“Just add Spam!” … if you’re really desperate

5 01 2011

In sixth grade, I went on a field trip to some space center, and I had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

Some kid sitting by me obviously had a loving mother (only not), because he reached into his lunchbox and pulled out a Spam sandwich, complete with Velveeta cheese.

He looked at me. “Wanna trade?”

“Um … no thanks. I’m good.”

Ever since then, the only contact I’ve had with Spam has been in my e-mail inbox and my Facebook wall (thanks to app-happy acquaintances — you know who you are).

I pass Spam frequently in the grocery store — emphasis on the word pass.

But then I came across Spam Singles.  Now, I wouldn’t date Spam either, so I’m not shocked that it’s single, but I did feel a little twinge of pity when I saw it on the shelf all by itself. So I picked it up.

This particular Spam Single also happened to be “lite.” Oh good, I thought, Spam is healthy now. (… Right.)

The front of the package shows it tossed in a leafy cucumber salad, which sounded tempting (well, for Spam), but I figured I’d better try it by itself. The back of the package suggested frying it, which didn’t actually sound too bad. But first, as always, I needed to try it raw.

I slid (yes, slid) it out of its package, and it flopped onto my plate in a sticky slab. Wonderful.

My dad, who was watching me for the entertainment value of my facial expressions, chose at that moment to inform me that he thinks Spam tastes like bologna.

I hate bologna.

His response was, “Tough; you’re about to eat that stuff anyway,” and it brought back memories of childhood dinners.

Cringing a little, I sliced off a corner of the cold slab and put it in my mouth.

Good news: It didn’t exactly taste like bologna.

Bad news: It tasted like several slices of bologna after being puréed by a food processor and molded into a slab, with some extra salt thrown in. Not good. Not at all.

I then made the mistake of asking my dad what was even in Spam.

“Pig parts,” he replied with a smug grin, obviously enjoying the facial expression that elicited from me.

As disgusted as I was already, I still needed to fry a piece of the stuff. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it were fried, I thought. In fact, it was thick enough that I could probably cook it medium-rare, like I eat my steak.

That’s actually what I did, though not exactly on purpose. I left it on the griddle for a good amount of time on moderate heat, and all that happened was the edges got really crispy and the inside just got warm.

It looked like a chunk of the aftermath of a pig stepping on a grenade, but I ate it anyway.

It tasted much less like bologna and a tiny bit more like ham … but really just like a butter-fried shell with something warm and gooey and vaguely meaty inside.

It was palatable. More so than raw Spam, at least.

If I were stuck in a bunker during a nuclear winter and I had no other choice, I’d eat a Spam Single.  But I’d fry it first.  And before it got to that point, I’d eat my dog.

Down, PETA, down.  I don’t even have a dog.


Ingredients: None listed, which is actually really disconcerting. I’m going to guess we’re all better off not knowing, though.
Price: $1.59 at Albertsons
Pros: Doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so it’s great if you’re stocking up for the zombie apocalypse and you don’t like Ramen noodles like normal people do. It’s also conveniently packaged to plop on top of a sandwich, if you hate your children. Oh yeah, and it’s gluten-free.
Cons: Spam. It’s single for a reason.

Nightmare in a tin can

2 11 2010

When I was a kid, I used to have nightmares about a giant octopus attacking me with its tentacles. The thought of those gargantuan suction cups still gives me chills to this day.

I never thought I’d eat an octopus out of a tin, but today, I did.

Preserved, rubbery, dead invertebrate? Oh, yes, please!

… Not.

I know octopus is a delicacy for some people — or a lot of people, actually. In Hawaii, especially, octopus is a common dish. In fact, my dad tried an octopus in Hawaii once. He said it tasted like chicken. Of course.

When I saw a can of octopus, my gag reflex instinctively kicked into gear. No way, I thought. Absolutely no way.

I bought it.  Go figure.

When I think of canned meat, I think of Spam. When I think of octopus, I think of the stuff of nightmares. Spam + nightmares = not something I want to eat.

The package said it was a product of Thailand — a Thai octopus, if you will.  I guess Thailand didn’t want it. I wouldn’t blame them.

As I slowly peeled open the can, all I could think of was tentacles. Giant suction cups. Nightmares. I was about to eat this:

© Hellen Fordham, Flickr.com

… out of a can. I admit I was slightly terrified.

When the tin was open, the smell — one that can only be described as a pungent mixture of seafood and formaldehyde — permeated the room.  I took a close look at the tin’s contents and died a little inside.

Gingerly, I picked up a piece with a fork, trying to ignore the black remnants of what I can only assume was octopus skin (or maybe suction cups) clinging to it.  I closed my eyes and put it in my mouth …

And …

It was good.  And not just “Well, not bad” … but good.

The first words out of my mouth were, “It tastes like a pig and a fish had a baby!” Clearly I’m an eloquent person. But it was true — if someone found a way to mix ham with fish, they’d get something along the lines of smoked, salted octopus.

I still don’t know for sure what the black stuff on it was, nor what it was floating around in. (Apparently it was soybean oil, but I’m suspicious.) I’m kind of beyond caring, though. It was too delicious for me to care.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this part, but immediately after trying a piece, I grabbed a slice of pizza and plopped some meat on top of it. Octopus pizza, yes. I lead such an adventurous life, I know. But honestly, it tasted great — like ham pizza, only saltier and … fishier. I think it just might have potential.

The only downside is that the aftertaste (and after-smell) are as poignant as the smell was when I originally opened the tin. I can still taste it, even after pizza and juice. My hands still smell like whatever the meat was soaking in. Essentially, I smell like my nightmares.

But you know what? Some nightmares taste good. Especially on pizza.


Ingredients: None listed except “smoked, sliced octopus in soybean oil, salt added.”
$4.47 at AJ’s
Pros: Surprisingly delicious, especially on pizza.
Cons: Strong (and not-so-delicious) smell and aftertaste.

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