Tag Archives: ham

New Jersey Taylor Ham

The informant and I were having breakfast one day, when he mentioned how much he missed Taylor ham from New Jersey. I asked him to tell me more about Taylor ham.

“So there’s this breakfast food and its called Taylor ham and it only exists in four counties in all of New Jersey and everywhere else in New Jersey it’s called pork roll, because that’s the generic version of Taylor ham, and in New York City and Pennsylvania it’s also called pork roll, and no one else in the United States knows what it is, and it’s amazing, and every morning a New Jerseyan wakes up, and they are like ‘I want a Taylor ham on egg and cheese and everything bagel at salt pepper and ketchup’ and they go to the bagel shop they get that… this guy named Taylor just decided to have this cut of ham.”

A peculiar aspect of the informant’s account of Taylor ham is his perspective that New Jersey has the “original” Taylor ham, and that other parts of New Jersey and New York call it something else. It would be interesting to find out if these other people consider “pork roll” the original version of the ham, and consider “Taylor” ham some quirky name that a small weird group of people in New Jersey use to refer to pork roll. Clearly, Taylor ham is a point of pride for my informant, and something that he shares the knowledge of with some fellow New Jerseyans.

Thanksgiving Ham

In the following, my informant recounts how her family traditionally has Ham on Thanksgiving rather than the more traditional Turkey:

We always have Ham for Thanksgiving, always, I mean, yeah, its not a Thanksgiving without ham. Turkey? Not turkey. We’ll have some turkey,  but we always have ham because my great, my grandma, or my Nana on my dad’s side, she cooked the best honey baked ham, oh my gosh, and um , we loved it when we were little, and, so each Thanksgiving she would make it for us, and we’d always have that.

The fact that my informant and her family continue to celebrate Thanksgiving with ham rather than turkey, even after, as she informed me, her grandmother, who made the ham, has died, shows that they do it in remembrance of her. My informant told me that for her family Thanksgiving is a way of not only celebrating the family currently there, but the family which either is absent or has died, and eating ham is a way of remembering not only her grandmother, but all the family members she once shared a Thanksgiving with.

The Roast

The informant recounted the legend on Easter in the context of telling family stories. She acknowledges that it isn’t specifically tied to her family but could be from anyone’s family.

A mother is teaching her daughter how to cook a ham, and when she cuts the end off, and puts it aside, and puts the ham in the oven and bakes it. [The informant mimes these actions as she tells the story.]

And the daughter says: ‘Why did you do that?’

And she says: ‘Oh, I don’t know, because my mother did.’

So, the daughter goes to the grandma and she says: ‘Grandma, why did you do that?’

And she says: ‘I don’t know, because my mother did.’

And so, she goes to the great-grandma and she says: ‘Grandma, why did you do that?’

And she says: ‘Cuz I had a small pan!’

[Everyone at the table chuckles.]

Me: And when would you tell that story?

Informant: To your granddaughter? I don’t know. When you’re eating ham? [laughs] When someone asks “why?”.



This exists both as a general funny story to tell to the family but also as a piece of meta-folklore explaining how traditions come to be. It also follows the rule of three from Olrik’s epic laws. The daughter has to ask three mothers to get her answer about the tradition.