SPAM and the Philippines

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HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Tinned/canned meat has a shelf life of 2 years.
  • SPAM was introduced to the Philippines in WWII, as it was the American troops’ chief meat source.
  • Hawaii is the #1 consumer of SPAM worldwide.

It wasn’t until I was around 18 that I was able to eat SPAM (shortened from “spiced ham”) and really relish it. There was a long period of my life where I refused to eat pork. There are some cuts of pork I still will not eat. No idea why. Weird rationality there; as pork is in many Filipino dishes as pigs do really well in tropical weather.

My mother makes it as unrecognizable as possible, cutting it into small “french fry” like strips and crisping them in a pan to add a little crunch texture. She has cut the SPAM into the rounded tablets (more popular) before but it was difficult to convince the majority of my family (6 girls — all hyper-aware of what we’re eating at all times) to eat them comfortably. For now, this has worked and everyone’s always running to the kitchen whenever it’s “breakfast for dinner” (i.e. SPAM and eggs, with patis).

I’ve read somewhere that the history of the Philippines can be seen in our food. SPAM is frequently a symbol of the U.S.’s influence and expansion in the Pacific. It was first introduced to the Philippines during WWII by the U.S. troops who depended on SPAM as their primary meat source. It’s been said that they’ve even handed locals cans of SPAM as rewards.It is during this time that hamburgers and hot dogs were introduced as well.

In the states SPAM has a very negative connotation, one that is associated with economic hardship because SPAM is so cheap. For example, in Hawaii (the top worldwide consumer of SPAM), it’s associated with the poor. However, in the Philippines it is celebrated; a cultural symbol. Some restaurants strictly sell variant SPAM recipes as their main ware.

I still have yet to find someone in my close circle of friends who would enjoy a nice can of SPAM with me. I have never seen it at anybody’s house but my own. However, I think that the crunchy, smoky, salty essences are actually better with my eggs than bacon. And I really like bacon. I just think that SPAM is dang good. I love eating SPAM! Sometimes that’s the only rationalization one can offer. It tastes good to me.

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