I was pumped for my first Editor vs. Food challenge; I was ready for whatever was going to be thrown at me. Find creative ways to eat more brownies? Done. Find the best fishbowl in A2? Way ahead of you. Spend a day eating Chipotle for literally every meal? Try a week (last year’s final season was rough). But, the challenge that was chosen for me was to look back on your heritage and get in touch with your foodie roots.
In terms of ancestry, I’m pretty sure yogurt has more culture than I do. When I’ve asked my mother in the past where our family’s from, she usually says Hoboken, NJ. I know I’m something European based off how easily I get sunburns and how much I like Prince Harry, but my family certainly hasn’t put too much weight in following any cultural traditions. What was I going to do?
Well, while I may not know my ancestry, I do know my roots. What my mother said about Hoboken wasn’t entirely untrue. I’ve lived in New Jersey for over a decade and all of my family lives there. I know the correct name for soda and that deep-dish pizza is just fundamentally wrong. (Doubt me? Just ask my homeboy Jon Stewart and then forget I just said homeboy).
Besides, even though Jersey has gotten a bad rep over the past years thanks in part to Jersey Shore, I can’t help but love it. Sure I don’t follow GTL perfectly (I technically have running shoes… does that count as working out?), but the fist pump is in my go-to repertoire of dance moves and the seasons in the Garden State are second to none.
So I was going to rep Dirty Jerz right.
I planned out my 24 hours of nostalgia, starting with a classic Jersey breakfast: a Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich. However, while I enjoyed this sandwich as a kid, I’ve since become a veg head, making the whole ham thing a bit of a dilemma. I figured for the sake of authenticity, I should probably skip out of the ham entirely. Though Morning Star makes decent tofu treats, no soy byproduct can fully grasp how good Taylor ham is. That said, while the sandwich was a tasty start to the day (despite the fight it takes to eat breakfast), it wasn’t inherently Jersey. Overall, weak start to the challenge.
I also knew I had to include some good, thin-crust, clog-your-arteries-greasy pizza if I wanted to do authentic Jerz. So for lunch where else could I go but NYPD? Granted though, NYPD is a much different experience if you go there at noon as opposed to midnight. Normally this pizza place is ideal for the drunken stumble home, but it can be a little scary during the daytime when you’re (hopefully) sober and can clearly see behind the counter. But ignoring the potential health code violation of the server’s abundant arm hair, NYPD was still goddamn delicious. I was riding off folded pizza euphoria for the entirety of my English lecture, scoring lunch at a solid 8 J-Wowws out of 10.
Lastly, for dinner I was debating between (tofu) meatbawwls or even just giving up and going to NYPD again. Then, I was struck by my memories of going down to the shore when I was a kid. Inevitably after running around the beach and playing tramp stamp bingo, we’d all be starving and dying to hit the boardwalk. And as tradition would have it, we would always get hot dogs — Italian style with mustard and toppings stacked too high to really fit in your mouth. While A2 does have Jersey dog options, I wanted to make a hot (veggie) dog that was authentic as possible. So I hit the skillet and got cooking.
I followed a pretty legit sounding recipe and after a few oil burns and one sliced finger, made an Italian veggie dog with mustard and a potato, pepper and onion topping. I have to say, while I felt that something might have been missing overall, either relish or maybe real meat, the dog took me back to those summer days of futilely rubbing on sunscreen and shaking out salt water from our ears. Was it my favorite hot dog ever? No, but it was delicious for its nostalgia. 7 turnpikes out of 10.
It was a long 24 hours, but it was fun going back through my childhood in the Garden State. Though it’s not always the most glamorous, Jersey is my home and one that I will always hold dear. When it comes down to it, I will always be ready to beat that beat up and represent the East Coast, pizza and tanning beds alike.