White Trash Wednesdays—SPAM

SPAM.  It’s whispered about behind closed doors in the same way that people talk about fruitcake, recreational drug use, and The Sound of Music.  Publicly, nobody will admit to partaking, but most of them have to be lying or it wouldn’t still be around after all these years.  First sold in 1937, SPAM is 75 years old this year. 

You might be asking yourself “How did it get here?”, “Who would do such a thing?” “What the heck IS it, anyway?”  You would not be alone.  (In fact, it is those same questions, and SPAM’s stance as a ubiquitous part of the landscape, that got those annoying emails that won’t go away named after it.)

SPAM was introduced in 1937 by Hormel Foods, and the name is a shortened form of Spiced Ham.  Although the exact nature of the mystery meat isn’t really a mystery, it is still often on the receiving end of speculation and jokes.  I always thought the ingredients were lard, salt, and pink.  In reality, it is made up of pork shoulder, ham, salt, water, modified potato starch , and sodium nitrite (preservative).   So really, no scarier than any other overly processed food product, and definitely less scary than some others (I still need to investigate potted meat, but I am thinking that may be way more scary).  Nutritionally it isn’t very much different from deli lunch meats. 

There are basically two types of people. People that hate SPAM, and People that love SPAM.  Of the people who love SPAM, there are two distinct subsets—those that love it LOUD and PROUD, and those that secretly love it while publicly expressing disdain. 

The ones that are LOUD and PROUD are really, well, LOUD and PROUD about it.  Austin, Texas is home to an annual festival called SPAMARAMA, since 1976.  Thereat, SPAM is made into chili, grilled, fried, stewed, made into desserts, and celebrated in SPAM sculptures.  In Hawaii, it is known as Hawaiian Steak, and made into SPAM Misubi (like sushi, it is packed with sticky rice and wrapped with nori).  In Guam, the per capita consumption of SPAM is 16 tins per year, per person!

I grew up eating SPAM, and I did like it. A lot.  Okay, I LOVED it.  Are you happy now? Getting me to admit to something like that publicly?  But it’s true.

My name is Christine, and I like SPAM.  It is the one vestige left of my white trash roots.  Several generations removed, and it still clings to life in the collective spirit of my ancestral heritage like a Southern girl clings to her Old English Roses china. 

I like it sliced and fried until golden brown, and served with pancakes and syrup, or waffles and syrup, or anything and syrup.  Or just with syrup.  I also like it sliced and fried and served with melted cheese on toast.  Two slices of spam fit perfectly in between two slices of sandwich bread.  Plop a fried egg in there, and voila!  Breakfast. 

My kids, though–they won’t eat SPAM.  Never tasted it, and barely heard of it.  They are under the illusion that the hot meals that arrive under their noses each night appear out of thin air, by magic. Thusly, there should be no need for time-saving conveniences such as processed food.  I brought this on myself, of course.

I really hadn’t eaten SPAM in probably 25 years, until I started planning this article.  I fried some up the other day and ate it again like I did when I was a kid.  It was tasty, but I felt like it could be so much more than a conduit for syrup to get into my mouth.  I did some research, and found that SPAM is now made into tacos, spaghetti, gumbo, and cupcakes.  WHO KNEW?! Clearly out of the SPAM loop, I sat down and did some playin’.

Here are some of the tasty, albeit White Trashy, dishes I enjoyed this week.  May you also enjoy the austerity and nostalgia that is SPAM.

IMAG0852

Easy Red Beans and Rice With Spam

Serves 4-6

  • 1 tin SPAM, Original
  • 2 T butter, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 32 oz cans Red Beans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 T vinegar
  • 1 can beer
  • 1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups cooked long grain white rice
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce (for serving)

Slice the SPAM into ½ inch cubes. Place in a medium skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter, over medium low heat.  Stir occasionally while you prepare the beans.  SPAM should wind up nicely browned and crispy on the outside.  When it has reached that, remove from heat.  Try not to taste it–if you do, it’s like crack, and you may eat it all before the rest of the meal is ready. ( That would be bad.)

IMAG0853

Crispy SPAM Goodness

To make the beans, place remainder of butter in large saucepan or small stock pot over medium high heat.  Add garlic, onion, peppers, and celery, and cook until softened.  Add beans, bay leaves, vinegar, beer, tomatoes and cayenne.  Simmer slowly for about 15 minutes.  Serve over rice in bowls, and top with fried SPAM and, chopped green onions, and Louisiana Hot Sauce.

 

SPAMikopita

Serves 6-8

Greek Spanikopita is one of my favorite appetizers…Flaky phyllo dough wrapped around feta cheese and spinach and baked until crisp.  SPAMikopita utilizes SPAM and cheddar cheese, wrapped in phyllo or crescent dough for a fun snack. 

  • I package phyllo sheets, thawed
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 12 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tin SPAM, sliced into ¼ thick rectangles, and then diagonally into triangles
  • 1 10 oz jar raspberry jelly
  • 1/3 cup apple juice

Take one sheet of phyllo dough, and brush lightly with melted butter.  Fold in half lengthwise. Place one triangle of SPAM at one end, with one of the short sides along the bottom edge of the phyllo, and top with a tablespoon of cheddar.  Fold the corner of the phyllo that has the SPAM sitting on it up. And then continue to fold the SPAM up and over again and again, until you reach the opposite end of the phyllo. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet, and repeat with remaining phyllo, SPAM and cheese.  Bake at 350* until starting to turn golden on top.  Allow to cool for ten minutes. 

Mix jelly and apple juice together in a small saucepan, and melt over medium heat until warm.

Serve SPAMikopita with the sauce for dipping.

**since I didn’t want to wait for the phyllo to thaw, I used crescent dough in the ones pictured.  Tasty, but not as crisp and lovely as the phyllo.

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45 Comments on “White Trash Wednesdays—SPAM”

  1. 2012/12/05 at 1:45 pm #

    I’ve always liked fried spam sandwiches.

  2. 2012/12/05 at 1:48 pm #

    I would like to see these spam cupcakes you speak of…

    • 2012/12/05 at 3:35 pm #

      They are maple cupcakes, with maple buttercream, topped with tiny cubes of candied spam…

      • 2012/12/05 at 4:07 pm #

        Oh dear. Now I must try it… Sounds insane!

  3. 2012/12/05 at 1:54 pm #

    My mother, having heard about SPAM, decided to try it. My father, having been in the army, took one look at the can and threw it away.

    By the way, e-mail is called “spam” because of a Monty Python skit; so it’s related to SPAM at one remove.

  4. 2012/12/05 at 1:58 pm #

    This is hilarious! Spam was everywhere in Hawaii, with more varieties on the grocery shelves than you can imagine. It was introduced to Hawaii during WWII and it really caught on. Great post!

  5. 2012/12/05 at 2:09 pm #

    I don’t remember the episode but when Anthony Bourdain had spam sushi in Hawaii and declared it stoner food, my husband and I had to try it! We are not stoners but we figured it was a pretty apt definition for lazy rainy saturday hedonism…. they were really good! really good…

    –the red beans and rice seem a perfect combo for spam too!

  6. 2012/12/05 at 2:12 pm #

    You forgot those like me that never had SPAM! There is something about the idea of meat in a can that puts me off. Mind you, I do love canned tuna

  7. 2012/12/05 at 2:15 pm #

    I, too, like SPAM…it’s my secret ingredient to delicious fried rice.

  8. 2012/12/05 at 2:18 pm #

    My husband likes spam, though I’ve never tried it. He always talks about how his grandma used to make it for him. I should make it up in one of the ways mentioned. i bet he’d be excited about it.

  9. 2012/12/05 at 2:25 pm #

    In fact, in honor of your post, I rewatched the episode of Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii -I am craving spam sushi again! Fried rice, spam and I am drooling.

  10. Mad Scientist
    2012/12/05 at 2:36 pm #

    Apparently in 2007 the 7 billionth can of SPAM was sold. I like SPAM pan fried until crisp…and thanks to my mother-in-law, my kids like it too.

    But here is a good funny for you since SPAM is called Hawaiian Steak:
    What do you call Oklahoma Round Steak?

  11. 2012/12/05 at 2:50 pm #

    A friend’s mum used to make us grilled spam sandwiches when we were kids, great with ketchup ;)

    • 2012/12/05 at 3:39 pm #

      Now, I like ketchup just as much as the next gal…maybe even more. I even like ketchup on my ketchup….BUT, on my fried SPAMwiches, its all about the mayo!

      • 2012/12/08 at 12:50 pm #

        Spamwich! Now that’s good! xx

      • Mad Scientist
        2012/12/10 at 8:36 am #

        Hmmm…SPAM sandwich with Homemade mayo?

      • 2012/12/10 at 10:56 am #

        Or with tobasco mayonnaise

  12. 2012/12/05 at 4:40 pm #

    I’ll admit it…I LOVE spam. And I love it nice and crispy in the oven. It is SO good with a baked potato and hot sauce. :D

  13. 2012/12/05 at 5:09 pm #

    I love going to Hawaii and tasting a Hawaiian worker’s favorite lunch, spam sushi,
    It is delicious!

  14. 2012/12/05 at 6:48 pm #

    I love SPAM. the haters can hate. That leaves more for me! Especially when it’s SPAM Musubi – You should try it. http://cbsop.com/recipes/spam-musubi/

  15. 2012/12/06 at 10:15 am #

    “My name is Virginia, and I love SPAM. I was two years old when SPAM was introduced to the world so I am a fifty year authority on this canned miracle. By the time I was 14 years old I could make SPAM at least four dozen different ways. The original SPAM (to me) was a little different to SPAM as we know it now … perhaps because it’s main ingredient – pork – doesn’t have the same high fat contents. But who cares. SPAM I am!! Virginia ( p.s. all this from the retired chef of her own French restaurant).

    • 2012/12/06 at 1:49 pm #

      I am glad you said something about it being different….I thought so too, but could find no discussion about it. It used to crisp up much more nicely….Now it gets almost a weird little skin to it……

      • 2012/12/06 at 5:10 pm #

        Then it is definitely a lack of fat content. And much as we say we must avoid fat – fat is what gives that wonderful flavour. Oh well… it’s a different time.

  16. 2012/12/06 at 12:45 pm #

    I love this post for one main reason: the word “Spamikopita” !!!

    A friend of mine also makes a truly delicious hawaiian-inspired taco with fresh pineapple, fried spam, and some other bonkers ingredients. It was a thrill to pair the fresh with the decidedly un-fresh.

  17. 2012/12/06 at 3:38 pm #

    Span does reside on Canadian grocery store shelves, but it usually stays there. It is not something that we have acquired a taste for. My first (and last) SPAM experience occurred in my early twenties and I have to say that the consistency was anything but meatlike. It was more like chewing on a crumbly sponge with lumps of sinew in it.
    Your recipe, however, does make me want to try it one more time! I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • 2012/12/06 at 3:42 pm #

      I know the texture of which you speak….not a fan, although the texture does seem to be different now. I am telling you, when I cut those little cubes and fried that up, it was like meat candy. Bacon croutons. Next time I am going to finish off with a dusting of brown sugar and some cayenne pepper. HOLY MACKEREL, I can taste it already….

      • 2012/12/06 at 3:53 pm #

        You are making me want to try it again for sure. Anything with the words BROWN SUGAR has that effect on me!! Are you, by any chance, a fan of Canadian bacon…aka pea meal?

      • 2012/12/06 at 8:52 pm #

        Pea meal? Never heard that before, but Canadian bacon I do eat….lower fat breakfast meat…

      • 2012/12/07 at 8:49 am #

        Haha. I guess because we’re in Canada, we don’t need to call it “Canadian” bacon. We call it pea meal. It’s more like a skinny pork chop and it has something sprinkled all over the outside. Maybe cornmeal? Not sure what it is, but it is YUMMY.

  18. 2012/12/06 at 7:32 pm #

    Karen and I lived on Spam when we were first married. She figured out about a 1,000 ways to dress it up. I think she even made a cookbook. Did this bring back memories!

  19. 2012/12/07 at 10:52 am #

    I can honestly say I have never tried SPAM. I’ve thought about buying it before, but the urge quickly does away. I think I can live a complete full life without trying it.

  20. 2012/12/08 at 9:47 am #

    Hi, I promoted your blog on mine this morning. I get an email each time you publish, and thoroughly enjoy what you do. It’s the Blog of the Year award if you do such awards … but the value, I think, is that you get a (somewhat) broader exposure as I promote you to a wider audience. In any event, thanks for what you do!

    • 2012/12/08 at 9:50 am #

      Oh, thank you! I really enjoy writing, so it’s always great to hear that others enjoy it also. I will link back to you on my recognition page. Thanks again!

  21. 2012/12/08 at 8:45 pm #

    I haven’t had Spam in years but enjoyed your post and the memories!

  22. 2012/12/09 at 10:49 am #

    Spam? It still exists? OMG.

  23. 2012/12/10 at 10:20 am #

    I liked your post but not Spam. lol Also growing up in the South, not liking to call myself white-trash but my Dad and his family are. lol Anyway I recall my Mother attempting to serve it fried, I ate it but turned my nose up at it.

    You didn’t mention it but I know Hawaiian Islanders are big Spam fans. As is shown ib the movie “Fifty First Dates.”

    • 2012/12/10 at 10:59 am #

      Thanks…I don’t actually consider myself white trash either, but since I won’t poke fun at other races or cultures, its the only real fun I can have that way. BTW, I did mention Hawaii, and Guam, who consumes 16 tins of SPAM per capita each year.

      • 2012/12/10 at 11:29 am #

        My mistake, no coffee this morning. I pinned this post on my Pinterest, as I have several of your delightful post.

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