Spam, glorious Spam
The legendary canned meat becomes a star of quarantine cooking. A new cookbook showcases its versatility.
Among the many changes in our day-to-day lives due to the pandemic, one of the biggest shifts in lifestyle has been the return to the kitchen.
Even with carryout, hands-free delivery, outdoor patios and a return to partial indoor dining well in place, millions of us are rediscovering the stove.
Amid all the culinary craze is a rebirth of the love of comfort food, that familiar, easy-to-make chow that makes us just feel good. OK, it may not always be the healthiest of cuisine, but in moderation, why not indulge occasionally?
One of those comfort foods to surge in popularity over the course of the past few months has been Spam, that unmistakable rectangular can of spiced meat that’s been around for 83 years, and has fed millions of people across the globe. (It’s also made millions more laugh — Monty Python immortalized Spam in the 1970s with a classic ditty and a musical, “Spamalot.”)
Spam skyrocketed to global culinary consciousness during WWII, when more than 100 million pounds of it were shipped to Allied troops across in Europe and the Pacific. The dissemination of the canned product, with shelf-stability aplenty and an affordable price point, made the product one of the most popular throughout the Philippines, South Korea and the greater South Pacific, even after WWII, when sanctions made food items scarce. Spam also made a splash in the U.S.; Hawaii remains the state hungriest for Spam, where more than 7 million cans are consumed each year. According to the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, the one billionth can of Spam was sold by 1959.
With a taste that’s most often described as a cross between ham and pork roast (there are only six ingredients in the classic variety), Spam is ideal for grilling, frying and baking, making it a most versatile food item.
To help both longtime Spam devotees and newbies alike, Hormel (Spam’s parent company) just released “The Ultimate SPAM Cookbook: 100+ Quick and Delicious Recipes from Traditional to Gourmet” (Fox Chapel Publishing ), featuring fun, quick and economical recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Spam eggs Benedict and Spam huevos chilaquiles, Spam kimbap and Spam grilled cheese are among the recipes included.
“Spam gained popularity during the world wars and it stuck around,” said Brian Olson, corporate communications manager for Hormel. “It’s become a staple in many people’s diets. We’re on pace for a sixth year of record sales. It’s an on-trend brand that continues to grow.”
So what’s the appeal of Spam?
“It’s a lot of the emotional ties,” said Jason Hron, Spam brand manager at Hormel, referring to his own cultural heritage. “I’m half Korean, so growing up I made different dishes [using Spam] with my mom, so there’s a big cultural, nostalgic feel to it. And now I’m passing that experience and tradition on with my two daughters [ages 4 and 6]. We have ‘musibi Mondays’ and they help me make it.
“On the flipside of things, new consumers are realizing the versatility of the product and how you can be really creative with it, and the different types of recipes that we have and our consumers share [on social media] as well.”
When it comes to cooking, Olson said consumers are definitely thinking outside the can, if you will, when it comes to a seemingly endless list of Spam possibilities.
“In terms of recipes most people gravitate toward first, that would include musibi, our fried rices, our sandwiches,” Olson said.
One thing the cookbook makes crystal clear is the versatility of the product. Spam can be the star of the dish, or just that one additional ingredient that kicks it up a notch.
“It’s an 83-year-old trend that’s really taking off.”
Here are some recipes from the cookbook you can try at home.
Courtesy of The Hormel Kitchen This here Western pasta salad will make your spurs jingle, jangle, jingle. Because it delivers bite after bite of bold savory flavor thanks to SPAM® Classic and its trusty partner, barbecue sauce.
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
1 (12-ounce) can SPAM. Classic, cut into cubes
3 cups macaroni, cooked and drained 1 cup cubed Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper 1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing 2 tablespoons creamy mustard blend 1 1/2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1. In large bowl, combine macaroni, SPAM. Classic, cheese, carrots, celery, bell pepper and onion; mix well.
2. To make dressing, in small bowl, mix mayonnaise, mustard and barbecue sauce.
3. Toss macaroni mixture with dressing. Cover; Refrigerate for 1 hour.
SPAM® Classic one-skillet mac and cheese.
SPAM® Western Pasta Salad.
Can of Spam classic.