A Visit Home to the Coal Mines of South Jersey

Those who have viewed Ben Stiller’s film Zoolander will remember the scene in which the main character Derek Zoolander, rejected and forlorn, leaves New York City to reconnect with his roots in South Jersey. Anyone familiar with the Garden State’s better half will immediately recognize the humor in Stiller’s depiction of South Jersey as desolate coal mining country peopled with hardened blue-collar locals. Although there are absolutely no coal mines in this area, I can understand how, to the uninitiated, South Jersey might be seen as a barren industrial wasteland devoid of any cultural value or historical merit. This view is misguided (unless, of course, one is thinking about Delaware, which really is a barren industrial wasteland devoid of any cultural value or historical merit whatsoever).

So this past weekend I, like Derek Zoolander, left the Big Apple behind to visit family in South Jersey (and that’s about as far as that analogy will go). I took the Bolt Bus from midtown to the Cherry Hill Mall, a ninety-minute trip, where I was picked up by my dad. If you aren’t familiar with the new alternatives to Greyhound, check out Megabus and Bolt Bus. They don’t have any actual terminals, but the rides can be as cheap as $1.50 if you book early.

On Saturday afternoon Dad and I made a trip to the most excellent Village Thrift store on Route 130, straddling the border between Camden and Pennsauken. Afterward, we headed over to Del Buono’s Bakery on the Black Horse Pike in Haddon Heights, just before closing time. Here are some pictures of the outside:

I don’t know for sure where they get all these wacky statues, but from the looks of some they may have come from old mini-golf courses.


Here’s Dad leaning on a very happy pig in a bow-tie.


There are actually many more statues situated all around the perimeter of the bakery. Yet the outside of Del Buono’s is nothing compared to what is found inside through the swinging screen door. Old-fashioned conveyor belts line the walls of this place, and you can watch the freshly-baked rolls slowly make their way around to the drop-off point. In the center of the building is a massive oven where, if you arrive early enough, you can take your place among other customers anxiously awaiting the chance to grab hot rolls and breads as they make their appearance on the conveyor. All of this entertainment is free, and what’s great about Del Buono’s is that the food prices are as close to free as you can get. For about ten bucks, we came home with five pizza dough balls, a dozen small rolls, a dozen round rolls, and a pound cake.

By the time we got back into the car we had already eaten several rolls and a few bites of pizza dough (yeah its that good). We didn’t have anything to wash down the bread, so Dad drove around the corner to Cabana’s water ice stand. If you don’t live in the Philadelphia area, you have probably never heard of water ice, but you may know it as Italian ice. And if you’ve never ordered water ice in the Philadelphia area, you certainly will not know how to pronounce it correctly. It is not “Wah-ter Ice” but “Wood-er Ice”. Or, depending on the degree of your Italian machismo, “Wood-uh Ah-ee-suh”, as in “Yo, yous guys wanna go get a fuggin’ hoagie and some wooduh ice?” For those New Yorkers who might be thinking that they recognize this accent, I must say that the dialect of Philadelphia and South Jersey is not the same as that of North “Joisey” or Long Island. You really have to hear it in person to get the full effect.

Anyway, here’s Dad eating his orange creamsicle water ice. I ordered triple chocolate chunk, which is chocolate water ice with chocolate chips and marshmallows.


Here’s one last photo for now, from when this weird reverse-Pleasantville thing happened to us.



One response to “A Visit Home to the Coal Mines of South Jersey

  1. Pingback: 6 miles « Lost in the Neon Fruit Supermarket

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