I realize that after I savored yesterday’s delicious Italian lunch — lasagna, a spinach dish, gnocchi with pesto, artichokes, sangria, wine and tiramisu — it’s almost callous today to bring up the subject of Spam. But I must, because Blundering Bloggers Jackie, Dick and I all agreed to write about this topic. How we came to this decision is as mysterious as the meat product itself.
What is Spam besides the unwanted advertisements that appear in our in-boxes? The label on the tin says it’s “pork with ham, mechanically separated chicken [ed. note: what does this mean, and separated from what?], water, salt, modified potato starch and a few other chemicals that I imagine help preserve it until it transforms itself into something like amber. Hormel Foods invented Spam in 1937 and apparently its age has done nothing to spoil its allure. According to Wikipedia, “On average, 3.8 cans are consumed every second in the United States.”
Most Americans my age have had a Spam experience some time in their lives. When I was little, my mother packed it for camping trips. Years ago I included it in my emergency kit — the bag of supplies squirreled away in the trunk of my car to sustain me if the earth shakes, as it has a tendency to do every so often. My idea was that if stranded at work without heat or light for several days I could always open my can of pork, ham and mechanically separated chicken and soon feel sated, as well as really, really thirsty. A long time later, I checked my kit to see whether the items in it could still be eaten or drunk. The Spam was the only food with a label claiming that it had years to go before it spoiled. “Let’s try it,” my husband and I said at the time. Neither of us could remember the taste from childhood, but it took only one bite to remind me that Spam is a lot like salted caramels, but without the caramels.
For the sake of this blog I bought a can of Spam Lite, which has “50% less fat, 25% less sodium, and 33% fewer calories,” and today we proceeded to open it, dig it out of the can (it fits very snugly), cut a few slices and fry them. My cat soon detected the scent of Spam and launched into a performance most commonly associated with sensing an open can of tuna, This involves sitting directly under the source of the smell and yowling, as if getting a large serving of whatever he is smelling is a life and death matter. My husband put two slices in the frying pan, and after listening to the wailing for about ten seconds gave in and put a small piece of cold Spam in the cat’s dish. This was a very temporary solution since, in about five seconds, the cat stepped up the volume, which got him his second sample. I expected this scene to be followed by five minutes of lapping at the water dish, but his only side effect was a strong urge for a long nap. The Spam Fan Club, with branches in the UK and Italy, just gained a new member.
My husband took his blood pressure before we sat down to eat our slice. We followed breakfast with a tall glass of water and then settled in for a nap.
Noting that a confession mode is necessary, I admit that I love Spam–has to be cold and in a sandwich with basic yellow mustard and lettuce — but then becomes a very favorite sandwich. It is, as I’m sure you know, a very popular food in Hawaii where I believe it was a main-stay during WWII. Ignoring the amount of fat and curious composition, it is a delight. My dad loved it fried with potatoes for dinner. Oh, for the symplicity of Spam!
I can’t remember ever eating Spam – and don’t feel the loss of that experience is anything I need to correct.
O!h Sharon, once again you and I are on the same wave length! Hope you’ll check out my SPAM post. . .it presents an entirely different picture of this gelatenous gem of a food. . .why it’s almost like a festival
I obviously was so excited about this topic that my exclamation point got ahead of the letters. That is ‘Oh!’
Well, Ann, your Spam post has earned you the most responses I’ve yet seen on your blog. I might have to write about Spam myself. My dad–born during the Interwar years in Glasgow, Scotland in one of the worst slums on earth–adored Spam with pork & beans. A veteran of two wars, he ate it cold. I can still picture him cutting a strip off of each rectangle, pushing it on the back of his fork, using his knife to add some beans, and taking a bite. His enjoyment would make anyone watching think he was eating Beef Tenderloin with Port Wine Sauce. Of course, as a Brit, the man had exactly four teeth. I suspect the texture of the meal added to his enjoyment.