Pork Roll vs. Taylor Ham: You Decide the Classic N.J. Debate

By Haley Wells, Contributing Writer

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pork roll taylor ham new jersey debate

Two of The Montclarion’s opinion writers go toe-to-toe to try and answer New Jersey’s most infamous debate: Should New Jersey’s breakfast staple be called a Pork Roll or Taylor Ham. They have their say, but what’s your opinion? Vote in a poll at the end of the article to end the classic New Jersey debate once and for all.

Come to the South Side, We Have Pork Rolls
By Haley Wells, Staff Writer

In South Jersey, everyone says “Pork Roll.” Every menu has those words and every family’s breakfast consists of the phrase, “Pass the Pork Roll.” However, when I ordered a pork roll and cheese sandwich in a bagel shop in North Jersey my first semester up north, it was as if I ordered in a different language. I received strange looks from the cashier and the customers until my friend informed me that it’s “Taylor ham” here.

Whenever I heard about the divide between North and South Jersey growing up, I always thought it was a myth. Before coming to Montclair State University, I had never immersed myself into North Jersey. I thought everyone who believed these areas to be like two different states was exaggerating. However, living on campus, due to being two hours away from my home in South Jersey, and making friends with North Jersey natives, it has opened my eyes to the truth behind what I thought to be a myth. I realized nobody here knows what a hoagie is and, unfortunately, there is not a Wawa on every corner. But nothing prepared me for the serious battle between “Pork Roll” and “Taylor Ham.”

According to Wikipedia, John Taylor invented the meat and originally called it “ham,” but changed it to “Pork Roll” due to legal issues. Therefore, calling it a ham is neither correct nor incorrect, and it’s the same with calling it a Pork Roll. With this concept in mind, maybe no one is right about the true name of this product. However, I still stand by “Pork Roll.”

Besides the brand name “Taylor” emblazoned across the box and the short-lived ham classification, there doesn’t seem to be other evidence as to why it should be called “Taylor Ham.” The most generic box of this product is sold with the words “Taylor Pork Roll” on it. Unless North Jersey stores sell this product with a different box, it makes more sense to refer to it as pork roll.

Another reason to oppose the name “Taylor Ham” is that the Taylor brand isn’t the only brand of pork roll. There are multiple brands, including Case and Loeffler’s Gourmet, that produce pork roll. Therefore, how can it be “Taylor Ham” if it’s not always Taylor?

Just because Taylor is the most popular and familiar does not mean it’s the only brand. Interestingly enough, there are multiple situations like this with common products. For example, Tide is just a laundry detergent brand but because it’s very usual, we often just use “tide” as the official term. Another example is ChapStick. In reality, you’re just using lip balm, but the ChapStick brand is so prevalent that it has become universal. These products prove that just because a term is generically used to describe something doesn’t mean said term is necessarily proper or correct.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what you call this controversial meat. Whether you prefer “Taylor Ham” or “pork roll” is up to you. Factually, there is more evidence that supports pork roll, but using a brand name as a generic term is a widespread phenomenon. I will still only say “Pork Roll” and cringe when someone says otherwise, but now that I know about New Jersey’s serious cultural differences, I’m content to let everyone use whichever term they please. No matter what that term ends up being, the entire state of New Jersey can universally agree that this product is delicious.

Taylor Ham Makes the Jersey Brand
By Chantel Diaz

For quite sometime, I had felt somewhat of an interloper in northern New Jersey. I had lived in New York for seven years, and yet, felt foreign in the land of highways, shorelines and great eats. Then, through friends, I slowly began to understand more about the culture and social norms. Well, so I thought.

South Jersey necessitates a whole new level of understanding. After visiting my uncle in Atlantic County, I felt like I had visited an entirely different state. The divide between North and South Jersey, however, became more apparent upon entering Montclair State University. The divide is ignited by several factors, particularly with one cultural phenomenon unlike any other—the battle between “Taylor Ham” being called “Pork Roll.” Yes, I worded that sentence correctly, and here’s why. (To include, I am still pondering the existence of Central Jersey.)

John Taylor of Trenton, a state senator in the 1850s, created Taylor’s Prepared Ham, more commonly known as Taylor Ham. He is further credited with the secret recipe of the original pork product’s savory goodness. George Washington Case, however, made his own recipe for Case’s Pork Roll in 1870. This is where the slew of legal battles and debates began, and continue until this very day.

While North Jerseyans can acknowledge the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which legally defined “ham” for the first time, the term still raises some eyebrows, and contradictions. To start, let us begin simply with the phrase itself, “Pork Roll.” Any pork product on a hard roll could technically be considered a pork roll, particularly a preserved pork. Smoked pork, sausage, bologna and even spam—those are all examples of pork products on a roll. Yes, the Pork Roll does have a unique taste, ingredients and preparation over its competitors, but the term is frankly generic. Thus, it does not define its exceptional quality and amazing ability to captivate us, which is accomplished by its original term, Taylor Ham.

Due to the legal grievances of calling it Pork Roll, Taylor in 1910 could not trademark the name. So, does that mean another state may possibly be using the variant “Pork Roll” to define an illegitimate substitute? That is quite unfair, considering the Garden State’s overwhelming amount of pride for the beloved meat. In addition, the state legislature is currently debating what to call the state’s official sandwich, Taylor Ham, egg and cheese sandwich or Pork Roll, egg and cheese. They seem to be gravitating toward Taylor Ham, and so does Chris Christie, despite (most of) our burning ire against him.

However, North Jersey folks are not looking to be autocrats. We believe in democracy, in which any deli, diner or brand can exercise their right to name the precious breakfast side whatever they may choose. However, staple brands like ChapStick, Kleenex and Xerox stand out for their originality, innovation and what is uniquely their own product in the market. That, my friends, resonates with Jersey pride, which is very authentic indeed.

At the end of the day, what North Jersey, South Jersey and possibly Central Jersey want is diplomacy. I have yet to find any place here that sells anything other than Taylor Ham, egg and cheese sandwiches, but I also would be curious to try a sandwich named a Pork Roll, egg and cheese, too. There is still much debate about it, of course. Pork Roll terminology is widespread in other parts of our state, with two festivals commemorating Pork Roll galore. Yet, even so, we can still all agree it is a delicacy native specifically to our tastebuds, even to an interloper.

Is New Jersey’s breakfast staple called a Pork Roll or Taylor Ham?

Pork Roll
Taylor Ham

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