World's Worst Mystery Meat
I’m having lunch at home today and I don’t mean I’m going down to the corner and bringing back Whataburger. No. I’m actually cooking lunch, although Whataburger may be a backup plan because I’m cooking Spam.
It all started with a CBS Sunday Morning story about Spam. You can watch it here, or I’ll just sum it up for you: The meat in a can started in 1937 and was a staple of soldiers in World War II. When GIs introduced it to Hawaiians, they took to the pork shoulder product like ducks to water.
Today, Hawaii consumes more Spam than any other state in the country. It’s on restaurant menus and even the local McDonald’s serves Spam and eggs. But it’s also popular around the world and Hormel claims to have sold eight billion cans of the stuff since 1937.
For around three dollars for a 12-ounce can, it certainly is a bargain meat.
So I started asking if anyone I knew really ate Spam. Some of the responses were classic: Some people had eaten it as children but not touched the stuff in decades. One friend said not even her dog, who eats everything, would eat Spam. Others pointed out the Hawaii facts and former Houston restaurateur Tom Williams says it’s also big in Canada where he says it’s called Sporque. Wine guy Evan Turner quoted the classic Monty Python skit and claimed if it’s good enough for Monty Python, it’s good enough for him. I think he might have been kidding.
Leena Looney of San Antonio likes it the Hawaiian way: “I love Spam Musubi. They place a thick slice of fried or grilled spam on some nigiri rice (cut into shape by the spam can) and wrap a strip of seaweed around it. We have used eel sauce as an accompaniment every now and then.”
Actress and singer Francie Mendenhall ate it as a kid made like ham with a sweet mustard sauce glaze and cloves while foodie K. C. Taffinder used to make Spam and mustard sandwiches. Others pointed out that Jonathan Jones made a Spam Wow dish for Beaver’s brunch menu once upon a time. And Isabel Nart with Theatre Under the Stars remembered the company ran a Spam recipe contest when they presented Spamalot.
“People came up with really creative ways to fix it,” she says.
OK, I’ll bite.
I went to H-E-B and bought a can of chorizo Spam — apparently it comes in 14 different varieties now and the chorizo didn’t look too bad. I was not crazy about the preservatives on the label nor the alarmingly high sodium content (767 mg). But I figured one meal, in the name of research, wouldn’t kill me. For around three dollars for a 12-ounce can, it certainly is a bargain meat.
As I pondered what to do with my can Dad pointed out that we had eaten the stuff as kids. I have no recollection of this, maybe I’ve blocked it out, but it is certainly reasonable as a family of five living on a military salary that we would have eaten it. I mean we also ate baked beans rolled in bologna and tuna casseroles.
I was not crazy about the preservatives on the label nor the alarmingly high sodium content (767 mg). But I figured one meal, in the name of research, wouldn’t kill me.
Dad pointed out that he used to fry slices of it to make sandwiches. But that sounded too easy, and frankly, not very appealing.
Now the can features a dish of ground and fried chorizo Spam with a fried egg, but being out of fresh eggs I devised a hash dish utilizing leftover roasted potatoes with tomatoes and onions. I must say it was extremely easy — throw a little extra virgin olive oil into a skillet, toss in some scrambled Spam meat and add the potatoes.
I do not suggest adding more salt, but a little black pepper was added. When the meat darkened, and got a little crispy around the edges, I plated it with a salad and poured a glass of Pinot Grigio.
And you know what? It was pretty tasty. It made a nice lunch and I ate every bit of it. No need for a last minute Whataburger run! Frankly, if I didn’t know I was eating Spam I would have thought it was real chorizo.
There is still about two thirds of a can left in the fridge. Not sure if I’ll eat it. Although it would make an interesting breakfast taco if I buy eggs. Not that I really need to move quickly. The “best by” date on the can is September 2017.
I may not buy Spam and cook it on a regular basis, but its high in protein, easy to fix and long shelf life ways make it something I’ll certainly add to my zombie apocalypse provisions.