Saturday, April 10, 2010

Travel Writing Assignment

Pork roll will always hold a special place in my heart, so I am forever writing or talking about it. This was an assignment to write a short travel piece. As usual, I chose to write about the town I grew up in.

Pork Roll @ The Parrot

Low tide isn’t a bad smell. If you are walking along Bay Avenue in Highlands, NJ and high tide was 12 hours ago, you are likely to smell the bay floor. The bay floor consists of centuries of pulverized clam shells, (possibly) doubloons from the old Pirate/Rum-Running days, and trash of the white variety. (By the way, it’s the Beach, not the “Jersey Shore”.) The low tide smell in Highlands is different from the low tide in other places in the best of ways.

The appreciation for the smell of low tide comes with living in a clam-digging town. You miss it when you leave and relish it when you come back. Living in the midst of it, though, you sometimes forget. Visitors need a little schooling in order to appreciate the smells of Highlands. Everything you eat will taste like everything you see, hear, and smell. This includes, but is not limited to, low tide, skunk weed, regular weed, fish, barnacles, sand, pork roll, pizza, hot sauce, Jay Muse, cheap beer, and stray cats. Also, cat fights (feline and human), fist fights, bar brawls, old briny seamen musings, the ghost ding-a-ling of the drawbridge that is in the middle of being taken down, seagulls, and barge horns. A pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich doesn’t taste right if there aren’t grains of sand involved, or you aren’t witness to some violence.

You will never eat a pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich that tastes as good as the one you get at The Parrot. In a small town such as Highlands, there are few delis, but this place is the go-to place for a good pork roll, egg, and cheese (or a sub). Taste is partly smell and smell is partly taste and they are both connected. The sinuses of the locals can barely smell the nuances that a low tide pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich contains. Pork roll is salty enough without adding salt, but the salt air adds just the right hint of ‘extra’ salt: not overboard, not undertow.

The Parrot is one of those dining establishments that have been owned by the same family for generations. They either know your name already, or will assign you one on your first visit. It is really just a rinky-dink kind of diner with plastic stools along the bar and a few tables inside. There are a few picnic tables outside in the warmer months as well. The Parrot is the place you want to visit to pick up some subs and juice before heading to Sandy Hook on a summer day, or to have your 4am breakfast on your way to work on one of the clam or fishing boats. The ketchup may have been sitting on the Formica tabletops a few days too long, but they are usually wiped clean by the babies and toddlers who suck on them like bottles, whose parents are usually outside having a smoke while they are doing it.

When the time is right and you want to take the next step in the Highlands food experience and order that pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich, I need to warn you about something. For God’s sake, don’t just order a pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich! If you enjoy being either laughed at or sneered at for the remainder of your stay, please order it like I’m about to tell you to. You must say, “Can I get a pork roll, egg, and cheese on a hard roll. Saltpepperketchup!” Trust me on this one.

You may decide to eat your sandwich at Huddy Park, which is across the street from The Parrot. It is nice and all, but you could go down to the beach by the Community Center to have a little beach picnic. The tables outside of The Parrot work just as well too, but the true experience comes when some sand flies into your sandwich as you’re eating it and you end up with sand-sandwich. Heck, you’ll eat it anyway. And, you will love it.

The Parrot:
71 Waterwitch Ave.
Highlands, NJ 07732

See also:
Sandy Hook

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