Spam (R)- a Guest Post by Alex Russell

What do Puerto Rico and Hawaii have in common? Not only are they tropical-island extensions of our country, but they have an odd fascination with Spam(R). Yes, Spam(R), that can of questionable meat that people glaze by when strolling down supermarket aisles. The one "meat" that rings memories of my dad saying, "your grandfather loves it. That's all they had during the war"....
So, I ask myself, why the fascination? This lead to my personal investigation of a completely un-Alex topic, "low-quality meat". Armed with my Puerto Rican boyfriend, Ilvin, and my good friend from Hawaii of Japanese descent, Lance, I started my investigation with why? YES, WHY SPAM(R)? and why Hawaii and Puerto Rico, where they call Spam(R) and it's variants, Jamonilla.

Being the scientist, I hypothesized that tropical islands may have quite an extensive seafood selection, but perhaps distribution of fresh beef, pork and other so called livestock meats may perhaps have had its limitations. After all, in the past, did ships have adequate refrigeration to transport fresh products from the mainland? Makes sense, doesn't it? Well let's just go with it....

Spam evokes laughter and childhood memories within Ilvin and Lance. Ilvin recalls school outings where everyone had jamonilla and cheez whiz blended sandwiches and competitions amongst mother's recipes were FIERCE. Now that's what I call a double whammy. Canned meat AND cheese? How nutritious for those growing kids! Furthermore, as I understand it, blended jamonilla can also be quite the cracker toppings as hors d’oeuvers for many a social occasions, especially big family get-togethers.

Nevertheless, inspite of the familiar and run-of-the-mill whipped-up Spam creations in Puerto Rico, there does exist the incidental chef who delves into culinary creations with a jamonilla base. Such is the case where renowned Puerto Rican chef , Wilo Benet, revisits his mother's Jamonilla Guidada (stewed Spam(R)) in his book, Puerto Rico True Flavors.

Hawaii, on the other hand, has developed an Asian spin to most Spam(R)-related dishes. The most common and most well-known, as a result of CNN's focus on Obama's favorite childhood snacks is the Spam(R) musubi. A musubi, similar to sushi, is a ball of rice (non-vinegared as in the case of sushi) topped with a slice of Spam(R). In such cases mechanical technique is important, but most households within the 50th state do carry a musubi mold in most kitchens to facilitate preparation.

Nevertheless, as a Spam(R) novice myself, I can suggest and advise on another common asian-inspired Hawaiian Spam(R) dish, Spam(R) Fried Rice. It was only two weeks ago that Lance and I, in one of our drunken 2am munchie crazes decided to pull out my wok, pop open a can of Spam(R) and whip up in no time a masterpiece. See as follows:

6 cups of cooked rice
2 eggs scrambled
1/2 can of SPAM(R) cubed
2 tbs veg. oil
1 tbs butter
2 shallots chopped
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs guilin hot sauce (optional for spiciness)
1/2 tbs sesame oil
Heat the oil and fry the SPAM(R) cubes, when charred, add the shallots and after a couple stirs, add the cooked rice. After well mixing the SPAM(R), you can add the scrambled egg and blend in and allow to cook for a few minutes. To make true hawaiian fried rice, one always adds butter to the cooking rice. Seriously, who doesn't love butter? As a last step, add the sauces, mix well, drizzle the sesame oil and voila. A true SPAM(R) masterpiece.

ENJOY and welcome to unlikely, but enjoyable taste of the Islands!

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