SPAM, the miracle meat in a can. Spam is a staple food here in Hawaii. Young or old, rich or poor, it doesn’t matter. Everyone loves Spam. The people of Hawaii consume 7 million cans of the stuff each year. That’s about 16 cans per person, per year.
But…why? Why would anyone want to consume something that was created during WWII and became the staple protein of soldiers because it didn’t require refrigeration and had a long shelf life? Meat that doesn’t need to be in the fridge and has an infinite shelf live because it is heat sealed in the can? That, to me, is a red flag. The only meat that should be able to live outside the fridge is jerky. Meat doesn’t belong in a can. It just doesn’t. I’m not just talking low quality pork product either. Canned chicken breast? Not for me. Canned fish? No, thanks. I want my meat products to be fresh and free of cancer causing preservatives and additives.
But here in Hawaii, Spam is it. It’s even referred to as Hawaiian Steak. It’s on the menu at McDonalds and Burger King (which seems appropriate, since fast food restaurants don’t serve real food anyway). You can walk into any 7-Eleven and pick up Spam musubi. They even have Spam musubi at my local Walgreens. Weird.
You can buy Spam at just about any store here. It’s at Walgreens, It’s at Long’s Drugs. It’s available by the case at Costco. There are 13 flavors of Spam, each cooked in it’s own can. They aren’t even able to ship the stuff out from where it’s made until it’s sat for 10 days while they do random spot checks to make sure it was cooked properly.
I have tried Spam. For Thanksgiving 2013, a coworker kindly invited me to her home on Big Island for Thanksgiving. I went, and got to see what Thanksgiving was Hawaiian style. It was a blend of traditional American and traditional Hawaiian food. Turkey legs and crab legs. Mashed potatoes and poi. Pumpkin pie and haupia pie. But the next morning, my coworker made breakfast of eggs and Spam. It was the first time I’d ever tried Spam. Once was enough. It mostly tasted like salt.
I guess I just will never understand why anyone would choose to eat Spam when we are surrounded by ocean. I’ll take wild caught Ahi any day. Or every day, really.