In Defense of Spam

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!

Day Three

 

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So the highlight of today was our visit to the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota. What else is there to say, after you’ve seen the Spam Museum?? So, see you tomorrow!

Oh, you want more? Ok, if you insist!

We stayed last night at a great Comfort Inn in De Forest, Wisconsin. Great room, wonderful lobby, incredible free breakfast this morning, what could be better? A wifi system that worked! Strange but true in the year 2016, but the average time you could stay on the internet with any device was about 45 seconds! Just as you got to where you wanted to be, you got a NOT CONNECTED message! Can you say frustrating????

We left De Forest and headed onto the interstate about 9 AM. We knew that today would not be as mileage intensive a day as the past two were, and of course we were rewarded with near perfect highway conditions. In other words, NO CONSTRUCTION!!! So much nicer to drive at the speed limit (or slightly above) and not have to spend miles in single file traffic!! We started this morning in Wisconsin, and are ending our day in Minnesota, so only 2 states today! Right now we are in a very nice Super 8 motel in Jackson. We might have pushed our travels a little further but for two factors. #1 is that we have reservations tomorrow night in Murdo, South Dakota (the first of our pre-planned reservations) and didn’t want to get too far ahead of the plan we made before leaving home. #2 is that the longer we drove this afternoon, the darker it got and the closer we got to rain. Susie looked at the radar on her iPhone and it didn’t look friendly, so we figured what better place to wait out the storm, but a nice dry motel with a Sailor Jerry Rum and Diet Coke in our hand. There’s a Burger King right down the road and in a couple of hours we’ll decide what’s for dinner, but for now, we are happy to be out of the storm. This is Tornado country, isn’t it? Total mileage today, 324 miles and we pulled in at about 4 PM Central time.

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imageSo, lets get back to today’s highlight, the Spam Museum! Austin, Minnesota is the headquarters of the Hormel Company, the makers of Spam. The lady we signed in with told us that this was a brand new Spam Museum that just opened in April of this year, and we enjoyed spending about an hour wandering around the various exhibits. There was Spam in the World, Spam and the Military, a look at the history of the Hormel Company, and lots and lots of Spam memorabilia! In addition there were hundreds of Spam cans, including several imagewalls made of cans, showing the various flavors of Spam…even more than we saw a couple of years ago in Hawaii! They even have a Spam Gift Shop! There you could buy everything from Spam Clothes (no thanks Susie, I really don’t need a Spam Hoodie) to Spam Mouse Pads, to Spam Key Chains, to a case of Mixed Spam! We left with only a post card (to send to a restauranteur friend at home), a couple of presents for the Grandkids, and a can of Spam Spread we wanted to try! It was a cool place, and downtown Austin looked like a very typical Midwest small town! What can I tell you. It was our first “tourist” thing we did on the trip, and we enjoyed it…just like we enjoy Spam!!

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imageAfter Austin, our next stop on today’s tour was in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Blue Earth has a couple of memorable things it hangs it’s hat on. First, the east and west crews working on Interstate 90 in the 70s met up near Blue Earth. There is a Golden Stripe on the highway there, kind of like the Golden Spike on the Trans-Continental Railway. Second, it is the home of the Jolly Green Giant. No, not the frozen vegetable company, they used to have a canning plant there, but it now has new owners. No, I’m talking about the 55 foot tall Green Giant Statue that has stood in Blue Earth since 1979! Turns out it was the idea of the guy that owned the local radio station (of course it was), and the statue has spawned a Giant Museum and a Giant Days Festival. All I can say, is that winters are long and hard in this section of the country, and they have lots of time to plan!

Susie said that between our visit to the Spam Museum and the Jolly Green Giant, we’d had our protein and vegetables for the day! I guess we would have had to venture south into Iowa to get our carbs, but who knows what form their potato worship might take???

imageThere you have the highlights of day three of our Big Adventure. We are still having fun and seeing interesting parts of the country. Like acres and acres for miles and miles of fields of corn on the sides of Interstate 90 today! We also ran into a couple of wind farms, with windmills on both sides of the highway, as far as you could see. Very interesting and much more like the wind farms we saw around Palm Springs, California a couple of years ago, rather than the 5 windmills we see in Atlantic City back home.

Our plan for tomorrow is to head out of Minnesota, and enter South Dakota. Either tomorrow or the next day, we will enter the first of many National Parks we will be visiting (Black Hills National Park) and then we will see one of my Bucket List attractions…Mount Rushmore! Our days ahead will be filled with visits to Rushmore, Devils Tower (remember Close Encounters?), Little Big Horn Battle Site, Yellowstone Park, and the Grand Tetons. Much more sightseeing, and less mileage. We will end week one of the trip in Yellowstone!

Oh and before we leave you for today, guess who we ran into again today! The house we passed yesterday in Illinois, we passed again today in Wisconsin! We are not sure if we’re following it, or it’s following us!!

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See you tomorrow!