Spam. The Meat

I wonder if the word “spammed,” as in I got “spammed” by strange advertisements from people I have never heard of or that have been generated by a computer not quite randomly as based on keyword searches (damn you Google!) has any relation intended or coincidental to the foodstuff known as “spam,” though of course a coincidental relation is probably not a relation at all.





I remember we used to eat spam when I was a kid back in SC.  It came in this sort of oblong can and as I recollect there was this little key fixed to the top of the can, and you would pull this off and then stick the end of the metal strip that ran around the top of the can into the little hole on the key, and then you would turn the key and pull off the metal stripped from around the top of the can.  Then you could take off lid and there would be the spam all stuffed there in an oblong shape in the can and covered, as I recollect, with some jelly like substance.  God forbid, the key or the piece of metal would break because then there would be no end of swearing and you had to use a pair of pliers to pull off the metal strip to get at the spam.  As I recollect sardines came in a can like that too with a little metal key on top.

We would fry up the spam (though I think it was pre-cooked) and have it for whatever else there was for dinner.  I have met people who had spam sandwiches, but I don’t think I ever had one of those.  Also people fry up spam for breakfast.  Spam is a funny sort of all purpose food that way.  You can have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Spam isn’t particular. I mean, take your fried chicken.  Fried chicken is for dinner (though you could have it for lunch too); I doubt many people have fried chicken for breakfast.  In other words, some foods at least are meal specific, but spam is sort of universal.

That could be because what exactly is in spam is uncertain so given the uncertainty it could go with anything or any meal.  Spam was your original unspecified “meat product.”  I wonder what sort of wine would be most appropriate with spam.  Your white or your red?  Your Chablis or your cabernet?  Not I believe that many spam eaters have worried much about what wine might go best with spam.  In my research paper class on eating in America, I tried, largely unsuccessfully, to argue that foods were class specific. That middle class people ate certain foods and upper class people other foods, and lower or working class people ate spam.

So I would ask, since my students are mostly middle class, if any of them had eaten spam.  And mostly they had not.  But always a few kids screwed up my argument because they were middle class and had eaten spam.  I got wise to this and if they said they had eaten spam, I asked if they were from Hawaii because if they were, they didn’t count, since people in Hawaii eat spam since meat can be very expensive there.  And sure enough nine times out of ten the kid who ate spam was from Hawaii.

On my eating in America website, I had a link to the Spam website.  It’s devoted to a celebration of Spam.  Spam is 71 years old.  That tells you something about it.  I don’t know of any other meat that has a starting date.  Beef?  I mean when did that start?  There’s a Spam museum in Minnesota.  I think it houses the world’s largest piece of Spam.  The Spam website is pretty cool and thank god the Spam people have a sense of humor.

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