Your cholesterol may go up just reading this. You have been warned.
When I was nine or ten and eating at Dienner’s Country Restaurant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I placed something on my plate from the buffet that looked like a brownie to my young and naive eyes. I took a bite. It was no brownie. When the waitress came by, no doubt a Mennonite herself, I asked what exactly “scrapple” was. Without holding anything back, she bluntly said, “Well, when we’re done butchering the animal and making sausages and bacon, whatever is left gets ground up into scrapple.” She actually said it with a pleasant smile on her face before moving on to another table. Being as young as I was, of course, I was a bit grossed out.
Fast-forward 15 years or so, and scrapple has become one of those treats I look forward to when I get to Amish Country. In fact, the only place I will eat it is at Dienner’s because I know it is fresh. If you’ve been following this blog the last few days, you’ll see my review of said restaurant. Not to rehash what I previously said, but the place is amazing. Their bacon is crispy—the best you’ll ever have. There are two different kind of sausage, and all other kinds of meat dishes. But then there’s the scrapple. Pork-heavy, deep-fried, artery-clogging goodness. Hey, pass the Lipitor.
It’s probably no better or worse than your typical hot dog. The leftover pork scraps (consisting of a lot of livers as I have since learned) are ground into fine bits, mixed with spices (and presumably some kind of bread for binding), formed into a loaf, sliced, and fried. The color is brown, and you can see the different components if you look closely enough. It might not look too appetizing, but the taste makes up for it. Bourdain would probably call it “sinister” if he ever saw it. The pork flavor is strong and the spices give it such a savory taste in your mouth. The outside is crispy while the inside is soft and moist. For such a simple dish (and almost an afterthought at a huge buffet), there is such a wide range of flavors and textures.
You can even pour some maple syrup on it like the locals do to really have an explosion in your mouth: the sweetness interacts all too well with the salty/savory aspects of the scrapple. Dienner’s serves up three different kinds: the pork one described, turkey scrapple, and for the vegetarians aimlessly wandering the meat-heavy buffet which must seem like a sentence in purgatory, something called corn meal mush which is similar to an Italian fried polenta.
In short, this is not something you want to eat often, but for an annual or twice-a-year-retreat to the peaceful countryside, it is something I look forward to. They also have something called pork pudding, which can be likened to the Filipino pork blood-based dish Dinuguan. Both the scrapple and pudding are something most tourists would shy away from, but as you know, I will eat/try almost anything. Once you have had and enjoyed something cooked in pig’s blood, there really isn’t much you can say no to.