Saturday, January 03, 2015

Spam: Corpse in a Can?

Right up front, I have to admit it: I LOVE Spam (the real Spam, not the email spam, so don't get any ideas about selling me out to the marketeers). I was raised on Spam. I love it, every way you can fix it, from fried Spam-n-eggs to "raw" eaten right out of the can with a fork. I've even created some of my own recipes using Spam.

I am not alone in this -- there are millions of others who eat Spam regularly, even those who claim that they hate it. If everyone hates it so much, then who is buying all that Spam that keeps Hormel Meats and Austin MN flush with cash? It's not just Hawaii.

Everyone knows that Hawaii leads the nation in per-capita consumption of Spam. Anyone who has been there will remember the ready-to-eat Spam sushi for sale in every 7-11-type convenience store. There are millions of web-pages explaining why Hawaiians love Spam. Not surprisingly, there's even an official "Spam Hawaii" website (from Hormel, of course).

But what most people don't know is that Spam is extremely popular throughout the South Pacific. From New Guinea to Melanesia, from Micronesia to Polynesia, the indigenous people (aka "the natives") just can't get enough of it. Why is that?

Well, you can take the usual and customary explanation and believe that Spam came right along with the Americans in WWII, and wherever we went we left behind a legacy of canned luncheon meat that didn't need refrigeration. Even the Cargo Cultists waiting for the return of John Frum likely expect him to bring Spam with him when He returns.

But there is an alternate theory. One of my very favorite writers, Paul Theroux, wrote about Spam in one of his travel books, 1992's The Happy Isles of Oceania. It seemed that everywhere Theroux paddled his kayak amongst the native people of the islands of Oceania, he found that they LOVED Spam.

That was not just a coincidence, it seemed to Theroux. These same natives were, at most, just a couple or three generations removed from cannibalism. In short, the canned meat product we know as Spam was the closest taste they could find to ... human flesh. Canned corpse meat.

Well... Gross.

But actually, that's not going to stop me from eating it, any more than the knowledge that pickled pig's feet are, in fact, actual PIG'S FEET! But I think that now, every time I bite into a delicious chunk of Spam, I'll remember that I am eating the next-best-thing to the Long Pig.


Katy Anders said...

This post has everything: Cargo cults, cannibalism, research about Spam.

My grandmother used to have Spam, but it was called something else. Yes, i realize that probably means that Grandma served us off-brand generic Spam.

I don't remember what it tastes like.

I'd look to look at the ingredient list before I say more...

Farnsworth68 said...

I think you are my biggest fan, Katy!
--The F Man

rangeragainstwar said...

And now there's "Glorioso Jalepeno Spam" (I kid you not) for our latest meat-eatin' demographic.


Farnsworth68 said...

"Glorioso Jalepeno Spam"??? Wow, that sounds great! I'll have to track some of that down to add to my gourmet Spam collection...