New Jersey is known for many things. Pumping your own gas is against the law. The only noteworthy stadium houses New York teams. Everyone has an attitude (but only if you’re an outsider looking in). Everyone’s in a hurry. It’s the birthplace of Bruce Springsteen. Oh, and then there’s Jersey Shore, a popular MTV show whose take on the “Pork Roll versus Taylor Ham” debate has fired up residents everywhere. The source of the debate is one of the most popular breakfast meats in Jersey, and your answer most likely depends on where you’re from.
Outsiders usually know little about this eternal debate, but things often get heated when residents of New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania discuss the topic. You might find the delightful dish in Maryland, too, but you’ll have to search for it.
The Taylor Ham/pork roll is the state meat of New Jersey. When Jersey Shore’s Mike Sorrentino and Nicole Polizzi decided to throw their two cents in, we got more than we bargained for. The show’s characters are either a source of primal irritation or beloved by viewers. Their perspectives on whether New Jersey’s breakfast of champions is called a Taylor Ham or pork roll ended up being entirely too predictable.
Sorrentino took to calling it a pork roll, while Polizzi thinks it’s called Taylor Ham. It’s so predictable because Sorrentino is from South Jersey, and Polizzi from North Jersey. That’s how the line is drawn everywhere. By region! Those who live in the middle of the state tend to land on pork roll when choosing a side.
Needless to say, it’s a silly debate. It’s like getting into a heated argument over whether facial tissue is called Kleenex or tissue. The product is tissue, the brand is Kleenex. The product is pork roll, the brand is Taylor Ham. Does it make a difference when deciding who’s right and who’s wrong? Well, there’s also some history to consider.
“John Taylor’s Prepared Ham” has been on store shelves since 1856. Its founder was a citizen of Trenton, and also happened to be a State Senator. When a farmer created a knockoff brand called Case Pork Roll Co. in 1870, the real war began.
There was a lot of legal back and forth over trademark issues, but it doesn’t change two undeniable facts: first, John Taylor was the first to place his version of the product on store shelves, giving credence to fans of Taylor Ham. Second, minced ham was sold in one form or another since the Revolutionary War a hundred years before John Taylor or anyone else made a living from it. Americans have always enjoyed the salty flavor of pig. So let’s just call it what it is: ham.