Sunday, September 10, 2006

The scrapple experience

A little while back, I described my wife’s first experiences with scrapple, the meat (and I use the term loosely) product that makes SPAM seem like filet mignon. As if any reason were necessary, I offered that one might do well to steer clear of scrapple solely because I’d never seen my dad eat the stuff.

Nothing fazes the man, culinarily speaking. The nasty yellow stuff inside crabs? Tasty. Caesar salads at fancy restaurants where they sneak in anchovies without even asking you first? His favorite. He can make an entire meal out of the gristle that Mom leaves on her discarded chicken wings. The bones are so clean afterwards that natural history museums buy them to make exhibits. But I honestly believed that the hunt to find something that Dad wouldn’t eat had reached its exciting conclusion with scrapple.

Well, Dad took that as a challenge, of course. He got up early one morning and headed down to the local diner, by himself, for his date with pig scrap destiny. The date went well. They’ve been seeing each other ever since. Dad is now an avid scrappler; he even makes special trips on Saturday mornings to get his eggs and scrapple breakfast. Mom rarely joins him. Laugh and the world laughs with you; eat pig nostrils and you dine alone.

During my most recent visit home, Dad couldn’t wait to take me out to breakfast. I reluctantly agreed, knowing that I’d probably regret it. Mom came along this time, if for nothing else than the spectacle.

“I don’t see why you two keep talking about scrapple,” she said. “You’re just trying to gross me out.” She was right, of course.

Before we ordered, Dad explained, “Scrapple’s like cornbread, but it’s meat. It’s just a slice of meaty cornbread, and it’s kind of crispy.” He said this as if he had just given me a reason to try it.

When the server came to take our order, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I got French toast.

“You can try some of mine,” Dad offered graciously.

When our meals came out, I finally came face-to-loaf with the legendary comestible for the first time. It was actually pretty unassuming, with the ingredients prudently chopped so tiny that you couldn’t make out which pieces came from hooves. The slab on Dad’s plate looked like meat particleboard. Scrapple is the IKEA furniture of breakfast foods. They should serve it with an Allen wrench.

Dad immediately cut off a piece the size of a brick and put it on my plate. I looked down at it and shook my head.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” I said. “I’m having trouble shutting off my brain.”

“Oh, it’s just a little piece,” Dad said. I realized then that Dad had become the bad kid in the ABC After School Special, pressuring me into trying something I shouldn’t be doing. “Go ahead. Try it. You’ll like it. First taste’s on me.”

I submitted, cutting off a small piece and, fork shaking, biting into it. It wasn’t bad, really, but I couldn’t shake the notion that I’d just put something unspeakably wrong into my mouth, like a kid who’d been talked into eating a slug.

My sister-in-law Jill recently became a vegetarian. I’m pretty sure that I could never be one myself, but I am a vegetarian sympathizer, which means that I respect them, and I try to sit next to them at weddings in case they get served prime rib or something. I can just picture the look of horror on her face if Dad were to order scrapple in front of her.

“What is he eating?” she would whisper to me.

“Um, that’s eggplant, Jill,” I would tell her. “Every last blessed part of the eggplant.”

You can make arrangements to join Mike Todd’s dad for breakfast online at mikectodd@gmail.com.

4 comments:

  1. "I am a vegetarian sympathizer, which means that I respect them, and I try to sit next to them at weddings in case they get served prime rib or something"

    This made me laugh till milk came out my nose. Ok, it wasn't milk. And it wasn't my nose. But I didn't want to say I laughed till I peed. But there it is.....

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  2. “Scrapple’s like cornbread, but it’s meat. It’s just a slice of meaty cornbread, and it’s kind of crispy.”

    I wanted to write that I laughed my fat ass off at this one, but, ever diligent, I checked before typing in that word verification, and it's still there...:(

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  3. that's as bad as eating Menudo at the authentic, down south mexican restaurants.

    I think that is just made up of all the pig parts that fall on the floor to be rinsed out the drain. I think the drain leads dirrectly to the mexican restaurants, so they can make Menudo. Okay I gotta go barf and shower now.

    *shudder*

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  4. melodyann -- Thanks so much for expressing your incontinence here. That's like belching for the chef. You rule!

    Burfica -- Hey! Menudo's made from offal, too. Good ol' Burfica and Wikipedia. Perfect together. Menudo's like scrapple's cousin, when it's not being a Puerto Rican boy band with Ricky Martin in it. I almost didn't learn anything new today. You got here just in time.

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