Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gettin’ All Philosophical ‘Bout Ground Up Pig Parts

Lottsburg Café
2919 Walmsley Rd.
Lottsburg, VA
Visited January 9, 2011

I like scrapple.

Call me crazy, but to me, scrapple personifies the joy of being a Suit in Strange Places.

Eating my way through the nooks and crannies and back roads of America. Trying the weird, quirky regional cuisine that teaches you more about geography than gourmet cooking.

But let’s face it. The world is getting smaller.

These days with the Food Network, proliferating chain restaurants and internet sites like Suits in Strange Places, there’s less and less mystery to regional food.

I mean, who hasn’t had Buffalo wings, Philly cheese steaks or fish tacos? You can get all three at your corner Applebee’s in all 50 states.

That’s why I like scrapple.

It’s considered so unappealing that despite our modern age of worldwide instant dissemination of information, scrapple still can’t be found more than fifty miles from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

What is scrapple, your inquiring little mind demands to know?

Well, if you ever plan to eat it, you probably don’t want to know exactly.

Let’s just say, you have to like pigs to enjoy scrapple.

I mean, really, REALLY like pigs.

And I do. I eat pigs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bacon, ribs, pork chops, hot dogs, ham, sausage, barbeque, cracklins, pork rinds, tenderloin.

And scrapple. Mmmm. Mmmm.

To keep this conversation polite, let me put it this way – scrapple gets the parts of the pig that aren’t considered good enough for hot dogs or sausage.

Everything but the oink.

Like I said, you have to be really committed to swine to appreciate scrapple. Safe to say, Bobby Flay won’t being doing a scrapple segment any time soon.

Mixed with cornmeal and spices like sage and thyme, the piggy parts are ground up and baked into a loaf. Then, slices from the loaf are cut off and fried in a pan until crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside.

The scrapple served up here at the Lottsburg Café in Virginia’s Northern Neck is the real deal.

Soft and piggy, with a nice savory flavor, Lottsburg Café’s version of scrapple would match up well with any from the opposite side of the bay.

One thing I’ve noticed about the information superhighway is that it runs both ways. When regional food goes national, it doesn’t just add to the menu. Sometimes it crowds out what was once there.

And that doesn’t bode well for the future of out-of-favor regional cuisine like scrapple.

While any yahoo in America can now drive up to a Taco Bell and order what is supposedly a “Baja Shrimp Taco”, think about the poor scrapple eater in Philadelphia.

To get to the store to buy his scrapple, he has to drive past 87 corporate versions of American chain restaurants serving variations of every conceivable form of national – and international – cuisine.

Poor old scrapple doesn’t stand a chance.

But you know what? I think that’s why you can still find scrapple on the menu at the Lottsburg Café.

You see, Lottsburg is NOT Philadelphia.

Not even close.

A dot on the map in the most remote county in the Northern Neck -- one of the most remote corners of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Lottsburg hasn’t seen too many film crews from the Food Network.

Or Taco Bells for that matter.

In fact, Northumberland County doesn’t have a single fast food restaurant. Not even a McDonalds.

Heck, the entire county didn’t even have a grocery store or a traffic light until a few years ago. (Don’t get the natives going about that controversy.)

If you are hungry in these parts, you can either make it yourself or carry yourself over here to this non-descript vinyl-sided industrial building housing a tire and automotive shop -- and the Lottsburg Café.

This is the kind of place where everybody knows everybody (except me of course). Native Northern Neckers can be sure to run into the local farmers, their hair dresser and a guy wearing rebel flag suspenders (appropriately enough considering Robert E. Lee’s birthplace is just up the road).

Folks, THIS is America. Sitting there in my suit, I admired those suspenders, green with envy.

No doubt about it, being a Suit in Strange Places earns you some suspicious looks on occasion, but sometimes the attire can cause downright discomfort.

Like when a regular went around the café collecting football pool money for the Wild Card playoff games later that day. My waitress nodded in my direction and chastised him for soliciting gambling money in the presence of “a preacher.”

I assured her, a preacher I most definitely was not.

She seemed greatly relieved.

Besides, even if I was a preacher, I would have been way too busy enjoying my breakfast to sermonize to the locals about throwing away their own money.

This breakfast benefitted from some serious country-grown TLC.

The tasty grits were the creamiest I’ve ever had. The eggs were scrambled to perfection. The juicy polish sausage was sliced, cut up and cooked to a nice crisp snap.

Best of all, the old fashioned Southern biscuit was sliced in half, buttered and grilled to a golden brown on both sides.

Wow. I’ve had some good biscuits in my travels but never one with so much effort put into it before it even reached my plate!

But no doubt about it, the highlight of this breakfast was my porky slice of scrapple.

As I polished off my last morsel of pig loaf, I began to get a bit philosophical about the experience I just had.

Was it the scrapple I liked so much? Or just the IDEA of scrapple?

Hmm. Good question, Suit757, good question.

While I certainly enjoyed Lottsburg Café’s version of this Mid-Atlantic delicacy, I had to admit, it was indeed the IDEA of scrapple that so appealed to me.

The idea that a food item – even as lowly as scrapple – can still have a sense of place.

The idea that scrapple isn’t going to make the Applebee’s “Two for Twenty” menu any point in my lifetime.

And best of all – that there is a place left in this country so isolated, so pure, that the natives don’t ever have to wax philosophical about ground up pig parts.

Scrapple was…is…and always will be -- in Lottsburg, Virginia.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.
Lottsburg Cafe' on Urbanspoon


  1. I tried to like scrapple. I really, really tried... Maybe it's just a bit too Amish for this Oklahoma country boy.

  2. Hey, we eat there all the time, as a matter of fact I am married to guy with the suppenders....Love em. the food is great and the owner is friendly and well liked in the community.
    And thanks for dropping by the unusual place, you never know what you might find.
    Santa's wife

  3. I love it when foodies get philosophical! That breakfast looked pretty good, too!

  4. I can't muster the courage to try scrapple, BUT this post almost made me cry...

  5. Jean and David PittJanuary 13, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    Bonus!! Thursday nights you can order off the breakfast menu. Who doesn't like breakfast for dinner sometimes?! Keep going back until you've tried everything on the breakfast, lunch AND dinner menus. You can't find a better burger anywhere!

  6. Scrapple, thin and crisp, is my comfort food and I provide the "oink" when I eat it. Everytime I visit my family on the Northern Neck I buy a brick of scrapple and indulge my craving. Next visit I'll have breakfast at the Lottsburg cafe. My mouth waters thinking about it.

  7. Umm...the parts aren't as nasty it sounds, and its not "ground up and baked into a loaf" but boiled. It's basically the grease that's rendered from boiling, mixed with the spices and cornmeal. That's then put in the loaf pan to set up. (True scrapple lovers are from PA. not Maryland or God forbid VA. and know its not baked)