminder that he wasn’t in Florence. Climbing stairs built by a different measure than that which your legs learned in childhood told him he wasn’t in his native place.

I am in grocery store New Jersey.

I had constant reminders that this area has a very different make up of ethnic backgrounds than my native Minnesota.

For example, in Minnesota you will find perhaps a few feet of shelf space for canned tomatoes and maybe four, five kinds. Here, a couple dozen varieties in over twenty feet of shelves.

The entire left side is pasta. That would not happen where I am from.

In a cold case here I found this:

Here, you will not find Lefsa.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. wanda says:

    Let us know what’s cookin’, Father!

  2. bkerns07 says:

    Scrapple! And pork roll! Philadelphia favorites! Just don’t ask what’s in them!

  3. dirtycopper says:

    I second the pork roll motion (taylor ham) and if you can find them that far south Sabrett hot dogs!

  4. Tom in NY says:

    Sabrett’s hot dogs can be available near Berlin. “Taylor” ham (a brand) has roots in Trenton’s Chambersburg neighborhood, though it’s a favorite from Upper Saddle to Salem. Chambersburg’s Filling Station restaurant represents a culinary frontier — it sells both the “Italian” hot dog – see URL for Jimmy Buff’s – and the cheese steak.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  5. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Philadelphia scrapple is probably pretty tame and is made with pork shoulder (?) My Pennsylvania Dutch Grandmother got her scrapple recipe from her ancestors. It was made with calf’s liver, kidney (sometimes), pork “scraps,” (hence the name “scrapple), cornmeal, sage, salt and pepper. Somehow I never developed a taste for it. Wanna know where Hassenpeffer got its name?

  6. Gail F says:

    Mmmm scrapple. I grew up in Pennsylvania and I love it. When I moved to Cincinnati, I shocked my new relatives by wanting to eat goetta (see Rich’s comment above) the way you eat scrapple — with maple syrup on it. MMMMMM. They like it plain. But we usually eat goetta (pronounced “gutta” or “getta” in case you are wondering) with breakfast, so there is maple syrup on the plate somewhere!

    Goetta is made from pork and beef sausage cooked in pinhead oatmeal and formed into little loafs or tubes. You slice it and fry the slices, like cornmeal mush (polenta to the more refined). Yes, I also eat that with maple syrup.

  7. frjim4321 says:

    Growing up in the midwest back in the day when there was a real bakery in the Topps grocery store, there was a beautiful selection of bakery dinner rolls. When as a young jr associate I was often called upon to cook for the rectory, I would always get those rolls. I was heat them up, flashing them for about three minutes in a 450 oven. With real butter, they were a treat. The best: “Salt Horns.” Does anyone remember them? Beautiful rolls encrusted with salt. Can’t find them any more! Fr. Jim of the Blue Birds.

  8. j says:

    Always loved scrapple. Even though the first ingredient on the brand I used to eat was (I kid you not) “lips”

  9. smallone says:

    j – I could never get past the ingredient label on scrapple. As a kid who read everything, I always got nervous about the lips and “pork snouts.”

    Now Lebanon bologna is something that I would miss if I moved too far away from the SE Pennsylvania area. Yum!

  10. lucy says:

    I second that motion, Smallone !! I’m from Pennsylvania, now is exile in California, and I really miss my Lebanon (L’b-nen) boloney (we called it baloney). I also miss grapenut ice cream, available at most any place in the south central area that has soft serve. Yum. We had scrapple growing up, though when I could read the label, that ended. I do like mush, however, which is sliced, fried, and served with butter and syrup. It’s made from meal of some sort. I miss my Pennsylvania. Funny, though, my best friend in California is from New Jersey !

  11. An American Mother says:

    Look on the bright side.

    You won’t find chitlins or grits (can’t stand either one, though I’m a Southerner born and bred.)

  12. introibo says:

    Taylor Pork Roll! Memories of my New Jersey childhood….it’s very hard to find here in CT.

  13. dcs says:

    You won’t find chitlins or grits (can’t stand either one, though I’m a Southerner born and bred.)

    My local grocery store in Philadelphia definitely does sell chitterlings (chitlins) and grits are sometimes found at local diners. You won’t find pork brains though.

  14. JPG says:

    Scrapple. I love it.I knew the label said I do not care. I grew up with it. I seldom get it. My uncle, God rest his soul, would take a suitcase full back to Vegas.(this was 40 years ago.) While in Philly ,Father, you need to get Tasteycakes specifically the peanut butter or chocolate kandykakes(sp). I still think the cheesesteaks at Pudgey’s in Norristown are the best and a porkroll sandwich on a Kaiser roll?, Nirvana!. Although a bit of a distance from where you are, in Conshohocken PA, there was a bakery that made a “football” roll which looked in shape like a Portuguese roll we have in CT, but a harder crust with a soft inside. THE BEST FOR A CHEESESTEAK! In all thses things give thanks and pass the lipitor or your HMG coreductase inhibitor of choice. Safe and blessed travels!
    Fairfield, CT

  15. ckdexterhaven says:

    In the southwest you can choose from 10+ different kinds of tortillas (some homemade). And Mexican chorizo (in Homer Simpson voice)… chorizo. Just don’t look at the ingredients!

  16. MargaretMN says:

    When I moved to Northfield, MN from Michigan I discovered I could find 3 different brands of canned sauerkraut and had to go to the twin cities for a lot of spices and other stuff. The very concept of canned sauerkraut seemed wrong to me. We always bought it in jars or plastic bags.

  17. Nan says:


    I’m surprised at the canned sauerkraut. I’m in the south end of the cities and my mom has always bought the bagged stuff though right now she has some that her friend canned. While she doesn’t use it, she also has the crock in which her grandmother made sauerkraut.

  18. lux_perpetua says:

    i had the exact reverse experience when moving from pa to mn. since i’m completely blind, i kept getting [unhappily] surprised at the random places where whipped cream/topping would turn up [like on top of fruit salad] and the omnipresence of cheese in every veggie dish imaginable. though the fry bread and wild rice soup were delicious, i’m sure glad to be back with my shoefly pie and, oh-so-very-very-soon… faschnats!

  19. Girgadis says:

    Being within walking distance of just about every imaginable ethnic food is one reason I could never talk my husband out of moving away from South Philadelphia. Between the ravioli and the cannoli, we have Lebanese, Mexican, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Chinese. It’s funny what I take for granted – it’s nothing to walk into a supermarket here where an entire side of an aisle is dedicated to pasta and the other side to tomatoes, including various brands of the San Marzano variety. Although they are a dying breed, there are some ladies in these parts who can their own tomatoes and wouldn’t think of making Sunday “gravy” from anything else but their own homemade stock.

  20. lucy says:

    Tastykakes !! Yes, Fr. do get some of those. My personal favorite it peanutbutter. Enjoy !

  21. Girgadis says:

    lux, yes! Faschnachts! Every year I make a rather pitiful batch for the family but I would love to know where to get the real thing, or a good recipe for them.

  22. Margaret says:

    Black-and-white cookies are a New York thing, strictly speaking. But keep your eyes open in Joisey and Philly. Yum yum.

  23. An American Mother says:

    dcs, if you asked for “chitterlings” around here, the best you’d get is a “Huh?” Nobody would know what you meant! All I ask is that they be processed and cooked far, far away from wherever I am!

    Sign in a local restaurant: “We do not cut a grit in half for anybody.”

    But the barbeque around these parts is worth travelling miles for. I won’t go into the minutiae of North Carolina versus Virginia versus Alabama versus North or South Georgia styles — you have to be a real aficionado to get into that. But no matter which style you prefer, it’s all good as far as I’m concerned.

    One of the guys in our dog club is a professional BBQ cook. He travels round to the cookoffs and brings home prizes. Once a year he brings his portable cookers and does his thing for the club picnic. Awesome stuff.

    For Valentine’s Day my husband brought me barbeque ribs from a guy at his job who slow cooks them the old fashioned way, from his granddaddy’s recipe. With homemade bread, slaw, baked beans, and his sauce on the side. It doesn’t get any better than that, and I didn’t have to cook it!

  24. Maltese says:

    I went into a grocery store in Budapest shortly after the curtain fell; now THAT was a different sort of place–let me tell you, the milk tasted strange to my pasturized buds! I also have been in Morocco, where there is no such thing as a grocery store….

  25. Here’s a recipe for faschnachts, if you scroll down. Don’t know if it’s what you want or not:

    Part-potato flour donuts? I love potato flour bread, and I have nothing against it, but… huh. Different, for sure.

  26. A Sinner says:

    “Tastykakes !! Yes, Fr. do get some of those. My personal favorite it peanutbutter. Enjoy !”

    Butterscotch Krimpets!

  27. Girgadis says:

    Thanks Suburbanbanshee

    The recipe I have calls for adding hot mashed potatoes to the dough but this link is even better – I’ve never had faschtnachts that someone else made so I’d like to taste the “real thing”. It would be worth the drive to Trexlertown to find out.

  28. lux_perpetua says:

    yum delish wish i had a ride to trexlertown too. that’s where our high school german teachers would always pick up the faschnachts for the lucky german students. while we’re on the subject of amazing ethnic Shrove Tuesday foods, hanyone know a good place around here to get some paczki? i’ll take that over lutefisk anyday :)

  29. Torpedo1 says:

    mmmmm, Lefsa, rolled up with butter and cinnamon and sugar inside… yum. Thanks Fr. Z, now I want that. Oh well, I’ll have to wait until next Christmas. Now I have to look forward to my mom’s Irish Soda bread and home-made potato soup, nummy num.

  30. al007italia says:

    20 feet of canned tomatoes & a whole aisle of Pasta, sounds like a preview of Heaven to me.

    As for the infamous Lefse, not surprized to hear it is missing there. But it is available here in Iowa at the local Hy-Vee. Had my 1st encounter with it at Nordic Fest in Decorah many moons ago.

    As the song goes: “Yust a little lefse Vill go a long Vay!”

  31. Gabriella says:

    Fr. Z, walking along between pasta and canned tomatoes surely for a moment you must have thought you were in a supermarket in Rome :)

  32. ckdexterhaven says:

    @Lucy and smallone re: the Lebanon bologna. Boars Head makes a pretty decent Lebanon bologna, and I’ve bought it in Phoenix and Albuquerque. I’d be surprised if you couldn’t get it at the deli counter of your grocery store (that stocks Boars Head). I’ve asked our local grocery to order Boars Head havarti with jalapeno, and they did it no problem.

  33. Tom in NY says:

    @lux_perpetua: If you’re in driving distance from Mater Ecclesiae, check “Polish Deli” (also on the ‘net)in Bellmawr (on NJ 168) just east of the Turnpike. One of their suppliers is the Baltic Bakery on Edgemont St. in Phila’s Port Richmond neighborhood, if that is closer.
    Faschnachten have traveled from the Rhine to the Pale of Settlement via the Austrian Empire. It’s worth a call.

  34. chironomo says:

    Even though the first ingredient on the brand I used to eat was (I kid you not) “lips”

    Must have been the higher quality scrapple. No matter what’s in it…it is always good!

  35. caite says:

    oh, I love scrapple. One of my earliest memories is my grandfather teaching a wee caite the right way to cook it. dust with flour, the slice just the right thickness, cooked slowly until the exterior is brown and crispy and the interior still soft..yum

    In fact, I wrote an ode to scrapple once HERE.

  36. M. K. says:

    Having moved around a lot, I know the feeling very well… there are a fair number of grocery items (Autocrat coffee syrup, Gaspar’s linguica, Hoo Mee chow mein mix) that I grew up with in Southeastern Massachusetts and haven’t seen in the store anywhere else I’ve lived.

    On another note, I’d be very interested in knowing the source of the quotation from Dante.

  37. Charivari Rob says:

    Father, get thee to Wegmans!

  38. lux_perpetua says:

    tom in ny. GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST! thanks to your post, discovered that the port richmond bakery now does online delivery. problem forever solved

  39. mmmmmm!…. Lefsa!….with butter!….mmmmmm!!!

  40. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Philadelphians eat scrapple.

    Trentonians eat pork roll.

    Both are acquired tastes.

  41. einkleinerknabe says:

    One of the most unexpected grocery store experiences I had was at Angeli’s Central Market in Iron River, Michigan. Every kind of Italian food you could imagine. Hundreds of varieties of pasta and pasta sauce. Dozens of varieties of olive oil — a number dispensed from a tap — and just about every other imported Italian meats, cheeses, etc. you could desire in addition to what you’d expect in any other supermarket. In a town of 2,000 in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure there’s a reason it’s there.

  42. kellym says:

    Goodness! My family is all from northern NJ on the PA border – Easton, Allentown, et al – so Scrapple and Lebanon Baloney were a part of my childhood. But, when my parents left NJ to move to VT, all those items were only available during road trips. I forgot about Taylor pork roll until it was mentioned here. Anyone else a ring baloney fan?

    For those familiar with “The Burg”, the Chambersburg section of Trenton, check out the Stephanie Plum series by author Janet Evanovich. She’s a fellow Jersey girl, relocated to NH. Hilarious, and accurate.

  43. fr. Jordan says:

    Welcome to my part of the world, Father! You never tasted food so good!! Fr. Jordan Kelly, OP

  44. irishgirl says:

    Margaret-black and white cookies! Are you referring to ‘half moons’, may I ask?

    They are a specialty here in the central part of Upstate NY!

    Philadelphia has some very interesting culinary items, that’s for sure!

  45. dcs says:

    Anyone else a ring baloney fan?

    I grew up watching my Dad eat it – he would split it down the middle and load it with horseradish. He also liked cup cheese, which I’ve never seen outside of Berks or Lancaster County.

    Now Lebanon bologna I’ve eaten since childhood. I especially enjoy the “sweet” variety.

  46. Margaret says:

    irishgirl– I’ve never hear black-and-whites referred to as half moons, but I suppose it’s possible. The “cookie” part of the cookie is really more like a small yellow cake, topped with frosting– chocolate on one half, vanilla on the other. The ones I grew up with had a buttercream-type frosting, but many of the city bakeries I’ve seen sell them with more of a boiled-type frosting. Not the same, IMHO. If anyone wanders out to Long Island, my hometown bakery, the Malverne Pastry Shop, sells the world’s best ones… :)

  47. irishgirl says:

    Margaret-half moons up here are made either with a vanilla or a chocolate cake. The best part of eating them is licking the frosting!

    All this ‘food talk’ is making me hungry!

  48. Re: faschnacht recipe —

    Ah, yes, using up the mashed potatoes. That’s German-American family cooking, right there. :)

    Re: paczki —

    Meijers, Wal-Mart, and many other major supermarkets in the US carry paczki, thanks to a sort of paczki marketing group. I’m not sure if they license them the recipe, the ingredients, or what, but they’re pretty good for supermarket paczki.

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