Monday, March 4, 2013

Six Foodie Signs You Are From Jersey

When I was growing up, I used to imitate the BBC accents I saw on PBS. When I went away to summer programs and people said I didn't sound like I was from Jersey, I would respond: "Really?  Thank you SO MUCH."

However, oddly enough the Internet and having a blog has made me appreciate how 'regional' my life was growing up, food-wise.  The era of globalization may be bringing us closer, but the more we know about other areas of the world, the more aware we are of our differences...

Six Foodie Signs You Are From Jersey

Flickr: Carl Lender
1. You look at Lender's bagels and think 'what the f*ck are those things?'

I wasn't able to eat a bagel until I was eleven years old because the bagels in my area were so chewy I needed a full set of adult teeth and jaws to tear them apart.  Bagels were dense, rather small, knotty scowling rolls  Even my crappy school cafeteria had bagels that were bought from a 'bagel place' that you could barely slice with the plastic knives we were allowed to use as silverware (kind of like prison, I guess).  I remember hearing about how a girl sliced her hand open cutting a bagel and had to go to the emergency room.  Everyone's reaction wasn't 'wow, that bagel was too chewy,' but rather regarded it as an occasionally inevitable yet acceptable casualty of bagel consumption.

Supermarkets stock Lender's around here, but no one buys them, except for Midwestern transplants and people who can't chew. For people who are really pressed for time and can't stop at a bagel shop they might--just might--stop and get a buttered poppyseed roll at a 7-11.

Flickr: Orbital Joe
2. You ate some weird pork product other than bacon for breakfast.

Pork Roll (or Taylor Ham) to some is the obvious Jersey-fied meat.  We never ate it at my home when I was growing up, but I do remember having Canadian bacon and Sizzle-Lean quite a bit.  My point?  Although bacon is fashionable to the point of nausea in the food world, New Jersey in general is not part of the Church of Bacon, put-bacon-on-everything trend.  Oh, people LOVE bacon, but not to the exclusion of other questionable salty pork goodness. And you really won't see a lot of ham and pineapple pizza here, either.  Which brings me to...
Flickr: InSinU2

3. You love complaining about how shitty pizza is everywhere else.

Even if you're not pizza-obsessed, you get worried if you're in an area where you see pizza with big, fluffy Wonder Bread-like crust and ketchup-y tomato sauce. It gives you an unpleasant sensation that the people around you won't understand sarcasm or irony, and will get offended by profanity.

Flickr: Marshall Astor
4. You put ketchup and mustard on your burgers, and mustard on your hot dogs. 

You consider hot dogs a quasi-gourmet food, given you probably hit the Shore at some point during the summer.  Not until I started food blogging did I become fully cognizant of the fact that some people put MAYO on hamburgers or loaded hot dogs with Other Things (aka 'Chicago-style' dogs).  I suppose that explains why, even at my least healthy, I always preferred Quarter Pounders to Big Macs. Anyway, as can be seen in the above photo, you can put anything you friggin' like on a burger, even dip your fries in mayo..,just not mayo on the beef.

And if you've ever put mayo on corned beef or pastrami...heck, if you've ever put any CHEESE other than Swiss (Swiss is okay for some reason) with those lunch've probably never left a land-locked state. 

Flickr: m kasahara
5. You  do not put mayo and whipped cream in strange places, period.

No pimento cheese, no Jell-O molds. You had your first carrot cake at a deli, and probably got your first really good apple pie at Delicious Orchards. Your most memorable cheesecake came from a real bakery, the kind that ties the boxes with red and white strings and you've probably had Italian rainbow cookies, even if you're not Italian.  No Cool Whip was involved. I'm tempted to say 'here in Jersey, even our desserts aren't too sweet.' Growing up, I never had red velvet ANYTHING (although now it's here to stay, thanks to the cupcake trend), hummingbird cake, Texas sheet cake, or any of the super-sweet cakes that seem so popular elsewhere in the country.  But I can't be too proud, given that a good cheesecake from this area could probably fracture a bone if you dropped it with enough force...

Flick: Surzuzu
6. At some point in your life, you consumed at least 50 percent of your calories from a diner or a food court in the mall.

Deep fried cauliflower, zucchini and mozzarella sticks as part of every diner's 'appetizer sampler'?   Supposed to feed a family but really feeds two hungry teenagers? Breakfast of eggs and pancakes for a 4am 'dinner'?  Strange soft pretzels and French fries from Orange Julius?  Check, check, check.

Any interesting food regionalisms particular to your area?


  1. Those are the new Lenders. The old ones were wizened and so chewy I had to toast them and soak them in butter to eat them.

  2. The one time I remember having Lender's, they were like Wonder bread molded into a bagel shape!

  3. Ha! This is awesome. We used to have lender's in the freezer just in case my parents couldn't get to the bagel store on a weekend...they were not good. It's really sinful because we live in NYC!

  4. @Joanne--I think that people of our parent's generation have a mania for 'stocking up' sometimes, which can lead to the purchase of questionable frozen products. The funny thing is that 'real' bagels actually freeze pretty well! And are just as cheap!

  5. I don't think we have any food regionalisms here. I guess we were the first to make dessert in a cup and call it a coffee drink, but that's pretty much worldwide now.

  6. @flurrious--well, your area was the first, and that counts for something! Although in NJ, there is a coffeehouse called the Inkwell that used to serve flavored coffees under mounds of whipped cream, long before I had ever heard of Starbucks. I usually ordered black coffee anyway, which is yet another sign I'll never come up with a famous, money-making trendy idea.

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