By MELISSA PILEIRO
Summer is fast approaching, and most of us will readily admit to daydreaming during class about our upcoming summer plans. For me, though, there’s one thing about summer in South Jersey that stands out the most: the food.
The Vineland area is well known for its ethnic diversity, and the Greek Festival sponsored by St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox church always draws a crowd. It will be held this year the weekend of May 21 next to the church on Wheat Rd.
New Jersey didn’t get its Garden State nickname for just anything—this half of the state is famous for its produce. Parts of Vineland are more rural and agricultural than even some sections of the South, and that only works as an advantage to us, whether you’re trying your luck at your own garden or just enjoying the spoils of someone else’s. Jersey tomatoes are a particular favorite, along with summer fruits like blueberries, raspberries and peaches. The 23rd annual Red, White and Blueberry Festival will be held in Hammonton, the blueberry capital of the world, on June 28.
If you’re looking for summer flavors with something sweet, your best bet is ice cream. The Royal Crown on Rt. 30 is well known for homemade custard and ice cream that’s mixed with whatever fruit is in season at the time. You can also get a twist of more than one flavor, like strawberry and blueberry or peach and black cherry.
Of course, if you aren’t willing to travel that far for a treat, there are countless ice cream stands in the area to satisfy your sweet tooth. One such place that is both extremely popular and unique to this region is Rita’s Water Ice. Those of us born and raised in the Mid-Atlantic United States might be surprised to learn that water ice isn’t a universal dessert; in fact, people not from this area have been known to mistake water ice for snow cones. Ice cream fans should also be warned that ordering custard in any other geographic region will earn you a sweet, egg based confection, and not the soft serve you’d expect. Don’t ask for rainbow or chocolate jimmies, either—they’re sprinkles.
The majority of South Jerseyans can’t imagine a summer without at least one trip to the Boardwalk, be it in Ocean City or Wildwood. No matter where your favorite location is, though, most don’t deny that eating your way through is often the most fun. Mack & Manco’s pizza is usually a resounding favorite, and if you don’t live down the Shore, there’s still hope—most of their locations will deliver. For dessert, there’s always the infamous salt water taffy—not made with salt water, ironically—fudge, or even deep fried Oreos. The latter might sound a bit sketchy, but go ahead and take a risk; it’s like eating chocolate flavored funnel cake.
Some people might feel like South Jersey is boring and offers very little. This summer, I’d like to challenge you to expand your horizons—you’ll be amazed at how many interesting things to see (and taste!) you’ll find.