Spam, glo­ri­ous Spam

The leg­endary canned meat be­comes a star of quar­an­tine cook­ing. A new cook­book show­cases its ver­sa­til­ity.

Chicago Sun-Times - - TASTE - BY MIRIAM DI NUN­ZIO, STAFF RE­PORTER md­i­n­un­zio@suntimes.com | @Miri­amDiNun­zio

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

IN­GRE­DI­ENTS

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

DI­REC­TIONS

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.

COURTESY THE HORMEL KITCHEN

SPAM® Clas­sic one-skil­let mac and cheese.

COURTESY HORMEL TASTE KITCHEN

SPAM® Western Pasta Salad.

MIRIAM DI NUN­ZIO/SUN-TIMES

Can of Spam clas­sic.

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