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How scrapple got its name

ink drawings of scrapple 1880s

You could be forgiven for thinking scrapple is a 20th century invention. After all, one of the preeminent brands, RAPA scrapple, was founded in 1926, when brothers Ralph and Paul Adams (RAPA) started a manufacturing plant in Bridgeville, DE.

In fact, this concoction of pig parts, cornmeal and/or buckwheat flour, and spices actually comes to us via Germany’s 17th century Palatinate emigrants to Pennsylvania.

The name scrapple derives from a phrase they used that makes us scratch our heads.

If you transform the modern German words “Pan hase kreppel” into an English phrase, it literally means “pan rabbit donut”. Two things to consider here when trying to connect this odd jumble of words to scrapple: 1) a donut is made from a slab, or slice, of dough; 2) today’s American dish ‘meatloaf’ translates as ‘false hare’ (falscher hase) to a German. 

The jump in language connecting rabbit to a red meat loaf had already happened in German by the 1680s, when the Palatines brought what they called “panhas” to the Americas. And as these first Germans (early Pennsylvania Dutch to us) further altered the mother tongue, ‘kreppel’ used to modify a food word came to mean ‘a slice’.

So ‘scrapple,’ which first appeared in quotes in 1860s Delaware newspaper articles, was presented that way because it was understood to be a slurred, misspelled shorthand for ‘a slice of panhas.’ Within 20 years the quotes were dropped, and the spelling we know kept.

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