In Philly to Cover Pope Francis, Foreign Journalists Encounter Scrapple

A buffet breakfast for journalists at Reading Terminal Market featured an array of local delights.


Scrapple for journalists. | Photo by Bradley Maule

Aside from alcohol, there are two things, above all, that journalists, as a species, enjoy: sleeping in and free food. It was hard to imagine which of those would win out this morning at Reading Terminal Market, where a media breakfast for journalists on Pope assignment started at 8:30 a.m. The food was apparently a significant lure, particularly for local media whose members know better than most about the pleasures of Reading Terminal. And what pleasures they were: The freshly made food was donated by select RTM merchants, including Dutch Eating Place, Iovine Brothers Produce, Tootsie’s, By George, Beiler’s Donuts, and more.

I wondered who’d go for the scrapple, outside of native Pennsylvanians, and how it would be described. The Marisa Tomei lookalike who help dole the food out said that, if asked, she’d explain that scrapple was a “breakfast meat” made of “mostly ground pork” — an optimistic description if ever I heard one. Later she told me the scrapple had indeed served as a conversation piece, but there were many more takers for Miller’s Twists’ Breakfast Stuffed Pretzels, which were made by wrapping salty soft pretzel dough around egg and cheese and bacon.

Local news organizations were well represented, including reporters and cameramen from Fox 29, the CW, 6ABC, PHL17, KYW Newsradio, the Main Line Times, Al Día, and Billy Penn. But there were visiting journalists too, from The Irish Edition, Newsday, the California-based Zuma Press Service, Montreal’s L’Oratoire — and even a couple of AP stringers from Ecuador and Cuba. Councilman Mark Squilla was also on hand (not for any discernible reason) as was Anuj Gupta, RTM’s general manager.

One of the visiting journalists was Dario Mobini from Seattle, who, after hearing scrapple described, said a polite “no thank you” and even more polite “it looks good, though.” (It’s scrapple. It looked like a pile of bricks.) Mobini is a freelancer who has covered numerous popes in his career; for this trip, he was contracted by Legatus, a magazine and community for Catholic businessmen who want to bring the ethics of their faith to their business practices. Their mission might be distilled to: Be generous and don’t screw people over. Once local media learned Mobini was an English-speaking journalist not from Philly, they pounced. Soon he was fielding as many interviews as he’ll probably conduct himself all weekend.

RTM released a statement to coincide with the breakfast, saying, “More than 1,000 journalists from around the globe are expected to arrive in Philadelphia.” Dear god. Are the bars prepared? Reading Terminal Market was beautifully prepared, which is a good thing because The World Meeting of Families madness is right across the street. They’ll have modified hours this weekend: Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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