:: yep, I went there ::
Last week, my family sat around the TV watching old episodes of The Great Food Truck Race. We’ve determined that making fun of people on reality shows is our official family pastime. In one of these episodes, the teams were presented with a challenge in which they had to create a signature dish featuring SPAM.
I hadn’t eaten SPAM since I was a wee lass, when I lived with my mom and – you guessed it – we didn’t have much money. I accidentally reminisced out loud about eating SPAM sandwiches as a kid, and my daughter was intrigued. She’s never had SPAM, and apparently I made it sound delicious. I’m always up for an experiment, so I said we could buy some SPAM and make SPAM sandwiches the next time we went grocery shopping.
It occurred to me as I wandered the aisles of the grocery store that they might not carry SPAM. Do people still eat it? Do they eat it out here in the Midwest? I had no idea. They do eat a disturbingly wide variety of incarnations of bologne, so I guessed they might also have SPAM.
After searching for a few minutes though, I started to panic. What if I couldn’t find it and I had to ask someone for help? Then they would know I was buying SPAM and that would be embarrassing. Or maybe it wouldn’t. If the clerk also eats SPAM then he would think that was a normal request. Or maybe I could say I was getting it for a joke. But maybe that would offend him, if he’s a SPAM eater. Maybe everyone eats SPAM and I’m just being a food snob. Or maybe no one eats SPAM and I’m about to humiliate myself in front of the whole store. Up was down; down was up! It was all so confusing.
Fortunately, I found the SPAM on my own. I bought a can and went through self check out, just in case. Then I carted my prize home. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I fried up the SPAM. I do remember loving it as a kid, but I also loved Spaghetti-Os and microwave mac and cheese in a plastic dish, so was I really a fit judge?
When I got home, I encountered the biggest problem with SPAM: getting it out of the can. I peeled off the lid, narrowly avoided slicing my fingers open on its sharp edges, and tried to shake the meat out of the can. Not happening. The brick of meat was cemented in there like a barnacle in its shell. And if that doesn’t make sense, let me just tell you that barnacles are hard to get out of their shells, and don’t you find that out the hard way.
I tipped the can upside down: nothing. I shook it, hard: still nothing. I thought about carving it into pieces while still in the can so I could pull it out, but I really wanted nice slices for our sandwiches. So I resorted to the technique I knew would get the SPAM out but which was oh, so embarrassing.
I squeezed the long side of the can, then the short side, long side, short side, repeating this motion over and over until I heard a squishing, squelching sound as the can lost its vacuum grip on the meat. Then PLOP! The SPAM emerged in all its pink, rectangular glory.
Eve stepped closer to investigate. “That’s the SPAM?”
“That’s it. It kind of smells like dog food,” I said.
“Mom, there’s plastic on it!”
“No honey, that’s not plastic. It’s gelatinous…something.” I realized I didn’t really know what the transparent, aspic-like stuff was surrounding the brick, but it reminded me of something. I sniffed the meat again and it occurred to me that SPAM is like the Hawaiian version of gefilte fish. And I do love me some gefilte fish, so I felt emboldened to continue with the SPAM cooking experiment.
PS: Someone out there, please make a delicious gluten-free version of gefilte fish and matzah ball soup. I’ll pay!
The rest of the SPAM cooking process was easy as pie. Slice the SPAM, sear it in a hot pan, slap it on some mayo-drenched bread and VOILA!
Now that takes me back. It was indeed as tasty as I remember, and I’m only slightly ashamed to say I will probably eat more SPAM in the near future. Eve liked it, too. If I was wearing corduroy overalls and watching Scooby Doo, I would positively feel six years old again.