In a previous entry I dubbed the Santa Barbara County original, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing, “a nutritionist’s nightmare, a glutton’s godsend.” Well, folks, I venture to say we have a new-found contender in the arena of arterial abuse deserving of its own exclusive post. Glorious, of so ever glorious, SPAM!
Prior to a recent backpacking trip into the Sespe Wilderness, I cannot recall if I ever tasted of the canned meat product that has become the subject of so many pop culture wisecracks. Now that I have, I will never forget that first experience.
When I eased my sore muscles down to sit in camp beneath the palm trees after a hard day’s 16 mile hike, and I caught a whiff of black pepper seasoned SPAM being pan-fried, it was indeed a dream come true. To quote, once more, Homer Simpson, “Really, the only word for it is . . .(some guttural, saliva bubbling phonetical utterance.)” I carried nothing in my pack that could even remotely contend with it.
The sizzle and pop of 15 juicy grams of highly salted fat per serving emanating from the darkness was enough in itself to induce an unusual eagerness to sample the pink gelatinous fare Craig was frying. Though I feigned only slight interest, being that I was not the one that lugged in the heavy tinned foodstuff.
In a realm wherein boiling water serves as the key to nearly every meal, and how good could anything possibly be that requires hot water to rehydrate it, to smell fried black pepper seasoned SPAM was akin to taunting a starving hyena with fresh meat. My salivary glands constricted and the drool did flow.
I mentioned this SPAM-errific experience to a Hawaiian born friend. In Hawaii, SPAM became somewhat of a cultural cornerstone after WWII. SPAM musubi can be found in convenience stores like other fast food items such as those hotdogs that roll endlessly around on heated metal cylinders.
My friend, the frontman for a popular reggae band heard on the radio, let it be known that he and his bandmates added a rider to their contract that included the requirement that SPAM be a staple food item when they tour. They hooked their bus driver on it like a drug and he came to expect, if not demand, a hot SPAM panini whenever he worked. My friend advised me that to do it right, one must fry it until it nearly blackens, so it gets a spotty dark brown crust, which is precisely how Craig served it.
I can’t say that I’m hooked to the point that I’ll be eating SPAM when in the comforts of home or demand a contract ensuring I receive regular servings, but I have no doubt I’ll be packing it along the next time I hit the trail for an overnighter. Who needs refrigerated filet mignon for $25 a pound when you can pack shelf-stable SPAM for $3.99? And never mind the price, it’s the taste alone that makes it the stuff of dreams. Of course, it helps to be famished and far from the convenience of a fully stocked kitchen.
The only remaining question now is whether I dare proceed to the next obvious step, which is dipping fried SPAM in Ranch Dressing. Yet, perhaps the better query is whether or not I have the will power for sake of my health to ignore the thought and refuse the temptation.