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Scrapple, birch beer and tolls

Seven days, 1,500 miles, six states and the District of Columbia, and my girlfriend and I are still together. A long vacation, especially the first big one for a couple, can be a trying time, but we made it.

Last week I introduced my girlfriend Tiffany, a North Carolina native who has lived just about all her life in the Tar Heel state, to my roots with a week-long trip to my native Philadelphia. It was her first time in the City of Brotherly Love. And mixed in with all the sights and activities, she also met my sister, five cousins, two cousins' spouses and a dozen or so old friends along the way. She experienced much that my favorite city has to offer. Some of it she liked, especially taking her photo with the statue of Rocky in front of the Art Museum and running the museum's 72 steps (she counted) just as Sylvester Stallone did in the movies. Oh, and she also got to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross's house and the National Constitution Center. She liked those. But I'm pretty sure they paled in comparison to Rocky.

Having lived all over the country, I always find the differences between customs, culture and culinary fare among different places very interesting. Among the things Tiffany definitely did not like were two great tastes of the Delaware Valley: birch beer and scrapple. Birch beer is a soda similar but not quite the same as root beer. For some reason, you can usually only find it in the northeast. Scrapple is more widely available, including here in North Carolina, but the combination of pork scraps, spices and cornmeal is a breakfast staple in and around Philadelphia. One sip of birch beer and one small bite of scrapple was all it took Tiffany to know she'd be sticking with Diet Coke and bacon.

She loved the Philadelphia Zoo and enjoyed learning about the rich history of the city, everything from the 37-foot tall statue of William Penn on City Hall and the curse we Philadelphia sports fans believe it has cast on our teams (she witnessed that first hand when we saw the Phillies blow a late-inning lead to the Braves on opening day at Citizens Bank Park) in the last 24 years, to the creation and legendary evolution of our beloved Cheesesteak (Tiffany enjoyed the two of those she sampled during the week far more than the scrapple). What she did not like was what it cost to get there. Apparently there are no tolls in North Carolina, or at least not the parts she's experienced. So paying $3 a day to cross the Ben Franklin or Walt Whitman bridges from New Jersey, where we stayed with my cousin and her husband, into Philadelphia was a bit of a jolt. But that was nothing to the sticker shock of the parking lots in the city. Thank goodness we had free lodging.

Even though she says she could make it in the big city I am definitely in love with a small-town girl. But that's fine. She's certainly a keeper. You try putting up with me, my family and friends hundreds of miles from your comfort zone and see how you fare. 

By: Kevin Wuzzardo


Scrapple truly is an acquired taste.