Column by Jim Bishop
Saturday morning, March 8, 13 cousins assembled at host Tom Bishop’s bungalow between Blooming Glen and Perkasie, Pa., for the third annual Scrapplefest event.
Last year’s familial scrapple feast was held Feb. 3 at cousin Don Smith’s abode in Rosemont, suburban Philadelphia, with 11 attendees from six states.
Scrapple is largely a Southeastern Pennsylvania delicacy – some might question use of this descriptive term – and is arguably the first pork food in America, created by Dutch colonists who settled near Philadelphia and surrounding areas in the 17th and 18th centuries. I grew up eating scrapple, usually for breakfast, but occasionally served as an evening meal as well.
Once again, this suspicious, er, auspicious occasion strengthened family ties that bind and provided an excuse for consuming generous quantities of scrapple, eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, cinnamon rolls and shoo-fly pie (wet- and dry-bottom variety) and orange juice and coffee.
We dined amid all the essential accoutrements – name tags with logo designed by cousin Tom, ceramic pigs gracing the table labeled “Walter” and “Priscilla,” a Bishop Brothers (real) butter carton, containers of Chapstick (never leave home without it), Porter’s liniment salve (“good for man or beast”) and assorted flower arrangements.
As the group ate, cousin Bill fell prey to the oldest Bishop trick in the books – responding to a request to retrieve the coffeepot in the kitchen and upon returning, his plate of shoofly pie and sticky buns had disappeared.
The group paused from devouring third helpings of scrapple and scrambled eggs long enough to sing a cappella a “hymn” extolling the virtues of the gastronomical delight known to all as shoo-fly pie, the coup d’état to the morning’s menu. Brother/Reverend Michael Bishop penned alternate lyrics for this harmonia sacra rendition to the tune of “Bless’d be the tie (pie) that binds”:
“Bless’d be the pie that binds
Our hearts in brotherly love.
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like the topping above.
“The bottom wet, gooey and sweet,
It fills us all with glee.
Though some like them dry and others ask, ‘Why?’
We pray that they’re both gluten free.
“This simple delight seeks no fame.
Its lineage meek, humble and low.
Yet, spirits are lifted as friendships renew,
By dunking this sugar-laced dough.
“And, when we digest too much,
It gives us inward pain.
Yet we shall still care for our hearts
And live to do this again.”
While the schedule followed a pattern similar to last year, this year’s occasion received special seasoning from a “corporate sponsor” – Blooming Glen (Pa.) Pork Products. The owner, Robert L. (Bob) Moyer, was present in the banqueting hall, somehow tolerating the high noise level and general chaos, and gave a brief overview of this fifth-generation family enterprise, founded in 1856.
Bob told the group that what distinguishes his scrapple from other producers is that the entire process from start to finish is done by hand. “Some buckwheat flour,” along with the usual corn meal, is added to help thicken the scrapple loaf, he noted. His plant makes and distributes around 500 pounds of scrapple every two weeks.
Genealogy addict Don Smith displayed charts documenting the Bishops’ connection to four businesses’ products represented at the banqueting table – Blooming Glen Pork Products, Baumann’s Apple Butter (the only brand permitted as a scrapple topping), Kellers (real) Butter and Rosenberger’s Dairy (milk and cottage cheese). We are fourth or fifth cousins to the founders of these enterprises, Don noted, and who are we to dispute that?
Bob gave the group a tour of his businesses to see how scrapple and other pork products sold there are made. It struck me that this venture is not for those who shy away from hard work and long hours.
Upon returning from the field trip, participants enjoyed a round of singing favorite selections from the Mennonite-Brethren “Hymnal: A Worship Book,” led by brother Michael, who is minister of worship and music at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church.
As some were departing, others watched Bishop family home movies from the 1940s and 1950s, followed by a 1940 Woody Woodpecker cartoon, “Knock Knock,” that was shown at the conclusion of every Bishop family Christmas gathering held at Uncle George and Aunt Verna’s Harmony Hill Farm north of Doylestown.
Cousin Chuck Bishop, Findley, Ohio, and this scribe then re-enacted a fight scene first caught on 16mm film at a Bishop gathering when they we were about two years old (circa 1947?). Both of us, for some reason, wanted a footstool at the same time, and neither would give an inch. No idea who emerged the victor back then, and little clue again when repeated some 60 years later.
Some, upon reading this, will likely declare aloud, “Scrapple – yechh!”, while others may already be salivating, as much for the idea of extended family coming together to enjoy each others’ company as for downing ample portions of comfort food around a weighted-down banqueting table.
Despite high gas prices and driving 300 miles in foul weather to attend, Scrapplefest ended all too quickly, but sure went down extremely well for me. And, a year from now, Lord willing, we’ll do it again.
Jm Bishop is public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at [email protected].