Pennsylvania Scrapple: Amy Strauss On Writing

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For those of us who live in southeastern Pennsylvania, certain foods have achieved celebrity status, and chief among them is scrapple. Just the name rolls off the mouth watering tongue. Say it with me. Scrapple! Scrapple! Scrapple! Don’t think too much about the origin of the word.

Last year, I ran into my foodie writer friend Amy Strauss and was excited to hear she was writing a book about this delicacy. I can’t think of anyone better to tackle this project, as Amy has always been proud of her Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, and has been a Philadelphia based food and drink writer and editor for over a decade. She has been published in  Main Line Today magazine, Town Dish, Beer Scene, Drink Philly, and more.

Pennsylvania Scrapple: A Delectable History was published on October 9th, 2017. I wanted to ask Amy a few questions about what it was like to write a biography of this regionally iconic breakfast meat.

Jim: What's the best way to explain scrapple to someone who is unaware of this delicacy and has never savored the blissful taste?

Amy: First, it must be said, scrapple is not something you need to overthink. It’s delicious—that’s all you need to know! If you have opened your hungry soul to pork of any kind (bacon, anyone?), it’s time you gave scrapple a chance. It’s the king of breakfast meats! It hosts a textural playground unlike any other when sizzled in a skillet, wrapped in a crunchy coating and hidden with a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth interior.

But, if you really want an education, here I go: like sausage, Scrapple is the culmination of multiple pig parts that are ground, melded together with flours and spices, and baked into loaves. It’s pork flavor is rich and delicious, and the concept itself is regionally specific to Pennsylvania. Our settlers invented it—and it’s managed to stick around through all these years! It’s sustained farm families through their hard working days. It was one of America's first nose-to-tail products way before whole-animal cooking was “cool.” It is whole food, real food and if you grip up a hunk in a supermarket, you'll actually be able to understand what’s in the ingredient statement. (Take that, hot dogs.)

Now, are you hungry for a slice?

Jim: Ha! Yes! When you first told me you were writing a scrapple book, it struck me as the perfect Amy Strauss project. How did writing this book come about?

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Amy: It warms my PA Dutch heart to hear that “scrapple” and “Amy Strauss” has become somewhat synonymous. The project itself can be attributed to the greatness that is Twitter. Since writing about food for the last decade, I’ve been active in taking on assignments where I can dig into my heritage and the stick-to-your-ribs dishes associated with it. Of course, when publishing a new piece, I like to share it socially—and I recommend everyone to do so because you never know who is watching! Uhem, perhaps someone looking for the someone to write a scrapple book!

In short, Arcadia Publishing and their American Palate series had been exploring Philadelphia-area writers to lock into a scrapple book deal, and I just so happen to be the one they asked. Contracts, deadlines, edits, and several months later, we have ourselves pages and pages celebrating the porky delight. I wish I came up with the idea first—but I feel lucky enough to have been granted the exciting opportunity.

Jim: You obviously knew a lot about scrapple before this project? Is there a certain piece of scrapple history, or maybe a certain scrapple recipe, that you unearthed that blew you away while writing this book?

Amy: I've always had a great respect for the utilitarian nature of scrapple. As a meat bred from the desire to utilize the "leftover" scraps from a day's butchering, it gets a bad rep. But, if you think about it, it was the farmhouse way to prolong your animals and feed your hardworking families. Not to mention, the end result has stuck around for centuries and it's pretty damn spectacular.

One of the coolest things I discovered, as I sat piles deep in old Pennsylvania-German books at the Free Library of Philadelphia, was that the actual composition of scrapple was impacted greatly by the crops that grow readily in our dear Keystone State. The success of the Native Americans farming the corn crop contributed to German settlers finding it easily accessible in variations like cornmeal, which when combined with ground meat and other flour (buckwheat) and spices available, created a "meat loaf" unlike any other. When you appreciate how our ancestors lived and the craftiness that went into their cooking, it's exciting to see how far we've come—especially from so little.

Flipping the page, I found it simply very cool to explore how differently chefs now weave scrapple onto their menus. Made with duck, chicken, goat, mushrooms, etc.—it's everywhere and more delicious than ever!

Pennsylvania Scrapple: A Delectable History is available now at local book shops and on Amazon. Also – Amy Strauss will be appearing at the Scrapple Spectacular brunch and book signing at Grain in Kennett Square on Sunday, October 15th. Click HERE to see more about the event. Check our Amy's website by clicking HERE.