Our chef, Mark Whitehead, is an Oregon boy. But he worked in Hawaii for several years. His wife’s family still lives there. He went over earlier this year to cook at a camp organized to help cancer survivors explore ocean water sports.
None of which explains why (he says) he likes SPAM.
As they say in Hormel country, you’re just seconds away from crazy tasty town. Actually, several of us discovered recently that we share a love of SPAM. It was one of those early morning chat fests, fueled by not-enough-coffee.
Heck, Mark remembers his mother evicting the meat brick from its can, stuffing cloves in it, putting it in the oven and, voila, “three hours later,” it was … dinner?
“Back in the day, everything was low and slow,” Mark recalls.
Explains why he became a chef — not so he could do a better job making SPAM, but probably so he could get as far away from it as possible.
So, why did he move to Hawaii? Hawaii, after all, loves SPAM. Its residents consume more than 7 million cans a year, more per capita by far than any other state. And Mark, an avid golfer, recalls gleefully encountering a plate lunch shack on the back nine, serving up plastic-wrapped musubi.
The company awhile back sponsored a Hawaiian SPAM can design contest. Here’s the unveiling ceremony …
The winner got $1,000 — and year’s supply of SPAM. Weird? Not really. It’s just canned meat. Pork shoulder chopped up with a bit of ham, and stuffed with some sodium nitrite into a can.
Yes, it’s pretty frightening when you first lift the brick out of the can. But if you slice or cube it, and brown it in a frying pan — browning is key here — it actually works. The SPAM people offer a bunch of recipes on their web site. . Spamaroni and cheese? Yuck.
Take a tour down the Tasty Island Honolulu Food Blog, however, and you can get some ideas of how SPAM is so much more than junk mail. Does that mean it will soon appear on the menu at Cornerstone Cuisine? Well, you could always get lucky.