The Joy of Spam

DERRICK Z. JACKSON

December 08, 1992|By DERRICK Z. JACKSON

Boston. -- A few months ago, not long after I wrote about my many unexpected encounters with Spam in Hawaii, I received a box in the mail. It was a six-pack of Spam products from Hormel.

There were two cans of original Spam, two cans of 25-percent-less-salt Spam and two cans of 25-percent-less-fat-and-salt Spam Lite. Of course, the fine print on the side of the 25-percent-less varieties said, ''Not Recommended For Sodium Restricted Diet.''

An enclosed letter said, ''Please accept this gift of 'Hawaiian Soul Food' as a souvenir of your spring vacation to Hawaii. For your dining pleasure, I am enclosing Regular Spam Luncheon Meat, Spam 'Less Salt than a bovine salt lick,' and Hormel's new 'High Class' Spam Lite! I have also included a Spam Cookbook with many recipes you don't have to go to Hawaii to enjoy.

''P.S. Amazing Adventures With Spam Part II: Should your vacation travels take you to Alaska, I would recommend dining at Anchorage's famous Fly By Night Club. Their House Special I know you would not want to miss!''

A menu from the club was enclosed. It included Spam With Nachos, $5.25; Spam With Nacho Beano Combo, $6.25; Spam With Potato Skins and Cheese, $5.50; Spam, Bagels and Cream Cheese, $5.00 (A taste sensation that's sweeping the nation); Spam du Jour (Take a chance with today's mystery recipe. Price du jour); and the House Special (Anything with Spam is half-price when ordered with any bottle of champagne. Spam is FREE with Dom Perignon).

Fly By Night says, ''We're proud to be one of the few nightclubs anywhere that offers the world's finest champagnes and a damn fine plate of Spam!'' To me, Spam + champagne = bathroom.

Hormel's Spam cookbook is not as profuse as Hawaii's Spam Cookbook, in which Ann Kondo Corum lists 53 recipes, including ''Depression Dinner Party Dish,'' ''Spam Fishcake,'' ''Eggplant (or Zucchini) and Spam Tempura,'' ''Spam Fu Young'' and ''Fried Spam (doesn't need any sauce or seasoning).''

But Hormel's 14 recipes are just as eccentric, throwing Spam into such otherwise decent sounding concoctions as ''Cornbread Broccoli Pie,'' ''Spaghetti Carbonara,'' ''Cabbage Apple Supper,'' ''Cool Cucumber Avocado Sandwiches,'' ''Enchilada Breakfast Casserole'' and ''Polynesian Bake.''

Defenders of Spam have the unique ability to see Cinderella where others, like me, see only cinders. One such person is Vernon Freitas, who wrote:

''I think you omitted one important fact about the overall effect of this most sodium-rich of all junk foods: the affinity of the people of Hawaii for this quasi-meat doesn't seem to have devastated their health and well-being very much. After all, the citizens of Hawaii enjoy the longest average life expectancy rate of any citizens in the world! Perhaps if Spam were banned, the women of Hawaii could expect to live 85 years, and the men 81, instead of the mere 84 and 80, respectively . . . ''

Right after I gave my six cans of Spam to a food co-op, the Hawaii bureau of tourism sent me a news clipping that said many people got through Hurricane Iniki on Spam. Near Harvard Law School, Spam T-shirts hang in the window of a trendy shop.

I can understand Spam as survival food. But Spam with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes? The recipe is in ''The Slimy Palate Cookbook.''

Derrick Z. Jackson is a Boston Globe columnist.

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