I'm the child of a Japanese immigrant. My grandmother's favorite vacation spot is Hawaii. I watched Monty Python with the kind of religious zeal generally reserved for barbecue and Bieber. It's no wonder that Spam looms large in my legend. As a kid, we'd eat it fried with an egg on top of rice. On the Saturdays when I didn't have a hot sausage and mustard sandwich or frozen chicken pot pie for lunch, it was a Spam-wich (ok, sometimes it was deviled ham on Wonderbread).
You wouldn't like anyone picking on your childhood friend, and I feel the same way when people start to talk smack about my favorite processed, apocalypse-ready, canned meat product.
"It tastes like cat food," they say. I'd like to be that cat.
"It's made of a$$holes and lips," they cry out. Ahem, it says right there on the label: chopped shoulder meat with ham added.
"It's got 57% of your daily intake of sodium in a single serving!" they scream, their hands slapped against their cheeks in a Culkin-esque pose of shock. It's... ok, you got me there.
See, asides from myself and Robyn—a fellow Spam lover—the other folks in the office lived through what I can only imagine to have been hellishly deficient childhoods, never having known the joy of canned meats, tasting the salty glory of a Spam musubi, or the crisp, creamy bite of a Spamburger. Indeed, a good number of them claimed to have never even tried it. How does one enjoy a nice plate of Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, and Spam without Spam? It's madness, I tell you. There are certainly child welfare laws on the books that would prevent this kind of thing from happening.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the spiced ham product, and love it or hate it, that's not an insignificant figure. I got an email from Spam's PR reps, telling me that there are a dozen different varieties of Spam. This was news to me. Blindingly, joyously good news. It was like suddenly discovering the secret sixth volume of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, or waking up to realize that Star Wars Episode 1 was all just a bad dream.
To celebrate, I held the first ever office-wide Spam taste-a-thon, bringing in all twelve varieties, in the hopes of introducing my respected but Spamgnorant office-mates to a new taste sensation.
It did not go as planned. Turns out that there's a hard and fast rule in the Spam universe. A parallel to the pizza cognition theory, and it goes something like this:
Spam Cognition Theory
Unless a child has been exposed to and indoctrinated into the world of Spam before the age of 6 by an adult member of the Spam-loving community, he or she will never love Spam for the remainder of their life.
Spam is not the only food cult. There's Moxie, the official soft drink of Maine. Or how about Taylor Ham (a.k.a. pork roll), the salty cured chopped ham product that is essentially Spam for people who don't want to admit they like Spam.
But to my knowledge, none of these cults produce so strong a reaction in non-believers and believers alike. (Remind me to get my kids while they're young).
So take a look at all dozen varieties above (including Bacon! and Jalapeño! and even... wait for it... SPAM SINGLES), then tell me: have you been indoctrinated into the cult of Spam? Are you a Spam lover, or hater, and if the former, what's your favorite thing to do with it?
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.