AURORA – It happened again recently when I was shopping at an Aurora ethnic supermarket. Rolling down a middle aisle stacked with jars of exotic sauces, pickled oddities and spice mixtures, I looked up to see a shelf stacked with cans of Spam and Spam imitators. Then I started paying attention at every supermarket, ethnic market, department store and convenience store and found Spam at all of them.
The thing is: I see this famous canned pork product everywhere, but I have never, ever seen anyone buy it or put it in their shopping carts. I’ve never seen Spam in the pantry of any home I’ve visited, nor has it been served to me.
Maybe it’s the kind of shops I frequent or the people that I know, but somebody somewhere must be eating all that Spam.
Maybe now that spam has become such a negative word in our digital age, folks buy it in the middle of the night. Either that or there is an Spam-centric alternative universe that intersects with our own but only in the canned meat aisle. Maybe I’ve watched too many “Twilight Zone” re-runs.
Spam can be found on the menu at two two Aurora eateries. Pho Yo, a soup and frozen yogurt shop, serves a Vietnamese Spam and egg sandwich on a baguette with pickled carrots, cilantro, jalapeno and cucumber. Spam saimin, a noodle soup, and Spam musubi are available at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. Musubi is a sushi-esque slab of teriyaki-sizzled Spam atop steamed rice wrapped with a strip of seaweed. I’ll admit that I’ve ordered Spam musubi and enjoyed it, albeit with a side order of guilt.
Spam — short for “spiced ham” — was invented 75 years ago as a shelf-stable meat source and now comes in 12 varieties, including Hickory Smoke, Less Sodium, and Hot and Spicy. It still enjoys brisk sales. Despite its reputaion as a mystery meat made from unmentionable pig parts, Original Spam contains only chopped pork shoulder and ham with salt, water, modified potato starch and sodium nitrite … and a layer of gelatinous pink goo on top. Spam is made from better ingredients than the majority of hot dogs eaten in this country.
I grew up with cans of it on the shelf in my mom’s kitchen. My dad developed a taste for it while he was serving as an Army doctor in the South Pacific. According to Spam-maker Hormel, about 15 million cans per week were sent to Allied troops during World War II.
Two or three times a year, Dad would decide to make breakfast on a weekend. His “fritatta” consisted of frying chunks of Spam with eggs, sliced canned potatoes and cheese. It was quite tasty, and thankfully he didn’t use his favorite “stinky” cheese, Liederkranz. Given his cooking skills, it sometimes took mom a day to soak and scrub the pan clean.
Somehow it wasn’t all that surprising when I found an single-serve envelope of Spam in my stocking this Christmas. I opened it this week. The meat was just as pink as I remembered. And the taste? Well, it was perfectly salty, ham-y and pork-y.
I ate it straight, but there are other ways to serve it. As a Monty Python skit once noted:
“There’s egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and Spam; egg bacon and Spam; egg bacon sausage and Spam; Spam bacon sausage and Spam; Spam egg Spam Spam bacon and Spam; Spam sausage Spam Spam bacon Spam tomato and Spam.”
The second location for the iconic Curtis Park Creamery, a beloved Denver Mexican eatery, is open at 1901 S. Havana St. in Aurora. … Peyton Manning is invested in Aurora. His company owns the Papa John’s Pizza franchise that opened recently at 10551 E. Garden Drive. … Coming soon: Tarboosh Middle Eastern Restaurant, 2353 S. Havana St., Aurora; A third Sam’s No. 3 opening in March at 435 S. Cherry St. in Glendale. … Denver’s master salumi maker Mark DeNittis, who had to shutter his acclaimed Il Mondo Vecchio, has been named the director of culinary curriculum at Cook Street School of Culinary Arts. You can keep up with DeNittis at thelastthingweate.com, a blog he writes with his fiancee, chef Jenna Johansen.
NATIONAL PIE DAY
Start planning your crust-making now for National Pie Day, the Colorado-born holiday celebrated every January 23, the birthday of Pie Day founder Charlie Papazian. Charlie went on to found the Great American Beer Festival. Two days earlier, pie will be served at the inauguration luncheon Jan. 21 that will include the president, Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders. The Associated Press reports that the all-American menu features Steamed Lobster with New England Chowder, Grilled Bison with Wild Huckleberry Reduction and Red Potato Horseradish Cake, and Hudson Valley Apple Pie with Sour Cream Ice Cream, Cheese and Honey. We doubt the authorities want to be reminded that pie is only American in the sense that, like many Americans people, it comes from elsewhere.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“(The pie should be eaten) while it is yet florescent, white or creamy yellow, with the merest drip of candied juice along the edges, (as if the flavor were so good to itself that its own lips watered!) of a mild and modest warmth, the sugar suggesting jelly, yet not jellied, the morsels of apple neither dissolved nor yet in original substance, but hanging as it were in a trance between the spirit and the flesh of applehood … then, O blessed man, favored by all the divinities! eat, give thanks, and go forth!” — Henry Ward Beecher, noted 19th century abolishionist
John Lehndorff is the food editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit (and like) the Nibbles Facebook page. Listen to John Lehndorff’s Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU, 88.5 FM, 1390 AM, and kgnu.org.