Posted by: The Amoeba | October 3, 2007

A Peculiarly Hawai’ian Birthday

There’s a large birthday notice splashed on the front page of the local newspaper today (3 October 2007). And the whole lead page of the Features section is given over to the celebrant.

No, it’s not a member of the Hawai’ian Royal Family. Or a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack. It’s not even a him or a her. It’s an it. It’s …

… spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam

Ayup. That’s right. The first can of Spam, that spreadable, allegedly edible, slab of fat and salt and nitrites and maybe a little bit of pork protein if your microscope is powerful enough, first hit store shelves seventy years ago today.

“The World’s Favorite Canned Meat.”

OK, mainland Americans. Hands up. How many of you would be caught dead with a can of Spam in the house? Anybody?? I thought not. The ridicule would be more than flesh and blood can bear. And the local paper knows it. The story doesn’t show up on its website. Go on. See for yourself.

Here in Hawai’i? It’s everywhere. People buy the stuff in case lots. You can even get it served with your breakfast sandwich at your favorite fast food palace.

Hey. It’s cheap. It’s … well … strongly flavored. And people are familiar with it. Have been ever since World War II, when it was issued as canned rations to everybody on the island – since just about everybody on the island was either in the military or helping to feed it. A reminder that we probably wouldn’t have food in tin cans if it weren’t for the military; canned food was invented in response to a competition hosted by Napoleon Bonaparte, who sought a way to preserve large volumes of food for his army.

And in a place with such a high cost of living as here, where lots of the people you don’t see promenading on Waikiki have to make choices between paying rent and buying groceries, cheap is good.

Come to think of it, the people who, through my life, have razzed me the most about Spam were the same ones who gave me grief about yellow lettuce. “We can do better. What’s your problem?”

Um … the rent?

– O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

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Responses

  1. […] Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday dear Spam, Happy birthday to you! Yep, you heard me correctly. Today is the 70th Birthday of Spam canned luncheon meat. OC called me from work to tell me he’d read about it on the front page of the local paper during his morning commute. I teased him a bit and promised him I would go to the store and get him some Spam for dinner. He demurred, but encouraged me to read his post. […]

  2. I have actually heard this about Hawaiians before… they love them some Spam! They serve it at McDonalds. I am all FOR this! KEEP it IN Hawaii! I’d rather not even SEE it on the mainland! And lucky for ME, if it does make it to the mainland… it would probably take the little sucker a LONG time to hitchhike all the way to the East coast!

  3. weird, we always had a can of Spam in the house somewhere, in case someone didn’t feel like cooking. Spam sandwiches are tasty if the spam is cooked till browned…

    but then I grew up in a house where my dad made it a treat if we got to eat the bologna left on the rind after pulling it off the slice…

  4. Trust me, Melli, Spam is on the East Coast. Perhaps not in the finest households …

    Hey, Tina! We kids used to do that with the bologna rinds too! But I don’t recall there being a lot of Spam around. If ground ham were on the menu, Mom ground it herself …

  5. Nope, I can’t even imagine eating a can of spam. Itsn’t it made from all the parts butchers discard when they cut meat?

  6. I’m not sure either one of us wishes to know, kat.

  7. Spam = “spiced” ham
    i personally posess
    one can of SPAM
    it resides
    waaaay back in my cabinet
    it stays there as insurance
    against hunger

    its a good insurance policy
    in the years it has resided here
    i havent been hungry yet

    so i keep it

    i dont think it goes bad
    it is canned after all
    and im pretty certain
    a nuclear blast
    or the radiation from

    wouldnt harm the SPAM…

    SPAMMITY-SPAM
    SPAMMITY-SPAM!

  8. This is teh European perspective: I thought Spam is soemthign you get in your mail, usually about enlarging my penis!

    You learn new thinsg every day…now I am off to google spam or just click on these links here!

  9. hey there is a monty Python skit about Spam I haven’t see yet…off to Youtube, I guess!

  10. Spam and egg burritos, Truster?

    You haven’t seen Monty Python’s spam skit, Minka? Sheesh. One of the principal defining objects of civilization! We can’t have this!

    It’s here.

  11. They love Spam in Italy too.

    I remember actually eating Spam when I was a kid (in the 1940’s). It’s not all that bad. It’s not all that good either.

  12. The only time we ever had the wonder meat was when we went camping. As a kid, fried SPAM over a campfire was called good eats. Slap it between a burgar bun with mustard and voila – food of the gods. The really, really naughty gods that nobody worships anymore.

  13. I always wondered what it was with Hawai’ians and their Spam. Now explain to me what Treet is.

  14. And now with computers, spam has a whole new meaning……kids these days won’t know the artery clogging type of spam. haha…

    I have eaten a few spam sandwiches in my day, but not in the last 20 years, it is way to salty for me……I have heard of college students who buy it by the case. haha

  15. Check this out.

  16. That surprises me, TLP. You’d think the Romans would know bad bologna when they saw it.

    Then, um, don’t come to Hawai’i, Auld Hat. Or you might run into the second coming of the Spamburger.

    I would, Diesel. But Quilly said not to. Said you don’t wish to know what Treet is.

    Nea, poverty will induce a lot of strange behaviors in people. Including college student investments in Spam. At least they don’t have to take out a loan at government-approved (We the People’s government, need I add) shark interest rates to buy it.

    Rob, this might not be the best time to remind folk that the Polynesians of Hawai’i were once thought to practice cannibalism.

  17. […] behind a van in the drive-thru lane of one of the local health-food (i.e., they don’t serve Spam) restaurants. The backside of this van was festooned with “Keep It Hawaiian” and all […]

  18. […] Sheesh. Flashlights, pocket radios, batteries, canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned Spam … canned Spam?!? That’s too much, dude, I’m calling the […]


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