Spam: Celebrating appeal of canned meat

By Grand McGee: Local Columnist

I was leafing through a magazine the other day and ran across a picture of an old friend: Spam.

Surely you know of Spam, it’s the rectangular canned meat product made by the Hormel folks.

The article was in “The History Channel Magazine.”

Spam was given credit (in a roundabout way) for saving American lives during World War II. Spam was one of the major rations exported to Russia and given to soldiers in the Soviet Union’s Red Army while they fought the Nazis. With the Russians keeping the Germans busy, it kept the United States from getting into the war earlier.

I grew up with lots of Spam around the house. My mom used to make us fried Spam sandwiches. When my grandmother put Spam on the table it was a festive occasion. She’d treated it just like a little ham, sticking cloves all over it, topping it with a pineapple ring then baking it.

When I got out on my own one of my favorite gourmet dishes was made by frying Spam and mixing it in with some boxed macaroni and cheese.

Over the years, I began to drift away from Spam. I began to notice that it tasted saltier and saltier to me. I took to soaking it in water before frying or baking it.

I decided to do a little poking around about Spam. There’s a fun Web site at Spam.com. It has Spam history (it burst on to the American scene in 1937), Spam trivia (Hawaiians consume more Spam per capita than any other state, an average of six cans per year) and Spam recipes.

The recipes were pretty interesting. The winners of the national “Best Spam Recipe” contest for the past few years are listed. The 2000 prize was for Spam cupcakes, in 2001 Spam oven-roasted mega muffins, in 2002 the national prize went to Spam and jam-layered sandwiches, curried rice and Spam was the winning recipe in 2003 and in 2004 the prize went to garden vegetable Spamwiches.

The Spam people are offering $2,500 in prize money for this year’s winning recipe. For that kind of cash maybe I could dust off my old Spam and macaroni and cheese dish. I could dress it up by stirring in some lima beans, topping with marshmallows then baking at 350 degrees for a half-hour.

If the Spam people don’t like it maybe it would become a popular “hot dish” in Minnesota.

Spam has branched out over the years. Now there’s low-sodium Spam (25 percent less sodium), Spam lite (that would be low-fat Spam), spicy Spam, turkey Spam and smoke-flavored Spam.

There seems to be a lot of good-naturedness about Spam. The company runs some humorous TV ads about the meat involving man-eating giant flowers and zombie-like first-graders. There’s an annual festival called “Spam Jam” in Austin, Minnesota (home of Hormel).

I passed by the Spam section at one of Clovis’ supermarkets the other day and thought about buying a can.

“What do you think of Spam?” I asked the Lady of the House.

“Yuck, it’s canned meat,” she said.

Somebody in Clovis likes it. The section for “Spam classic” was empty.

There may not be any cans of Spam in my house, but now that I’m older I think one of my mom’s fried Spam sandwiches would still taste pretty good.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: blisscreeksw@yahoo.com