Susan Lynn Johnson was born on May 28th, in a place called Amityville, New York. She came into my life on July 3rd, 1977, so today will mark the 43rd birthday I have been fortunate to spend with her!
She is the most giving, loving person I have ever met, and she is simply the best thing that has EVER happened to me!! She is frankly so much better a person than I am, and I know for a fact, that were it not for her, I wouldn’t have the life I have today!
Susie, like most folks in our life, I love you and am in awe of your ability to touch folks and to be loved by them. Thank you for loving me, and for giving me a better life than I could have dreamed of!
I am so blessed that she said “yes” when I asked her to marry me on December 25th, 1978, and love that she is the Mom of our 3 kids and the Grandma of our three little darlings, and has kept me in line every day of the last 43+ years!
You are my life Baby, and I will love you FOREVER!! Happy Birthday!
Lately it seems to me that more and more, I see people taking pot shots at Spam. Be it on Facebook, or on the Internet, I see people call it names, and folks saying that they’ve never eaten it, and never would! The real slap in the face, is when these same people pick Scrapple over a true American Hero, Spam!
Spam was introduced by the Hormel Corporation in 1937. Spam’s basic ingredients are pork with ham added, salt, water, modified potato starch (as a binder) sugar, and sodium nitrate (as a preservative). By the last turn of the century, Spam was sold worldwide in 41 countries, on six continents, and trademarked in over 100 countries. It is a traditional food in places as far flung as the United Kingdom and Mainland China. In our 50th State, Hawaii, residents have the highest per capita consumption of Spam in the United States, it is sold at both McDonalds and Burger King, and is so popular that it is sometimes referred to as “The Hawaiian Steak”!
Of course, Spam’s big heroic moment was World War II, when it became the answer to getting fresh meat to soldiers on the front lines. Before the war ended, over 150 million pounds of Spam had been bought by the United States government. As American solders moved across the world, Spam followed, and its popularity spread, which is the prime reason it is used in so many different food cultures around the world. Local people took this canned “ham” and made it their own! That’s why in Hawaii there is a dish called Spam Musubi, in Puerto Rico a local dish called Sandwich de Mezcla containing Spam, in Japan it’s a staple ingredient in the traditional Okinawan dish chanpurū, and in South Korea there’s Spam kimbap (rice and vegetable filled seaweed roll) . If you’d like to read more about Spam’s history and worldwide appeal, here’s a link to the Wikipedia article about it….. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_(food) .
Susie’s and my Dad were both in the United States Army in World War II, and I guess in a way, they brought Spam home from the war. We were exposed to it early in life, as it was a staple in both our houses when we were growing up. I will always associate it with Susie’s Mom, when she made her great dinner combo of Potato Pancakes and Fried Spam. I remember my Dad telling WWII stories of him convincing the cook of their unit to try making it the Italian way (Spam Parmigiana?), and always remember it being in our house.
As to how we use it in our house…for years we’ve made a great Spam and Pineapple Fried Rice, and we’ve used it as the protein in Pasta Dishes. Of course, it has a real place in our breakfast portfolio as an ingredient in an egg scramble or as an accompaniment to fried or scrambled eggs. We’ve also discovered that the Spam that is packaged in the “SPAM Single” size, is cut a bit bigger, but thinner than the canned version, and is the perfect thing to brown and slide into a grilled cheese sandwich!
When we went to Hawaii in 2013, we were so amazed at the many varieties of Spam we found in the grocery store that we’d never seen before. As one of its biggest markets, Hormel makes several flavors exclusively for the Hawaiian Islands. We were so impressed, we bought a number of cans of Spam unknown to us, packed it in a Post Office Flat Rate box, and sent them home.
Our collection of Hawaiian Spam and a typical Hawaiian “Plate Lunch” featuring deep fried Spam
Did you know that there’s also a Spam Museum? We do, because we’ve been there! Austin, Minnesota was where Hormel was founded, and it is also the home of the Spam Museum. The museum was one of our first sightseeing stops on our Bucket List Trip in 2016 after I joined Susie in retirement. The museum has displays showing Spam’s place in history, the many places around the world where Spam is sold, and some of the many varieties that Hormel produces. It also sells “Spam Gifts” of which we bought a few!
So there you have it, our interaction with an American Classic, and my defense of this heroic American canned meat product. The versatile product, that’s good hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! And to all the Spam haters out there who love their Scrapple, I leave you with this quote from Wikipedia, “Scrapple is typically made of hog offal, such as the head, heart, liver, and other trimmings, which are boiled with any bones attached (often the entire head), to make a broth.” Just Saying! Good Eating!
Back in the beginning of the year, when Covid 19 Vaccines became available in New Jersey for folks over 65, Susie and I actively started searching for appointments. At that point, one of the few places you could get the vaccine in New Jersey was at the Pharmacy Department at Shoprite Supermarkets. We loaded the Shoprite Pharmacy app on our phones, Ipads, and computer, and started every day by logging into the app on multiple devices, looking for appointments. At first we were stymied by the announcement that seemed to come up by about 9AM every morning that said, “All Covid 19 Vaccine appointments are filled. Try back again tomorrow.” That was the case till about the third week of January, when our neighbor Doc Anderson told us that he’d gotten an appointment on the app the afternoon before. We’d never tried beyond the morning when that announcement came up, so now we knew to try back later in the day.
The next day, signing onto the app in the afternoon, it appeared I’d secured an appointment for the following day at 2 PM, but there was a catch. The app said that I’d get a confirmation email later in the day, and that email never came. Again I can thank our neighbor Doc, because when I told him about not getting the confirmation email and said I was probably not going to go, he said to me, “I thought you were a New Yorker? Just go there tomorrow and act confident!” (Doc grew up near Mexico, New York, north of Syracuse) So, confidently, that’s exactly what I did, and got my first Moderna Covid Vaccine shot on the afternoon of Thursday, January 21, 2021! One down, one to go.
It took Susie a couple of more days of both of us signing into the app multiple times a day, but within a few days, we got her an appointment, and on Thursday, January 28th, Susie got her first Moderna shot too! Unfortunately, we didn’t get our appointments at close Shoprites, like the one we usually frequent in Somers Point, or the one just south of Ocean City in Marmora, but we got our appointments. I went to the southern part of Cape May County to the Shoprite in Rio Grande. For Susie’s, we had to travel a bit further to the Shoprite in Glassboro, NJ. They were a little bit removed from Ocean City, but we got the shots, and when we went to my shots, we got to have lunch from Arby’s in Cape May Courthouse. Coming home from Susie’s we got to stop at our favorite Italian Market, Bagliani’s in Hammonton. While we had to travel under an hour to our appointments, the appointment that our neighbor Doc secured was at a real far flung Shoprite. It was a Shoprite that necessitated him driving about 2 and a half hours to each appointment, but remember back to early January, and how scarce Covid Vaccine appointments were, and you’ll understand why Doc had no issue with the drive.
On Friday, February 19th (delayed one day because of an ice storm), I got my second Moderna vaccine shot at the Shoprite in Rio Grande, and on Thursday, February 25th, Susie got her second Moderna shot at the Shoprite in Glassboro. At that time, the CDC was saying, “Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final required shot,” which made Thursday, March 11th, two weeks after Susie got her second shot, our “Coming Out Day!”
If you’ve been following our blog, you know that since that Thursday we have been eating inside at two of our favorite restaurants (Charlie’s and Angelo’s) almost weekly, have hit the road again, leaving New Jersey for the first time in a year, have visited with all three of our children and their spouses, up and down the east coast, have seen our three wonderful Grandchildren in North Carolina multiple times, and have put over 3000 miles on our too long dormant leased Honda CR-V! We’ve also gotten to hug people, and be with friends and neighbors without fear. In short, we’ve gotten our lives back!! Twenty-first century science has created new ways to bring vaccines to the general public, in times that would have been unheard of 20 years ago…just another thing to be thankful for!
There are now multiple vaccines approved for use, and lots more places around Ocean City where you can get them. I just went onto the Shoprite app, and discovered that I can get a Moderna Covid 1 shot appointment at multiple times within the hour at our local Shoprite in Somers Point. The Mega Vaccine Center that they set up at the Atlantic City Convention Center is now available for walk-in shots, and I just read this morning that many states are asking for less than their allotments of vaccine, because those seeking shots has virtually dried up! I also read that in Ocean City, 58% of the population is vaccinated, while across the bridge in our mainland neighbor Somers Point, only 40% of the population is vaccinated.
We’re very fortunate that our entire family (but the Grandkids) are completely vaccinated, and the “worst” reaction seems to have been from our son Kenny who was laid low for about 36 hours. In the rest of our family, reactions have been very mild if anything happened at all, but really, I would rather have a reaction to the shot for a day or two, rather than continue to live in fear of maybe ending up in a hospital on a ventilator!
According to the CDC, those of us who are fully vaccinated can do virtually anything without fear, If we were to get Covid 19, it would be more like a bad cold than the life threatening illness it was a year ago. In their latest update, they’ve also said that those of us who are fully vaccinated can go without a mask in many circumstances! As a member of the generation that was the first to receive mass vaccinations for Polio way back in the 50s, perhaps I have more faith in science than some, but I will continue to listen to those who have dedicated their lives to the well being of the rest of us.
It’s been a tough year for everybody, and thank God we were not one of the millions of American families who lost a loved one, but life seems to get better every day. Seeing friends, eating in restaurants, and returning to normal. For example, Susie and I are looking forward to a week long visit with our two oldest Grandkids, Layla and Henry, in June. Grandma has been making lists of things to do with them since our son wondered if we’d be interested in an alone week with them. Just another reason to be thankful for the vaccine! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Thank You Science for giving us our lives back!