While on vacation at Rocky Mountain National Park a couple years ago, I discovered the local supermarket was carrying Taylor Pork Roll. I grabbed the two remaining boxes, brought them back to the cabin, and proceeded to cook my in-laws a batch of pork roll and egg sandwiches for breakfast the next morning.
My in-laws, born-and-raised Texans, had no idea what it was but couldn't get enough of it. A kaiser roll (or bagel), at least two slices of pork roll, fried egg, cheese, and, if you're on another level, just a touch of basic yellow mustard. Folks, you haven't lived.
Okay, but what is pork roll? Back in the 1850s, a guy named John Taylor of Hamilton Square, New Jersey, developed a pork product that looks something like Canadian bacon but has a sharper, saltier taste. He first called it Taylor's Prepared Ham, but its name went all over the place—Taylor's Pork Roll, Trenton Pork Roll. These days, Taylor is the name most attached to the product, and Taylor Pork Roll is sold either in a small burlap sack or in square red boxes labeled in a mid-century motif. It looks like a relic of the conservative, nuclear family 1950s, a packaged, easy-make product engineered to shoo the kids off to school with minimal fuss.
It's especially perfect for the head-down, miserable experience of living in the void that spans from Philadelphia up northeast to New York City. (I say that lovingly.) A perfect pork roll sandwich is a quick dose of protein, fat, and carbs that fits squarely in one hand. It's a machine. It looks plastic. Again, it's perfect.
(By the way, if you ever make one of these sandwiches, before throwing the pork roll on the griddle, slice four slits onto the meat at 12, 3, 6, and 9. Otherwise it'll form into the same shape a half-a-tennis ball makes when you flip it upside down.)
(Also, by the way, the meat is called pork roll. North Jersey people claim it's called Taylor ham, but it's not. The actual meat is pork roll. End of that one.)
I'm writing to you about pork roll sandwiches because they have arrived in Houston via Jersey Bagels on 9522 Huffmeister Road. Since Jersey Bagels makes bagels, it's putting its pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel.
I stopped by this morning and picked up the sandwich on a garlic bagel (and scored a plain bagel by its lonesome for later). The pork roll is a little too thin sliced for my liking, but it's Taylor, and it's great. Paired with a no-mess over-easy egg and gooey yellow American cheese and fit on a nice, chewy bagel, it's exactly what I want in one of my favorite sandwiches.
As someone who spent the first 34 years of his life primarily in the area between Philadelphia and New York City, and as someone who ate pork roll probably once a week for a seven-year period in my teenage years, I couldn't be happier with Jersey Bagels. I look forward to a return visit in a little while, the next time I'm feeling pangs of nostalgia that can only be cured with salty meat. As for you? If you've never had a pork roll sandwich, this is your chance. Let the pros give you your first taste, then maybe buy some Taylor for yourself. Just remember, slits at 12, 3, 6, and 9.