Spam: Our Nation’s “Meat” (Nicole)

5 Jun

Spam.

Spam Rice: Spam marinated in shoyu and sugar, rice, and nori

Just the word alone causes some to cringe and gag.  It conjures images of the gelatinous glob of processed meat parts vacuum sealed in a rectangular can.  What is it made of? Where did it come from? Is it even safe to eat?  For most, spam is a mysterious, potentially life-threatening “meat” product. For me, and the majority of those in Hawaii, spam is simply the best.  Fried with eggs and rice or soaked in teriyaki sauce and wrapped with rice and nori, spam provides the perfect meal.  Salty and satisfying.

Historically, spam was used as a ration for soldiers in the army.  It was portable, edible, and kept for a long time.  It was not, however, limited to those fighting in the war.  Spam also left the battlefields and entered the kitchens of the citizens.  Because of the strong military presence in Hawaii, local residents also became large consumers of rations, especially spam.  Today, spam remains a common food among locals.  No pantry is complete without a can of spam.  No 7-11 is without a wide selection of spam musubi (original, spam and egg, spam and furikake, etc.).  No local restaurant’s menu is without a spam dish (spam and cabbage, fried spam and eggs, spam loco moco etc.).  It is difficult to escape the presence of spam in Hawaii.

Spam is a nationalistic food because it is the food of the people.  Of the soldiers who fought our wars, of the citizens who bought it with humble salaries and hungry stomachs, and of the brave young soul who dares to partake in its mysterious flavors.

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