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Maligned Spam is versatile, packed with memories

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POSTED: May 15, 2014 4:00 p.m.
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Computer geeks have their own language. It’s interesting to me that so many words in geek language are food-related, like microchips, bits, bytes and, especially, spam.
Microchips bring to mind a bag of buttery popcorn nuking in a microwave, then salty tater chips or fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies. Bits conjure images of bacon bits, bringing to mind that smoky wonderment that makes bad things good and good things great. Bytes — well, so they misspelled what McGruff the Crime Dog takes out of crime. It’s what we all do to our steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue, etc.
Spam, though — that’s a real misnomer. It’s used with vicious connotations, and that’s just not right because real Spam is delicious.
I’ve read online about the history of Spam, which goes back to the late 1930s. This canned chunk of pork shoulder and chopped ham was introduced by the good folks at Hormel. It soon found its way to World War II soldiers in the trenches via K rations. Many GIs joked about this “mystery meat,” but as they got older, a lot of them remember it as being pretty good. They miss it enough to buy it off the shelf.
Maybe it takes them back to a time when they enjoyed it with their buddies who didn’t come home. Maybe Spam helps them remember the real heroes.
I already was eating Spam at home long before the Army issued it to me via C rations. I fondly remember those “pork slices with juices,” which tasted just like Spam. Good stuff, especially with a shot or two of hot sauce.
When I was stationed in Alaska, we could heat our meals on a Yukon stove that was part of our 10-man insulated-tent assembly. Sometimes, I mixed my Army Spam with the scrambled eggs C ration. It was just like home cooking, sorta.
Our kids probably didn’t like Spam and probably agree with its negative association with unwanted, junk email. My wife, however, eventually learned to like, if not love it — especially the “smoked” variety.
It probably has enough nitrates in it to embalm a horse, but that’s OK. I don’t eat Spam with any delusions that it’s healthy. The health police out there who’d take Spam from me for my own good need only know I’m praying for them — praying they move to China and leave me alone.
My wife slices Spam into 3/8-inch slices and cooks them in a skillet with a little oil. When both sides are crispy brown, she places them on a plate lined with folded paper towels to absorb any excess grease. We make sandwiches from the slices.
My sandwich always is thicker than hers.
I spread mustard and ketchup on two slices of whole-wheat toast, then layer four slices of cooked Spam with two slices running vertical and two horizontal. Between the two layers of Spam, I lay a slice of cheddar-jack cheese, which quickly melts.
We often enjoy a bowl of Campbell’s Bean ‘n’ Bacon soup with our Spam sandwiches. It’s a soup-and-sandwich combo that rivals grilled-cheese sandwiches with creamy tomato soup.
There usually are a couple slices left, which I save for breakfast. I’ll chop them into tiny pieces, heat them in the microwave and add them to a bowl of instant grits — red-eye gravy or bacon-flavored, usually — and a boiled egg. Sometimes, when I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, I’ll add a shot of hot sauce and imagine I’m back in the Army.
Ah, the good ol’ days. I almost can hear my buddies — Don Rushton, Mike Cathy and Jim Crews — asking me how I could possibly enjoy a C ration. No one in his right mind could do that, they said. Maybe they were right.

Email Murray at rmurray@coastalcourier.com.

 

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