Spamming it up across Hawaii
Well, hands up who knew Spam comes in flavours as unlikely as teriyaki and jalapeno, hickory smoke and chorizo? On the lush and lovely Hawaiian island of Kauai, guide Erik is keen to show us what he calls “Spamalot”, and he is not referring to unwanted emails and messages.
Follow me, he says, as we enter the air-conditioned acreage of the Foodland at Kapaa township. As my (Instaspam?) snap hints, there is almost an entire aisle of cans of Spam, in sixpacks and by the pallet. Choose from the likes of oven-roasted turkey, “real” bacon or cheese Spam; one variety’s label claims “25% less sodium!”. Salt, sugar and preservatives rule; there are single slices of Spam for instant sandwiches and Spam spread to swipe over “appetisers, crackers and other snacks”.
The name comes from “spiced ham”, says Erik, although the derivation from “shoulder pork and ham” is also widely cited. And who could forget Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit?
At souvenir stores we see cans of macadamia nuts flavoured with Spam and encounter the rather ghastly prospect of musubi, sushi made with grilled Spam, the meaty strip popped atop a bundle of rice like a little seat cushion and held in place with a nori strip. On the gateway island of Oahu, there is an annual Spam Jam festival, which doesn’t involve piggy-flavoured confiture, thankfully. It is an evening street festival (April 30 next year) along Waikiki’s shopping thoroughfare of Kalakaua Avenue. Restaurants, cafes and fast-food joints prepare recipes with Spam, including desserts with candied strips and ice cream, but the ironic upside is that proceeds go to the non-profit Hawaii Foodbank, which feeds those in need (but not of Spam, presumably).
Spam has been around since 1937 and was a canned staple for US troops in World War II. I remember it as a pantry standby from childhood. It would pop up with iceberg lettuce and thick-cut tomatoes in gelatinous sandwiches at picnics and be fed to various cranky cats when we ran out of pet food.
The Hormel company’s Spam website has branded merchandise, and I am not sure I can resist the notion of Spam sweatpants for a nifty $US32. They sound just perfect to wear to the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, billed as the “world’s most comprehensive collection of spiced pork artefacts”. Or perhaps to blend right in on the streets of Kapaa.
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