Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. We begin with Delaware, which was admitted to the Union on December 7, 1787.
The state: Delaware, also known as the Blue Hen state, the Diamond State, and the Small Wonder, rushed to the head of the line to become the first state to ratify the United State constitution. Though the sixth most densely populated state in the country, it contains no cities with a population over 100,000 people. Its most beloved current home-state celebrity, Aubrey Plaza, is best known for looking bored.
The food: Scrapple is made of things you don’t talk about in polite company. It is a loaf of slurried pig—snout, eyeball, liver and heart—made mealy with corn and served fried. It is a comfort both wonderful and terrible, like a Sicilian mother or a trip to the zoo. It is also a true American pioneer food, a relic of difficult times when the frugal Mennonites or Pennsylvania Dutch of the mid-Atlantic could not afford to waste a single scrap of meat. And long after its necessity has passed, scrapple has been preserved, like a bug in amber, in the culture of those states. Nowhere loves scrapple more than Delaware. Every October, a beauty queen is named at the Apple Scrapple Festival in Bridgeville, where festivalgoers can also eat scrapple-oyster sandwiches, carve scrapple sculptures and compete in the great scrapple chunkin’ contest—essentially a shot put for meat.
Other dishes considered and rejected: The official state food is the peach pie, a symbol of the state's small but well-loved northerly peach crop. Also: dilly crab dip, broiled chicken and biscuits, creamed-corn pudding, muddle fish stew. Delaware's a little wild.
Get it from: For a food that is essentially hard-luck German Spam, the brunchtime scrapple at the Woodsman Tavern (4537 SE Division St., 971-373-8264, woodsmantavern.com) is a remarkably civilized experience. Available only on weekends, the scrapple ($5) is served a la carte with traditional maple-syrup glaze. The fried slab is about three-quarters of an inch thick, with a crisp crust dotted with the oh-so-familiar crystals of Jacobsen salt. Within, one can see large bits of corn and green, and the spice hews more herbal than peppery. It tastes like pâté on cornbread, except the texture is distinctly tuna fish on toast. With a side of bitter salad greens and a lovely seasonal strawberry jam on biscuits, the overall experience is a bit like the house breakfast at a fine New England B&B (though the chef’s from Kansas City). Meanwhile, Division Street traffic roars by like waves hitting shore.