It’s crispy brown on the outside, moist and spicy on the inside. And when served up with the candidates in one of the most-watched Senate races in the country, you get the 19th annual Apple Scrapple Festival in rural Bridgeville, Delaware.
Like the Bidens and slow traffic on I-95, scrapple is a Delaware tradition. For the uninitiated, scrapple is a Pennsylvania Dutch delicacy made of hog byproducts (snout, heart, liver), corn meal, flour, and spices, mixed into a mush and formed into loaves, then sliced off and fried. It’s usually served for breakfast, but scrapple sandwiches make a fine lunch, or so I’m told. Here in Bridgeville, they’ve been making RAPA Scrapple – named for company founders Ralph and Paul Adams – since 1926.
Anybody running for office in Delaware knows that on the second weekend in October, the Apple Scrapple Festival is the place to be. (Apples are another big local product. You know what those are.)
Democratic Senate candidate Chris Coons and his wife, Annie, showed up first. Though polls show him far ahead of Republican Christine O’Donnell statewide, the conservative southern part of the state isn’t exactly Coons country. Among the throngs of people out on this hot, sunny day, O’Donnell stickers and T-shirts far outnumber Coons paraphernalia.
But the Coonses soldier on. Standing near the Democratic Party booth, they greet voters, some of whom speak to Mr. Coons as if they’ve known the county executive of New Castle County up in northern Delaware forever. It’s such a small state – it has only one House member in Congress – maybe they do.
“That guy calls me every day and says, ‘You need more lawn signs up!’ ” Coons says after talking to one man.
How far can you chuck that wad of scrapple?
Then it’s time to head off to the Mayor's Invitational Scrapple Sling, where Coons was to compete with local officials to see who could propel a package of scrapple the farthest. No word yet on how he did. I stuck around by the political booths to await the arrival of Ms. O’Donnell , the newest darling of the conservative tea party movement and butt of late-night jokes about her youthful dabbling in witchcraft.
When O’Donnell arrives, applause breaks out. Well-wishers are eager to greet her, and as she makes her way down South Cannon St., the crowd gets big enough that an impromptu police escort forms. But there’s plenty of access to O’Donnell, who dispenses hugs and “God bless you’s” to folks who want to shake her hand and pose for a photo. A few serve notice that she’ll have to earn their support.
“If you want my vote in the general election, there’s two things you gotta do for me,” says Michael Rhua of Blades, Del. “One, you gotta have a strong energy policy. Two, you gotta be working on the local economy and the environment.”
Another voter offers a suggestion for her next TV ad: Wear something colorful. In her last ad, where she reassures voters she’s not a witch – “I’m you,” she says – she is shown in dark clothing against a spare, dark background.
Both candidates took questions from the Monitor. I asked Coons if all the attention O’Donnell is getting in the national media was helping or hurting his campaign.
“It tends to focus overwhelmingly on things that aren’t the real concerns of working Delawareans,” he said. “We just had a candidate forum in Newark (Del.) and no one asked about witchcraft or evolution. People asked, ‘What’s your plan for creating jobs? How are you going to tackle spending? What are you going to do to strengthen our education system?’ I have a detailed plan.”
I asked O’Donnell what she’ll focus on in her next ad. Her reply: “We have another ad rolling out this week. I’m you. “
Another “I’m you” ad? I asked.
“I’d do what you’d do,” she said, referring to Delaware voters. “I want to go to Washington and do what you’d do. It’s running right now. That’s it.”
Some festival-goers didn’t seem to care much about politics. “I’m just here for the scrapple,” said one man.
Our intrepid reporter tries scrapple (and survives)
I realized I had more business to attend to. You can’t go to a festival dedicated to scrapple and not try it, especially when the factory is just down the street and so many of the townspeople earn their livelihood producing it. But the lines for scrapple sandwiches ($4 each) were long, and I’m not big on lines. Maybe the lines will get shorter as the day wears on, I thought.
“Nope, there will always be a line,” a festival-goer advised.
Finally, I had my sandwich – two slabs of scrapple about a quarter inch thick each, between two slices of white bread, plus ketchup and mustard. I took a bite. The spices were nice, though I wasn’t sure about the consistency. Later, a local told me I’d like it better the way his wife makes it: Pressed down flat and fried crispy all the way through.
Scrapple also makes a nice modeling compound. At a table near the festival stage, folks took part in a scrapple-carving contest. A pig sculpture placed first overall (irony, anyone?); in the junior division, a Mickey Mouse head won.
For the more athletic, there was the scrapple toss – 5-pound bags held together with duct tape flung across the field behind the high school. The winning throw was 127 feet 6 inches, a new world record, the organizer announced. Earlier in the day, they held a Ladies’ Skillet Toss, which is a staple of certain rural festivals (and there are YouTube videos to prove it).
But with less than a month to go before Election Day, one question burned above all others. Do Delaware’s two Senate candidates like scrapple?
Coons: “My grandfather actually built heat processing plants for Smith Premium all around the country. My dad was in food, and made scrapple for us every week when I was growing up. It is an acquired taste.”
O’Donnell: “I LOVE scrapple! Didn’t do the sling, but I had some scrapple earlier.”