Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Spam: It's What's For Dinner. No, Really.

Today I’m going to talk about Spam. I’m not talking about the kind in your mailbox, I’m talking about the canned meat.

Hey, where’d everybody go?

Now that everyone, save for a few adventurous souls and the Asians, have left the room let me tell you about one of my favorite family traditions, Spam musubi, (pronounced moo-soo-bee), a kind of sushi concoction made out of spam, rice and seaweed.

Hey look – now only the Asians are still here.

Sure, being Japanese-American, it’s kind of expected that my family tradition would be along the lines of a complex fish recipe handed down to me from my grandmother and featuring eyeballs and fins, or some sort of elegant cake concoction made from the delicate leaves of a young cherry blossom tree. Ideally it would be something that was created by my ancestors and whose ingredients were painstakingly written down on piece of parchment and residing in an antique carved wooden box that smells like memories.

Instead, it’s a meat of questionable origin, plopped out of a rectangular can along with it’s glistening, quivering coating of gelatin. Then it’s sliced, sauteed and sandwiched between some rice and wrapped in seaweed. It doesn’t so much smell like memories as like ham.

Here, see for yourself:



More than a tradition, it’s a constant presence whenever my huge family of 25 gets together. Unlike my mom’s lime-green jello that only makes an appearance at Thanksgiving, Spam musubi shows up at birthday parties, Christmas dinner, picnics, graduation celebrations and Easter brunch. Usually my mom makes a platter of Spam musubi, but since its recipe is universal anyone can step in and whip up a batch. Unlike other more glamorous, gourmet holiday dishes, sister-in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles all possess the culinary skill to bring these beauties to the table. Take that, white-truffle-oil fingerling potatoes.

(It’s not just my family tradition – Spam musubi can be found at many Japanese restaurants and all over Hawaii, where they even sell them at 7-11. Being able to walk into a convenience store and pick up a Spam musubi and a Big Gulp might just be the best reason I’ve ever heard for moving to Maui.)

So if you’re ever lucky enough to be at one of my family gatherings, look past the turkey or the Easter ham or the platter of sandwiches and find the Tupperware filled with Spam musubi. Now there’s a dish steeped in tradition. And gelatin.

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This post was written as part of my involvement with the Yahoo! Motherboard. Read about other family traditions on the Yahoo! Motherboard page on Shine.



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6 comments:

Ilina said...

OMG, I'm dying here. Spam musubi and a Big Gulp?! What an image. I admit to eating Spam when I was a kid but I don't know that I could do it now. Great post!

The Real Kato said...

This is definitely a west-coast Asian kind of thing, though it doesn't sound objectionable in theory. And hey, we made ketchup-and-hot-dog fried rice and chocolate-chip manju in my household, so really, nothing is sacred.

Anonymous said...

Yup, definitely a Hawaii thing! The lady who runs the snack shop around the corner from my office building makes the best Spam Musubi! I think she cooks it in a sweet shoyu sauce until the outside is a little crispy. So broke da mout! (For those not familiar with Pidgin, that means it's so good, it'll break your mouth.)

NorCal Sistah said...

We ate Spam regularly in our household when we were growing up -- but in sandwiches. It wasn't cooked -- just sliced up with some mustard and maybe some lettuce. It wasn't bad. Had no idea about the existence of Spam Musubi until I met your family -- at first I thought it was just a "family" recipe until I saw a Food Network Show that was showcasing Hawaiian restaurants and there it was -- I was like "hey ... they stole Marsha's family recipe!'

bernbabybern said...

Great, now I want one Marsha! I may have to make some, oooh and remember try the spam dipped in egg. It'll taste like it was dipped in unicorn tears. DEE-lish!!!

teeeray said...

My mom and dad made Spam sandwiches with pickles and cheese when we were growing up. Ew. And we lived in the mid-west on the planes of Kansas!

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