There is no place else quite like the Jersey Shore boardwalk: the games, the rides, the endless shops selling the same merchandise and, of course, the food. From the famous “swirl” of Maruca’s pizza, the kite-size slice at the Sawmill, or the aroma of sausage and peppers, Jersey Shore food cannot be duplicated anywhere.
On August 15, Karen Schnitzspahn, a historian and author who spent a lot of time at the Jersey shore, discussed her book Jersey Shore Food History: from Victorian Feasts to Boardwalk Treats, during a free lunchtime author talk. Her book covers the mid-nineteenth to mid twentieth century, and explores iconic foods and famous eateries of that time – some have endured, others are now forgotten. She began by going back to the early days of Cape May and Long Branch when meals in the hotels were always elaborate in large white-tabled dining rooms. Some of the old restaurants, like Hackney’s, Captain Starns in Atlantic City and the Taylor Pork Roll stores on the boardwalk, are closed, but others still thrive: the Lobster House in Cape May, Bahrs’ Landing in Highlands.
Today, those iconic restaurants share the boards with other icons like Max’s and the Windmill in Long Branch, White House Subs in Atlantic City, Kohr’s ice cream and Frelinger’s Salt Water Taffy. Many long standing stores have rebuilt since Superstorm Sandy, but the updated Sawmill just is not the same without the train running along the ceiling.
Schnitzspahn, who now lives in Colorado and has not found a decent pizza yet, enjoys researching and writing about little known aspects of New Jersey shore history. She has won awards for her writing and efforts to preserve the history of Monmouth County, and is the author or co-author of more than 10 books. Her latest is Remarkable Women of the New Jersey Shore. She has a background in art and theater and takes a special interest in theatrical history, the art of puppetry and early photography. Though she does not consider herself to be a “foodie,” she enjoys the cultural history of foods and loves to eat!