“100% True Fact: Spam means; Sizzle, Pork and Mmmm. Someone tell me I’m wrong…”― Skylar Blue
SPAM actually stands for spiced ham according to its producer Hormel.
A pig trail ran through shredded Spam and scrambled eggs, twisted to lettuce, tomato, and Spam sammies, switched back to Spam and fried potatoes, to a now dead college chum and his recipe for Spambalaya. Johnny Bolt, you little bald-headed demon, I miss you, I do.
Miracle Meat not Mystery Meat
If you are newer to this earth, Spam is tech lingo for unwanted, unsolicited mass communications. While the term is most associated with email, it can also be used to refer to spam comments on blogs and social media, physical junk mail, robocalls, and more.
The newer description is an assault on a once proud delicacy created by Hormel in 1937 to sell more pork shoulder, the weakest selling part of the pig at the time. For those not in the know, pork butts are not butts but pork shoulder. Back in the day, they were shipped in what were known as butts (barrels), after being butchered in New England or Boston. That’s how they got their name, Boston Butts, but more importantly, they are the star ingredient in pulled pork barbeque…and Spam.
According to Wikipedia, Spam is sold in forty-one countries, trademarked in one hundred, and sold on six continents. It tends to freeze too easily in Antarctica I reckon. In the U.S., Hawaii is the state with the highest per capita consumption of Spam, which has become a major ingredient in Hawaiian cuisine.
Muriel Miura’s Hawaiian Spam Cookbook
Why did it become such a seller? During World War II, the U.S. government sent Spam to the troops because it was easier to deliver than fresh meat. It came precooked in a can, so it didn’t need to be refrigerated or cooked to consume, necessities under battlefield conditions.
By mid-war, Hormel was producing fifteen million cans of Spam for the troops each week. Hormel was buying 1.6 million hogs each year, and 90 percent of the canned goods were going to the military. After the war, soldiers returned home with either a taste or disdain for this odd product, and Spam has adorned grocery store shelves ever since.
We also supplied it to our allies including England and the Soviet Union. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his autobiography, “Without Spam, we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.” Before she became the English Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, a teen at the time called it, “a war-time delicacy.” “Spam the food that won the war!!!”
Spamville somewhere in the Pacific during WW 2
My father was a World War II vet, and he brought home a taste for the salty processed canned pork made primarily from pork shoulder and ham…with a bunch of nastier ingredients like fat, sodium, and preservatives. People were not deterred by its high fat and sodium content. Austin, Texas even celebrates it with their annual “Spamarama.”
During my childhood, we ate it a lot along with bologna, deviled ham, and Vienna sausages. We considered Spam to be a higher quality meat. Bologna, deviled ham, and Viennas were lunch selections, what we call dinner here in the South. Spam was reserved for a simple supper, the evening meal.
“Don’t knock it till you’ve fried it” was once a catch phrase for Spam. I honestly haven’t seen a Spam commercial since…well…since the last time I ate it which has run into decades ago. I don’t know why.
It is not a healthy meat choice, but I would say I wasn’t eating it well before I turned my lifestyle around after a 2006 heart attack. I’m not inclined to run out and grab a tin, but if I do, I might try Johnny Bolt’s recipe.
Johnny passed over a decade ago. Our lives first tangled in college the fall of 1968. He was a cocky little fellow, mostly bald by age eighteen. By the time his hair fell out, he had quit growing upward, topping off at about five-five.
When it came to playing the saxophone, he had an ego the size of a sperm whale. I was the only member of the saxophone section of our jazz ensemble that wasn’t a music major and played like it. Johnny was at the other end of the spectrum, and I guess I was a bit jealous. What is it they say? “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it?” Johnny could do it.
We both became teachers; he was band director, and I became a science and history teaching football and baseball coach. It was inevitable we would run across each other when our schools faced off, but in the early Nineties, we found ourselves teaching at the same school.
It was at Riverside High School that the powers that were decided we should publish a “Cookbook” as a fund raiser. Johnny’s submission was “Spambalya so good it will make you want to slap your momma.” Before you ask, I did “Chicken Cooked in the Ground,” one of the only things I learned in the Boy Scouts.
As it turns out Johnny’s recipe for Spambalaya came directly from a Spam cookbook from the Fifties. Teachers are adept at stealing good lesson plans, why not a recipe? I did add some spices to “kick” it up a bit.
“Spambalya so Good it Will Make You Want to Slap Your Momma!”
1 (12 ounce) can spam luncheon meat, cubed (It called for lite, but I’d use regular. Why bother.)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion.
2⁄3 cup chopped green bell pepper.
1⁄2 cup chopped celery.
A tablespoon of chopped garlic
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes (use liquid from tomatoes)
1 (10 3/4 ounce) low sodium chicken broth (I use regular)
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1⁄2 – 2 teaspoons hot sauce (recipe read 6 to 8 drops)
1 bay leaf
1 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley.
If you wish to add shrimp or chicken, please do.
Cajun spice mix, if you desire, and I would.
In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, sauté spam until browned.
Add vegetable oil, onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook until all vegetables are tender.
Except for rice and parsley, add remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil and add rice.
Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is done.
Remove bay leaf, and sprinkle with parsley.
Best served with an ice-cold pilsner beer. Put on some Zydeco and laissez les bons temps rouler.
Don Miller writes in various genres and on various subjects. His author’s page is found at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true