Tuesday, March 07, 2006

In praise of spam

Whatever could be good about spam?

No, not that kind, this kind. The kind I remember not all that fondly from my youth, when every home (including mine) sported a few cans in the cupboard.

In my house, they were placed up high, where I couldn't reach them--not that I ever wanted to. I'd eaten Spam a few times and found it somewhat wanting, although I wasn't exactly a toddler gourmet (baloney on Wonder Bread, I seem to recall, was my idea of Awfully Good. And Kraft dinner--macaroni and cheese--my absolute favorite).

Spam has become a pejorative. But if you follow the link you'll find that during WWII it was a lifesaver, literally. In fact, it may have been responsible for Hitler's defeat.

What am I talking about? Have I taken leave of my senses? Well, see here:

Nikita Krushchev once credited SPAM with the survival of the WWII Russian army. ''Without SPAM, we wouldn't have been able to feed our army,'' he said.

And it's not only the survival of the Russian army. It may be the secret to the survival of none other than Robert Byrd (although, with its approximately 82% fat content, it's a bit hard to see how):

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia eats a sandwich of SPAM and mayonnaise on white bread three times a week.

That's a lotta Spam. More, even, than I got here before I installed Blogger's word verification system in my comments section.

Other Spam facts of interest: developed in 1926, it was the first canned meat product that didn't require refrigeration. But it didn't take off until 1937, when its old name ("Hormel Spiced Meat") was changed, as the result of a contest, to the winning classic, "Spam."

The rest, as they say, is history.


At 2:06 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

I don't think I've ever actually eaten spam, but I have eaten its cousin, Deviled Ham, regularly. It's an acquired taste .....

There was cartoon either in the New Yorker or LOOK magazine in around 1942, and it showed a lend-lease ship unloading its cargo, and there were a bunch of Russians in fur hats reading over the manifest and scratcing their heads. Next to them were several large wooden crates emblazoned "SPAM." So, it was well known at the time and thought to be amusing.

At 2:23 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Goesh said...

Spam, mustard and onions - what a sandwich - YUM! YUM! or you can dice it and make an omelet, fry it then smother it with sauerkraut, etc

At 2:57 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Senescent Wasp said...

I'm old enough to remember, somewhat, the years of WW II. One thing I remember is Spam. Rationing meant shortages. But, Spam seemed to be available when other meats were not. I can't remember how many ration points it cost. But, to my four year old pallete, Spam and pineapple or glazed apple slices was good grub. Hated and still hate rabbit.

At 3:02 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Bryan J Weitzel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:05 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Bryan J Weitzel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:29 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Fausta said...

When in NYC, stop by the Shubert Theater and buy yourself a couple of cans of special edition Spamalot Spam.

At 3:54 PM, March 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to like Treet, the Armour competitor to Spam, better. I bought a can for old time sake the other day (I haven't had it in probably 25 years.) It tasted a lot like Vienna sausage. And at the moment I can't remember what the label said but it was high in everything - fat, sodium, calories, whatever.

At 4:24 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger 74 said...

I used to love the Spam sandwiches my mom made when I was young. I have some every now and then to this day. Spam is a favorate food item in Hawaii and Guam. There is even a restaurant in Guam specializing in Spam dishes.

At 4:33 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger jinnmabe said...

I LOVE Spam. I mostly eat it sliced thin and fried crispy like bacon. Good stuff. Handy on camping trips.

At 4:48 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Megan said...

My grandfather fries up Spam when he goes hunting. And he's cooked it for the kids in the past too.

Maybe if they went back to the old name 'spiced meat' or whatever it was it would be a little more appetizing...

then again, maybe not. LOL

At 5:38 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Pancho said...

I have a can o'Spam in our cupboard I'm saving for that special occasion when only a canned meat product will do.

We had a hybrid of Spam in our C rations...in army lingo termed something like, Ham, Chopped, Canned.

At 5:49 PM, March 07, 2006, Anonymous Vanderleun said...

The top of the Spam foodchain has to be RACK-O-SPAM.

Open both ends of the container and carefully slide the whole loaf out.

Stand on edge and "carefully" slice half inch slices almost -- but not ALL THE WAY-- through.

Next. Toothpicks.

Take rings of pinapple out of the can and open up a jar of factory fresh mareschino cherries.

Break pinapple rings into sections whose greatest width at the top of the arc is slightly less than the diameter of the SPAM slices edge to edge.

Heat cast iron frying pan over campfire far away from the maddening crowd and sear the surfaces of the spam loaf briefly.

Spit pineapple wedge and cherries in this order: cherry, wedge, cherry and carefully pry apart the Spam to insert a pinapple cherry kabob into each slice.

Return to heated frying pan on edge and sear carefully until done.

This tastes best at the end of a ten day camping trip when all the rest of your food is long gone.

At 6:20 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Nikita Krushchev once credited SPAM with the survival of the WWII Russian army. ''Without SPAM, we wouldn't have been able to feed our army,'' he said.

How dare you say Americans should be given credit for the 20 million that died on the Eastern Front, what nerve!

Spam is good because there's a lot of energy there. But I tend to stop after one small can, because it is way too salty, and my body doesn't like having my sodium intake increased 500%. I know, cause it tells me in my head.

At 6:38 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Tom Grey said...

My mother liked Spam -- I liked it fried. Also liked fried baloney.

I wasn't so big on Kraft macaroni & cheese; didn't like ketchup so much. (not even premium dijon ketchup).

America has become full of snobs; food snobs and many other types.

SPAM has long been non-PC

At 9:15 PM, March 07, 2006, Anonymous rickl said...

And apart fom all that, it inspired one of Monty Python's most memorable skits:

Spam, spam, spam, spam,
spam, spam, spam, spam,
spam, spam, spam, spam...

(Supposedly that comedy sketch in turn was the origin of the present-day term used to describe junk e-mail.)

At 1:29 AM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous strcpy said...

Chopped into small peices and put in salads is a great way to eat it. It's got a different (IMO typically stronger) flavor than ham peices. Letteuce, cheese, spam, bacon bits, carrots and other assorted hard vegetables is great (and I think goes best with ranch dressing - it mixes with the spam taste very well). Just be carefulthat you don't go overboard on the spam - it's fairly strong.

I like a spam sandwich from time to time also. But usually just a little bit in a large salad

At 11:17 AM, March 08, 2006, Blogger Harry Mallory said...

First time had tried spam, (fried) was over twenty years ago.

I was surprised in that it wasnt as bad as I thought it would taste and didnt mind eating it. Though I certainly didnt want to have it often. You get tired of the taste pretty easily.

At 4:47 PM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous DC said...

A travelogue writer, Theroux, wrote a book about paddling a canoe in the Pacific islands. There was a chapter on SPAM, in which he alludes that islanders in the remote areas considered SPAM a delicacy, tasting closest to "Long Pork".

I feel that SPAM was really the inspiration for "Soylent Green". But, to each his own!

At 3:29 PM, March 09, 2006, Blogger Daniel in Brookline said...

Would you believe that the Israeli Army has a kosher equivalent of Spam?

It's called "Bully-Beef" (I never tried hard to understand the etymology of it); like Spam, it's canned meat that can last for years without being refrigerated. When I wore the uniform, every pack of battle-rations had a can of Bully-Beef in it.

I remember once, during field exercises, when our cook was challenged to make something at least halfway edible out of the stuff. He won the bet with some not-too-bad simulated shish kebabs. (We complained anyway, of course.)

Daniel in Brookline


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