EIGHT YEARS AGO, my family rescued a 3-year-old malnourished and abused Dalmatian. Adoption papers noted: "He is in need of extra TLC. He is underweight for his size and will need a family that will keep him on a special diet with extra feedings. He will also do best in a home with a yard to run."
I named him Pork Roll. Yet when my mom when to get his name tag engraved, she renamed him Fonzarelli, a k a "The Fonz," because no granddog of hers was going to be named after a breakfast meat, no matter how delicious and beloved.
She quickly fattened him up with meatballs and kielbasa, and our 120-foot yard with swimming pool and driveway became his waddling ground, as he became more cow-ish than firehouse-dog svelte. He was a walking 85-pound chunk of pork roll, and I should've kept his original name.
This past weekend, he took a turn for the worse and I had to put him to sleep. He had a good life with us; he never missed a meal; and he closed his eyes for the last time, head on my lap, as I said over and over, "You're such a good boy, Fonz, such a good boy."
So all this week I've been thinking about Pork Roll. Not only my beloved dog, but the beloved breakfast meat.
Pork roll is a local thing. It's up there with cheesesteaks, water ice and Scrapple. The last time I cooked up a batch, it was the morning of Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Donald J. Trump had been sworn in as the 45th president of the United States only two days before and was met by millions of Americans gathering in cities and towns across the country to counterattack with the March For Women.
So that Sunday really felt like the morning after. Social media blew up, exploded with hashtags and check-ins. I had some people posting from Washington and the inauguration and parties afterward in tux tails and ballgowns and others posting from Philly's Ben Franklin Parkway and D.C.'s National Mall wearing pink crochet hats, North Face parkas and Uggs, carrying homemade signs that would make Lucifer blush redder.
A nation divided. On this gray Sunday morning, I tried to be as apolitical as possible, not wanting to tick off either side. I was safe in the kitchen with Stinky Pete, another one of our rescue dogs.
I treated myself by opening up one of the best birthday gifts I received from my sister Dawn; a three-pound football loaf of Taylor Pork Roll, packed in a cotton sack casing.
I sliced it and placed it on the griddle. I jokingly took a picture with my phone and posted it on Facebook with a survey: How about it, people? Do you put little cuts or nicks in your pork roll so it doesn't bubble up in the pan?
And from that one post, my Taylor Pork Roll breakfast became the olive branch, King Solomon, the Seinfeld episode about "the bet."
People who wouldn't attend Thanksgiving dinner and didn't send Christmas cards because some voted for Trump and not Hillary Clinton and vice versa miraculously piped up and posted something non-political. The red ballcap-wearing crowd forgot that their mission in life was to Make America Great Again and instead thought about making breakfast great again with pork roll. Women who were hoarse from yelling "Try grabbing this P%^$Y!" the day before in protest, instead grabbed the square box of Taylor Pork Roll from their fridge and made some pork roll.
The comments multiplied. Some, of course, made reference to the infamous pork roll, egg and cheese on a Kaiser roll or bagel breakfast sandwich enjoyed behind the wheel of a truck or in a cubicle at Broad and Market streets. Others got creative and had the Philadelphia Benedict, pork roll and a dunky egg atop an English muffin topped with Cheez Whiz.
So I started asking politicos about pork roll. While we can't agree on budgets, schools, pipelines, health care, abortion, immigration, bathroom stalls and whether my Diet Coke is taxable - can we at least agree that you need to cut or nick the pork roll before frying so it doesn't bubble up? So here's the roll call:
Joe DeFelice, chairman of Philadelphia GOP: "Yes to the nick, I put three of 'em on the pork roll. A buddy of mine grinds up his pork roll with his ground meat and grills it like a burger. The Blue Duck in Northeast Philly also has something like that on their menu."
State Rep. John J. Taylor (R-177th): Not only does this elected official share his name with the famous pork roll company, he nicks it and cooks it with egg and cheese. He calls it "a slice of heaven."
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-1st): "I chop it up and mix it with my eggs." (And he washes it down with some papal H2O!)
City Councilman Bill Greenlee (D-At Large): Eats it on a Kaiser roll with cheese; and, as for the cooking and cutting process, he leaves that up to Little Pete's!
Pussy Hat Project: "We love the color! Grab em by the Pork Roll!"
So you see, nobody wants a bubbled-up pork roll. The only thing you can use a shape like that for is playing halfsies on the back street . . . or a diaphragm for carnivores.