Spam and SPAM

I love SPAM .. the FOOD

Like everyone else in this universe, every time I go through my e-mail listing I have to tackle those pesky little messages known collectively as spam---one of the most egregious evils ever devised by the human mind. But this also bugs me for another reason. It categorically puts a negative attribute to one of humankind's greatest innovation: SPAM. Spam and SPAM (evil and good, dark and light, the worst and the best that we can configure). Let me make it as clear-cut as possible: I may hate spam, but I love SPAM. And I, as a voice of one, object to the fact that the word has come to be associated with such a nefarious Internet activity.

Computer spam is an unsolicited electronic message. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: "Irreverent or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of newsgroups or users." Whereas SPAM is the "miracle meat" (as defined by its producer, Hormel Foods Corporation) which was launched in 1937 and, according to some pundits, saved western civilization. Supposedly, SPAM stands for "Shoulder of Pork and Ham," its primary ingredients. Others have derided it as "Spare Parts Animal Meat." Whatever you call it, it has its supporters and detractors. Like political parties, you either love it or hate. I am in the supporters' camp.

No less an authority than Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed that the two things that won World War II for the Allies were SPAM and the Jeep. Nikita Khrushchev (a former leader of the Soviet Union) said that it saved the Russian Army from starvation on the eastern front. Because it didn't need refrigeration, it was shipped to every GI on every battlefield. Though soldiers complained about having to eat it every day, after the war they continued to do so. When I was a kid, my mother would cook it every way possible. Then as now, it was considered "poor man's food." We still love it.

Whatever you think of its pedigree, SPAM today is sold worldwide. The English, bless 'em, never lost their taste for it. Today, outside of the U.S. it is sold most in the United Kingdom and South Korea (yes, South Korea). In Hawaii it is called the "Hawaiian Steak." One popular dish is Spam Musabi, a combination of cooked SPAM with rice and nori seaweed. SPAM is even used by the Israeli Defense Force as a primary ingredient in combat meals. Only difference is, they use beef instead of pork. Also, the Hebrew word for SPAM is Luf. It has so captured the popular imagination that even Monty Python, the English comedy troupe, used it to headline their Broadway musical, Spamalot. SPAM even has its own museum in Austin, Minnesota. I doubt if you'll ever see a museum dedicated to spam.

So there you have it. One of the greatest inventions of humankind versus one of its greatest foibles. Next time you hassle with the spam on the Internet, just shut off the computer and open up a can of SPAM, make a sandwich, or serve it as an appetizer, or cook it in any variety you want. Believe me, it will be much more rewarding than fighting the infernal machine.

The following is one of our favorite SPAM recipes. My mother would make it for breakfast, and it's a delight now as then. What's good about SPAM these days is that it comes in different varieties. There's Classic SPAM, Hot & Spicy, Low Sodium, SPAM Lite, Hickory Smoked, and my favorite, Roasted Turkey. Use which ever version you like, and enjoy.


6 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon black ground pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

1 12-ounce can SPAM, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices, and slices cut into

1/4-inch strips

1. In a bowl, beat eggs lightly and add pepper, basil, garlic, and half of the Parmesan cheese.

2. Heat oil in a large frying pan or skillet (preferably cast iron). Add SPAM and cook until meat is heated (2-3 minutes).

3. Add eggs, cover and cook over low heat 12-15 minutes or until egg mixture is set on top.

4. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese, and place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble.

5. Cut into wedges and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

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