Sunday, June 17, 2007

Roadside Imponderables

Dear Everyone,

As my friend John has pointed out, it is almost a month since I last posted. It seems like only a few days, but I'm beginning to realize just how much time flies when your life is in total flux. I deeply apologize for my neglect, but I'm not sure that I can even express just how crazy things have been.

I have, however, discovered a few useful things. First off, I've noticed how comforting random bizarre thoughts can be when one is driving solo to and from New York. On my last trip northward, I began to wonder if General George S. Patton was gay. I think there's some interesting circumstantial "evidence" that suggests that he might have been. This, of course, leads to all sorts of interesting possibilities, my exploration of which made the hours of driving through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania fly by much more quickly.

I've also taken to stopping off at roadside museums and stores, as doing so breaks up the monotony of the highway, and restores blood flow to my ass. Over the next few posts, I'm going to tell you about some little gems I've found that you should check out if you ever find yourself trapped on I-81 or I-78 for a considerable period of time. Today's special attraction is Dietrich's Meats:

Dietrich's Meats
Okay, I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for bizarre food attractions, so it was hard for me to resist the sign for Dietrich's meats. After a few trips, I just stopped trying. Besides, I needed to get a present for my pal Tom, who watched my cats, and we'd always enjoyed daring each other to try strange new foods. Dietrich's meats seemed like the perfect place to up the ante.

Outside, Dietrich's is all lurid signs advertising various meaty temptations. However, once I came through the front door, I immediately noticed the quiet hush of the store, the smoky scent of the cured meats, and the simple, honorable wood walls. I realized that this was, indeed, a church. A church dedicated to meat.

The back wall of the store was dominated by a huge refrigerated case and butcher counter. However, before I could approach the holiest of holies, I looked over the lesser offerings on the shelves. Homemade Chow-Chow. Homemade Sauerkraut. Homemade jams, jellies, and relishes. There were dozens of pies, dominated by the proud Shoefly. Wandering toward the meat case, I noticed a huge wooden table covered in smoked meats. There was a whole smoked hog's head, accompanied by smoked feet, ears, and snouts. There were cured bolognas of every stripe. And that was only the beginning.

Looking at the wonders that filled the refrigerated case, I had to resist the urge to kneel. It was filled with every kind of smoked, processed meat imaginable. Homemade Westphalia ham, liverwurst, kielbasa, bratwurst, kishka, muttwurst, hot dogs, liver pudding, headcheese, souse, and a hundred other wonders, both delectable and disturbing, fought for elbow room in the crowded case. I took a deep breath; to quote Hostel, this was the kind of place where you could spend all your money. Employing reserves of willpower that I never knew existed, I managed to keep the tab down to $20. However, even that modest sum went a long way: I bought two kinds of bologna, liverwurst, liver pudding, headcheese, shoefly pie, horseradish cheese, and a few other little nibbles. As far as eating these foods, well, let me just say that I never thought liverwurst could be transcendent. Regarding headcheese, I admit that I was terrified, but I am now a true believer. Yes, I know how it's made. Shut up.

I've been back a couple of times now, and am working my way throught everything in the case. To be honest, the liver pudding was a bit much, and I don't love the Lebanon balogna, but these minor obstacles haven't stopped, or even slowed, my enthusiasm for the greatest meat market in the land. Dietrich's has officially become a key stop on my North/South run, and my sister's fiancee, Rich, has decided that he has to add some of Dietrich's meats to the menu in the Manhattan restaurant where he cooks. If you want to check it out, click here.

Next post: The National Rifle Association Museum

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  • Welcome back. Your groupies are grateful. I'm glad you are enjoying your meat.


    Okay okay. I know that last bit was a tad inappropriate but I'm leaving it because I thought it was funny.

    By Blogger Deb, At June 17, 2007 at 1:53 PM  

  • I admit it, I have missed you a lot. I thought about Patton, and at best, he might have been bi, but not gay. Glad to see you writing again! It nourishes my soul!.

    By Blogger The CEO, At June 17, 2007 at 5:25 PM  

  • The only only place worth visiting in my nearby small town is Taylor's Sausage Factory.

    Same deal. Every concievable meat, plus three beer vrieties on tap and Friday night live music...

    You should check out their link...

    By Blogger Scott from Oregon, At June 17, 2007 at 5:59 PM  

  • You meat the damndest people.

    By Blogger Matt, At June 17, 2007 at 10:01 PM  

  • I can't tell you how many times I've passed Dietrich's on my way to VA. Never have I thought I needed to stop. This is why I love reading what you write. Btw, I worked in a deli a long long time ago and I will NEVER eat headcheese. Bleck.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At June 17, 2007 at 11:00 PM  

  • I admit that I have enjoy an occasional sausage. I have a hard time getting past that whole intestinal casing thing.

    By Blogger mist1, At June 18, 2007 at 12:34 AM  

  • Please tell me about headcheese - I dont want to google it because I dont think it would be good for me to hear it off some stranger..

    Btw Where you thinking about Patton being gay before or after you bought the sausage? *Grin*

    Good to see you back in the saddle old bastard! Dont be a stranger y'hear?!

    By Blogger Judith, At June 18, 2007 at 7:13 AM  

  • Deb-
    Why do I get the feeling that I just set myself up for a lot of jokes about meat?

    Thank you and thank you. And I think Patton's wife was a total "beard," if you get my drift.

    I just checked out Taylor's. I might have to drag my wife there the next time we visit her mom. By the way, I don't know how near you are, but you should check out the Tillamook Cheese factory and the Tillamook Smokehouse.

    I guess I should just be happy that I avoided jokes about beating the meat.

    Reflecting Pool-
    You have to stop in to Dietrich's. If you're not a vegetarian, you'll love their organic, artisanal, small-batch meats (just because they don't use foodie lingo doesn't mean I can't!). If you are a vegetarian, you should check out the pies, jellies, etc. Seriously, it's a freakin' wonderland.

    Regarding headcheese, I talked my wife into trying it, and she didn't like it very much. Everyone else did, though. I guess there's no accounting...

    Surprisingly, that didn't bug me. Then again, I've eaten haggis.

    For some reason, I imagined you as something of a sausage gal.

    Okay, take a deep breath...

    To make headcheese, one boils an animal's head, scrapes off the jowls and other meats, chops them up, seasons them, and puts them in a terrine or mold, along with some gelatin. When the mold cools, the headcheese can be sliced and served.

    Okay, that was the gross part. The headcheese at Dietrich's is lightly spiced with red pepper, yielding a flavor not unlike italian Copa ham or a mild cajun tasso. The texture is somewhat heavenly. I had the Dietrich's guys slice the headcheese paper thin, which gave it a mouthfeel not unlike lace. In fact, "meaty lace" might be a reasonable way to describe the way it felt.

    In England, a similar product is called "brawn," and in Scotland, it's called "potted heid" or "potted hough." From what I've been able to glean, the production method is similar, but Dietrich's has a very unique flavor.

    By Blogger Crankster, At June 18, 2007 at 9:01 AM  

  • Nice to see ya again!!!! There's a place just like this in Allentown PA. where we used to stop and get "stuff" to eat in the car on the drive home. But I think I'd pass on the "head" cheese....(lots of inuendo in this post) but I'll be good!

    By Blogger Odat, At June 18, 2007 at 10:59 AM  

  • Oh man, you gotta try the scrapple, fried to a crisp... yum.

    By Anonymous Fredwardly, At June 18, 2007 at 12:45 PM  

  • Odat-
    I think I set myself up for the puns. Dietrich's is about twenty minutes from Allentown. What is it about Eastern PA?

    One of my students introduced me to "Pon Hoss," which is like a very cornmeal-laden scrapple. Thin slices,'re right; it's like heaven.

    By Blogger Crankster, At June 19, 2007 at 12:47 AM  

  • I think you may have turned me - vegetarianism beckons. Seriously, I feel nauseous. Headcheese? You have got to be joking.


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At June 19, 2007 at 7:29 AM  

  • Have you had your cholesterol checked lately?

    By Blogger Spellbound, At June 19, 2007 at 2:08 PM  

  • scrapple? scrapple you say??

    on a different note I thought headcheese was going to be something that deviants ate?! (maybe Im not entirely wrong on that one *grin*)

    By Blogger Judith, At June 19, 2007 at 4:06 PM  

  • Puss-
    Yes, headcheese! In the immortal words of Anais Nin, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."

    Seriously, if you can choke down Marmite, headcheese shouldn't be tough!

    Meatfests are not a regular thing. But one should enjoy moderation!

    Scrapple has sometimes been described as "everything but the oink." It's all the leftover parts of the pig ground finely and mixed with cornmeal and spices. It is then pressed into a loaf. One thinly slices the loaf and fries the slices. These are then served with apple butter, ketchup, mustard, syrup, or eggs.

    Not my favorite, but it can be pretty yummy.

    And, regarding headcheese, this only illustrates that there are many forms of deviancy!

    By Blogger Crankster, At June 24, 2007 at 8:47 PM  

  • if you are ever in london you should take a peek at St Johns restaurant they make a delicacy out of everything on a pig short of making a pot of hairy arse stew LOL

    By Blogger Judith, At June 25, 2007 at 8:07 AM  

  • Good to see you're back to writing! I have to say, I had lines from Jamie and the Magic Todger going through my head the entire time I read this post. "Have you got any weapons?" "Only meat ones..."

    By Blogger William, At June 29, 2007 at 12:42 AM  

  • Jude-
    Perhaps we should plan a field trip?

    Okay, they didn't have any spam javelins or meat swords, but there were a lot of luncheon meat truncheons.

    By Blogger Crankster, At July 27, 2007 at 10:35 PM  

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