Thursday, April 12, 2012
My Love Affair With Spam
About 20 years ago someone, somewhere, in some small pocket of America, started a joke about Spam. Somehow it caught on and dozens upon dozens of Spam jokes began to surface in the cocktail bars and around the office water coolers of America. It became fashionable to laugh at anyone who could even tolerate Spam in their diet.
Just a very few years later those dreaded ads began imposing themselves into your email inbox and the junk email began to labeled as Spam. I really hated to see that happen. I believe Spam got a bad rap, probably because I've always loved Spam.
For those of you who may not know it, Spam became popular in America during World War II. During the war fresh meat was one of the many things rationed. America, geared toward allocating nearly every commodity toward war production, or feeding our troops, imposed strict rationing for any item needed for the war effort. Spam was not, thus it became quite popular as a meat course during those war years.
Ironically, our troops also consumed tons of Spam throughout both the European and Pacific theaters. My Uncle, who served with Patton's division in Europe ate so much of it that, following the war, he vowed to never eat it again for the rest of his life...and didn't! But that didn't stop the civilian populace from taking a liking to it. In fact, the Hormel company can tell you which states consume the most Spam, and for 65 years that state has been Hawaii! It seems that, immediately after the war, the Defense Department had tons of Spam sitting in warehouses in Hawaii. Because most all of Hawaiian foodstuffs must be shipped from the mainland, Hawaiians have always had to pay higher grocery prices than the rest of us. When some clever entrepreneur relieved the Defense Department of their military surplus Spam tonnage, he began selling Spam throughout the islands. Hawaiians gobbled it up! My family and I were stationed with the Air Force in Hawaii for ten years and we avidly participated in the Hawaiian Spam craze. Nearly every restaurant offers a choice of bacon, sausage or Spam with your morning eggs. The favorite beach side lunch in Hawaii is called a "starchy plate" which consists of macaroni salad, potato salad, steamed rice and two or three slices of fried spam. Go to Ala Moana Beach or Waikiki at noon time and watch the local swimmers and surfers downing a starchy plate for lunch!
Spam, for me, goes back to my childhood. We ate a lot of it because we often could not afford fresh meat. But, even today some of my favorite recipes are made with Spam. For example, we love to combine the elements of asian food with spam. My personal favorite are fresh stir-fried green beans with slices of fried Spam and a side of steaming white rice. So good! And, in lieu of pork or chicken, we slice and cut Spam into small cubes in our asian fried rice. As they say in Hawaii, "so ono (good)".
The uses of Spam in meals are endless: Spam, lettuce and tomato sandwiches on lightly toasted bread, Spam omelets, or simply slices of fried Spam with the morning eggs, ala Hawaii.
I recently read the Hormel annual stock report. It seems that Hormel is doing great in this great recession of ours, largely due to the explosive sales growth of good ole Spam! I suspect those "end of the worlders", those "survivalists" who are none to happy with the world these days, are also stockpiling Spam up there in Idaho too! I would also think that folks, given a choice of having their home foreclosed upon, or choosing Spam over sirloin, are putting away Spam as well.
So, ease up on the Spam jokes, folks! Pick up a few cans the next time you've in your local grocery. Try the recipes for it...or just lay a few cans away in the cupboard, just in case those "99 percenters" take to the streets and raise havoc! :)