Spam­ming it up across Hawaii

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

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.

Fol­low on In­sta­gram: su­sankuro­sawa.

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