Let’s Talk Food: Love it or not, Spam nears 75 years

The first holiday of the summer, Memorial Day, is almost upon us. In honor of all the service men and women who served during World War II, it is an ideal time to serve that all-American war­time staple, Spam. Fur­ther­ more, today marks the an­n­iver­sary of the day Spam received its official trademark. It was 74 years ago that this most loved and most hated meat product of the nation made its de­but.

Now that the famed luncheon meat is en­shrined in the Smith­sonian Institution in its National Museum of American History, Spam has joined Ar­chie Bunker’s tattered lounger, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, crayons from Crayola and Reynolds Wrap aluminum as icons of our culture.

Spam earned its right to become an impor­tant part of Americana. Throughout the world it is viewed as nutritious, inexpensive, tasty and most importantly, a vital element in feeding the hungry masses during World War II. Spam con­tinues to play an essen­tial role in our culture with numerous websites, recipe contests and fes­tivals and the object of war stories and jokes. There is even a catalog of Spam merchandise such as T-shirts, neck­ties and jewelry.

It’s only fitting that Spam shows up at parties since the name originat­ed at a New Year’s Eve party in 1937 when Ken­neth Daigneau, brother of a Hormel Foods vice president, suggested it. There was a contest on to find a memora­ble brand name for its canned meat product, which had the mundane designation of Hormel Spiced Ham.

Many food snobs look down their collective noses at Spam. Not so in Hawaii, where more of the canned meat is con­sumed than any other place in the world. You won’t find the islanders dipping into poi as much as slicing up their favor­ite food, Spam. They consume 4.3 million cans every year; more than four cans for every Hawaiian. Residents of Alaska, Arkansas, Tex­as and Alabama are the heaviest consumers of Spam after Hawaii.

In South Korea, if you want to make a sensa­tional impression, just bring forth a can or two of Spam. Koreans consider a gift of Spam as prized as jewelry or a case of vintage Champagne. Spam’s fame circles the globe from Eng­land to Russia. The English could not have survived without Spam, claimed for­mer Prime Minister Marga­ret Thatcher, who recalled the war years and a Christ­mas holiday when a tin of Spam saved the day!

No less a luminary than Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the former Soviet Union after World War II, paid homage to Spam in his book, “Khrushchev Remembers.” “We had lost our most fertile, food-bearing lands. Without Spam our armies would have starved to death.”

And what other comestible can claim to have a movie and a Broadway production named after it. “Spamalot” has been a riotous contribu­tion to the entertainment world; the first commodity to inspire fame, fun, frolic and fascination.

In 2010, 17 million cans of Spam were exported, and in Korea, Denmark, Japan and the Philippines, there are plants that manufacture it. A staggering 50 million cans of Spam are produced internationally.

Spam, which is made by Hormel Foods in Austin, Minn., achieved its mile­stone 1 billionth can sold in 1959, after 22 years on the market. The trademark Spam is registered in 101 counties, including Bah­rain, Botswana, Malaysia and Uruguay. Hormel Foods has not taken well to the use of the word “Spam” to desig­nate worthless information on the Internet. There have been several lawsuits and the company also insists that the product is SPAM (all capital letters).

Spam is no stranger to the party scene. During many celebrations, such as luaus, barbecued Spam re­placed poi and at college toga parties guests con­sumed Spam while reen­acting scenes from the film “Animal House.”

For your all-American Me­morial Day get-togethers, try these recipes:

Southwestern Spamburgers

Ingredients

12-ounce can Spam 8 tablespoons shredded Monterey jack and cheddar cheese with jalapenos Lettuce leaves 10-12 thin slices avocado ½ cup garden vegetables salsa, drained 3 to 4 tablespoons sour cream 4 soft tortillas Preparation

■ Cut Spam into three ½-inch-thick slices.

■ Using a knife, carefully make a pocket in each slice

of Span to within half-an­inch on all sides.

■ Fill each pocket with 2 tablespoons cheese.

■ Grill or heat burgers over medium heat until golden brown on both sides and cheese is melted, turning once.

■ Place lettuce on top half of each tortilla. Top with burger, avocado, salsa and sour cream. Fold edges of tortilla inward. Serves 4.

Spam and potato salad

Ingredients

2 pounds new potatoes 15-ounce can butter beans (or lima beans) 12-ounce can Spam, cubed 1½ cups frozen whole kernel corn, thawed and drained ½ cup sliced green onion ¾ cup reduced calorie olive oil vinaigrette salad dressing Preparation

■ In a large saucepan, cook potatoes in boiling water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Cut into quarters.

■ In a larger bowl, combine beans, potatoes, Spam, corn and green onion. Toss with dressing. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Serves 6.

Spam appetizers

Ingredients

1 7-ounce can Spam, finely cubed

1⁄3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese ¼ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1⁄8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce Toast triangles, party rye slices or crackers Preparation

■ In a bowl, combine all ingredients except crackers or toast.

■ Spread mixture on toast or crackers. Place on baking sheet and broil 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Makes 2 cups.

Ask Doris

Q: I’m having a birthday party for my 12-year-old grandson and he has requested porcupine meatballs. Now all I need is a recipe and hope you can provide one.

— Lil Moscowitz,

Marco Island

A: A meatball by any name is a super treat. These little gems have been called Swedish meatballs, Hawaiian meatballs or cocktail meatballs, but my name for them is:

Sweet and sour porcupine meatballs

Meatball ingredients

1½ cups coarse fresh bread crumbs 1½ cups whole milk 2 pounds ground beef round or chuck 2 medium onions, finely chopped ½ cup finely chopped celery ½ cup long-grain rice ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Sauce ingredients

2 cups tomato juice 1 8-ounce jar grape jelly 2 tablespoons cider vinegar Preparation

■ In a large mixing bowl, soak the breadcrumbs in the milk for 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together with your hands. Shape the mixture into ¾-inch balls.

■ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the meatballs in a greased shallow baking dish. Combine the sauce ingredients and pour over the meatballs. Bake for 1 hour and serve hot with toothpicks and plenty of napkins. Makes about 60 meatballs.

Doris Reynolds is the author of “Let’s Talk Food” and “When Peacocks Were Roasted and Mullet was Fried.” They are available for sale in the lobby of the Naples Daily News. Also available is a 4-part DVD, “A Walk Down Memory Lane with Doris Reynolds.” Email: foodlvr25@aol.com.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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