What is it about scrapple that we love so much?
I know, it is delicious. But why?
Because it tastes good!
OK, also true. I think we're getting closer. Why does it taste so good?
Because it's pork, and greasy, and crispy on the outside but warm and gooey on the inside.
Or at least that's the conclusion Dan Pashman came to on a recent episode of The Sporkful where he explored some of Philadelphia's most well-known foods. Scrapple, of course, was on that list. After eating scrapple, a cheesesteak, and a roast pork sandwich from DiNic's, Dan stopped by the Monell Chemical Senses Center in West Philadelphia (born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days...) to figure out why we love these foods so much.
The Monell Center is the world’s only independent, non-profit scientific institute dedicated to interdisciplinary basic research on the senses of taste and smell.
Fair enough. If anyone is going to tell us why we like certain foods, they will be the people to do it. Dan talked with Dr. Marcia Pelchat and she brought up the concept of Dynamic Contrast. This isn't just a buzzword. It's actually an idea published in a scientific journal! According to the article Dynamic Contrast: A Sensory Contribution to Palatability by Robert J. Hyde and Steven A. Witherly, dynamic contrast is "moment-to-moment sensory contrast from the ever-changing properties of foods manipulated in the mouth." Ugh, way to make eating sound boring.
Dr. Pelchat used ice cream as an example in explaining this further. "Ice cream would be something you put in as a solid and it would melt." Or perhaps a bowl of cereal that is crispy at first milk pour and slowly starts to turn into something soggier.
Dynamic Contrast can also describe foods that have multiple textures in each bite. Like an Oreo. Or a perfectly-cooked slice of scrapple that is deliciously crispy on the outside, while soft and warm on the inside. The dynamic contrast of crispy and soft keep you coming back for slice-after-slice!
Sure, scrapple is also greasy and fatty, and pork in any form is oh-so-good. But apparently, the science behind our tastes tells us it's the crispy plus gooey that we really, truly enjoy. Can't argue with science.
Enjoy The Sporkful
While we're here, The Sporkful is a pretty great food podcast. Give the whole This is Your Brain On Cheesesteak episode a listen. It's not your typical food podcast and something scrapple lovers might enjoy. Their tagline says it best: "It's not for foodies, it's for eaters."