I don’t have the antipathy for Spam found in many of my peers. I think it can be attributed, in part, to growing up fat—I never had a chance to be disgusted or fatigued by foods like Spam, tuna casserole, meatloaf, etc because we just never had it in the house. Also, I’m diabetic; Spam has no carbs in it, and so eggs, spam, and veggies is not the worst meal plan for me.
Spam is, like the hot dog, a culinary symptom of American influence—during WWII, Hormel supplied the United Kingdom and Soviet Union with Spam rations, and the US Army’s presence proliferated the food throughout the South Pacific and beyond. And like the hot dog, Spam is regarded as peasant food in its home country but marketed elsewhere as a modern foreign delicacy, modified to fit local palettes, which in turn galvanizes a curiosity for these “exotic” translations of our cuisine.
See also: Mexican Coke.
Moving to the Bay Area, where there are multiple active immigrant communities with restaurants that serve Spam in sushi, ramen, gimbap and Budae jjigae has likely helped foster positive feelings for Spam, which I hope to impart onto you in this post.
When you’re poor, or live in a food desert, knowing how to rearrange and dress up staples can help you not lose yourself to the despair in having to eat the same thing over and over. It can also be an armor of sorts from the daggers of internalized class shame. The same people who’d pity you for eating spam and eggs three days in a row eat Spam musubi in Berkeley and spaghetti tossed with ketchup and hot dogs in San Francisco.
You can make all 5 of these dishes with 1 dozen eggs and 1 can of Spam—partition your Spam into fifths.
Scrambled Eggs & Hawaiian-Style Spam On A Bed of Steamed Rice
1/5 can of Spam
2 Eggs, scrambled
Rice, however much you want
Spam and eggs are a common breakfast and comfort food in Hawaii.
To make the glaze for your Spam: mix 2 Tbps brown sugar, 2 Tbps soy sauce, 1 Tsp cooking oil, and 1 Tsp of red wine or apple cider vinegar. I also like to add a little glop of maple syrup to the mix. Reduce, dredge your Spam, and fry to your content.
My policy on scrambled eggs is to add the butter and eggs to an unheated pan and then heat together, stirring and occasionally taking off heat to affect a nice, creamy curd. But I also love powdered scrambled eggs. I am not an authority.
Spam & Egg Fried Rice
1/5 can of Spam, diced
1 1/2 cup rice
I made sure to save some of the rice I made in the previous recipe and let it sit overnight; drier rice is better for frying. I fried about a cup and a half of rice in some oil, with a dash of soy sauce, before adding in the Spam. While the Spam is cooking, beat your eggs in a bowl and, once the Spam is nice and brown, mix the beaten egg with your Spam and rice and stir like like a motherfucker until the eggs are cooked through and you don’t have any wet clumps.
Some diced carrots and peas would help round this meal out more; many grocery stores sell bagged vegetable fried rice that would accomplish the former and skip the waiting period on the rice.
In regards to my attempts to, uh, be creative with my plating: I took these photos when I first conceived of the blog. It was a long while ago. I’m a different now—a better one. I want to thank my wife for her support at this trying time.
Spam Ramen with Poached Eggs
1/5 can of Spam
2 Eggs, Poached
1 package Ramen Noodles
I first had the prepackaged ramen noodles so emblematic of the bachelorette lifestyle while I was a child living in Germany as part of a care package sent from my family in the US. I didn’t realize that ramen noodles existed beyond the convenient pre-packaged novelty, like, as a food you could eat in a restaurant, until I moved to California from Arizona. I sometimes wonder if someone is living my reverse life, like haven eaten French Toast Crunch but having never had French Toast. My mental illness sometimes manifests in these weird obsessive bouts where I try to imagine people living out realities I perceive to be hellish. I think all people do this, to an extent. When someone tells me they don’t drink my first response is “oh rad, I have someone I can depend on to be a DD or tell me if my outfit really does suck” but some people get really touchy about it. I bought almonds in a store once because I heard President Obama eats them to stay up at night instead of coffee and that sounded so awful I had to subject myself to this so I’d stop thinking about it. I’m in no position to judge how you live your life.
Anyway. You can use the glaze I mentioned earlier, or make a quick teriyaki sauce with 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup water, and 4 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey.
For this recipe, I separated the noodles from the broth and, like with my bread and egg soup, poached the eggs in the broth instead of getting a fresh pot of water. It gives the eggs a little color and a unique flavor profile. You can pour the broth back in if you want it soupy, or save it for later. Leftover ramen broth can be used to poach or braise something in the future, as a soup base if you don’t have any stock or bouillon, or as something to drink straight when you need some salt. I won’t judge, and I’ve already done that like 2901 times so you don’t have to worry about me copying you in some bizarre malfunction of my empathy.
Spam, Eggs, and Home Fries
1/5 can of Spam
1/2 Onion, diced
1 large Potato, cubed
Salt and Pepper to taste
It took me a while to learn how to make hash browns without setting off every smoke detector in my apartment complex—as such I have more experience making home fries.
My secret to crispy, crunchy but not-to-dry home fries is to cover the potatoes and onions while they’re frying, so that they steam in their own moisture as they brown.
I guess a salad would have been an appropriate, if obvious, inclusion—but then all the dishes mentioned here are obvious in their own way. After you make them once or twice they might be boring, but boredom is a necessary step towards exploration.
Spam St. Paul Sandwich
1/5 can of Spam, diced
1/4 Onion, diced
1 Clove of garlic, minced
2 Slices of bread
Teriyaki or hoisin sauce
I love foods like this that serve as like, palate ambassadors, where people slightly modify their cuisine to attract new customers (in this case, Chinese immigrants and the American Midwest). There’s some lesson to be learned about the American psychology wherein putting something between two slices of bread suddenly makes it more “approachable” to us.
A proper St. Paul would be topped with lettuce, tomato, and sometimes dill pickle. Not that I believe in food essentialism! Just that I made this article on the premise of scarcity (and/or low energy) and as such I shouldn’t be considered an expert.
Like the fried rice, you want to brown your onion, garlic, and Spam before you add in your beaten egg. Cook the omelette longer than you would for fried rice, making sure you get it nice and golden brown.
What I like about this sandwich is that it leaves a wider margin for your eggs. You don’t have to be as careful with making sure it stays as soft as you would with poaching or scrambling them. Imagine that layer of mayonnaise as a chorus of non-denominational gospel singers serenading a lost and hurting crowd with “Let It Be”. It’s gonna be all right. Smush that egg foo young up against some mayonnaise, and let the salvation of indulgent gloopiness wash over you and your sick, sinful past.
You had a killer week. But you made it. You made a carton of eggs and a can of Spam last you 5 meals. By hook or by crook, you made it through, and with two eggs to spare!