I said that I would never do it. I swore that I would never accept SPAM® as “the meat” in any meal. I just couldn’t fathom that it could replace my bacon with my eggs for breakfast. A year ago I would have laughed if someone told me I’d be eating some pseudo-sushi concoction with SPAM® as the centerpiece. But that’s just what SPAM® Musubi is.
I kept asking myself: What is this love affair that the Hawaiian people have with SPAM®? I even tried to talk bad about the “meat” in local chat rooms and forums. I figured that some Hawaiians would be like “Yeah, it’s just something that we are so used to eating. We know it’s not that big of a deal.” But that wasn’t the case. They defended SPAM® vehemently as not just a staple food, but as a lovely addition to most meals.
I guess that’s why people call SPAM® the “Hawaiian Steak”. So, yesterday I had a breakfast platter from the small shop across the street from the building I work in. It was scrambled eggs, fried rice and SPAM®. It was delectable. It was the perfect concoction of breakfast foods. I had been proven wrong. Let’s look at SPAM(R) a little closer.
Have You Ever Had SPAM®?
If you’ve never had SPAM® before you need to try it. It’s a salty, pork product that is, actually, almost perfectly balanced in texture and taste. Depending on the way you prepare or order your SPAM® the taste and texture will change slightly. Throw some soy sauce on it and you’ll get a completely unique flavor. Fried SPAM® is my favorite. I don’t do well with it right from the can because the texture is too soft. I need a little crust.
Why Do Hawaiians Love SPAM®?
That’ a good question, right? Where the hell did this love affair come from? I’m not tooting my own horn here, but being in the military for last 19 years and knowing the Hawaiian Islands history with the US military, I kind of had an idea that it the two somehow intertwined.
According to the SPAM® website, the love affair began during World War II. The GIs were fed rations of SPA M® and it soon found its way into the household menus of Hawaiian homes and local eating joints. The name “SPAM” is actually a shortened version of “spiced ham”. The GI’s had a great time with it, though, and started calling it “Special Army Meat”. It’s perfect for troops in the field. It has a long shelf live because it’s packed nicely in that little can and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
During World War II, 15 million cans of SPAM® were supplied to the allied troops each and every week. You can imagine that a lot of that SPAM® made its way to military forces in Hawaii. It also explains why other countries and Islands around the world have SPAM(R) items in their culture. The UK, Guam, Korea and Hong Kong all have a special love and menu items with SPAM®.
There is even an event called SPAM® JAM in Waikiki during the last week of April every year. It’s a great time with lots of partying, fun and, yes…SPAM®. Attendance numbers in the thousands and it has been rated as one of the best food festivals in the entire state of Hawaii. Many great restaurants serve up SPAM® in all kinds of varieties.
Speaking of Restaurants and SPAM®
Yeah, SPAM® is everywhere in Hawaii. They even have it on the menu in McDonald’s. It was kind of strange walking into a McD’s the first time and seeing the “Hawaiian Deluxe Breakfast” with white rice, spam and eggs.
Hormel and SPAM® love the fact that they are so popular in certain areas of the world and embrace it on their website. The site offers lots of history, information and recipes for SPAM®.
When in Rome…
So, yes, I have decided to embrace SPAM® and I will no longer automatically look it over on menu items just because it’s SPAM®. Where I grew up we didn’t do the canned meat thing all that often. I wasn’t used to it and it was probably a mistake because I was probably missing out on some good food the whole time I’ve been here in Hawaii.
If you’re worried about trying SPAM® or ordering it when you visit or move to Hawaii…don’t be. Give it a try. Don’t be like me. Embrace everything about Hawaii. You won’t be sorry. You may not like SPAM® but it trying it will connect you even more to the Islands.