Spam before the Internet
You know how sometimes you hear about something with which you really are not familiar and then, once you are kind of tuned in to the topic, it just keeps showing up in your life? I think that kind of coincidence is fun and has the potential to make me sit up and take notice. And wait until you hear this one.
When we were planning the food for Operation Celebration I tried to find data about the kinds of meals housewives prepared when rationing was in full swing. There are not just a plethora of web sites devoted to such topics and most of the ones offering recipes are British, giving metric quantities and measurements. (Teaspoons and half-cups are an anathema to a non-cook such as myself. You can just about imagine how pumped up I was to rummage around in my limited supply of cooking utensils to find something measuring a portion of a liter or a gram. Sure.)
But I wanted to be a sport about this and try to come up with enough recipes to make the events "food-authentic." And I will admit here, that I failed. I just don't have the resources or knowledge to pull off something of that magnitude.
The only recipes I found that I thought I might be able to dress up and toss out at the buying public were the ubiquitous Spam recipes. Man, that stuff just must have been on every grocer's shelf during the war years. I was born shortly after World War II, but I never ate Spam in my life. Did my parents or grandparents use it when they were trying to "use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without" during the war years? I have no idea
After perusing WWII recipes for Spam and egg sandwiches, Spam casseroles, and other Spam things, I rejected all of them for the Operation Celebration menus. Serving Spam just did not seem like a good idea if we wanted to actually sell food. I even asked some older cooks about the product, thinking there might have been like a Spam Underground or something where a couple of housewives got really good at inventing tasty Spam meals and they shared their successes. But no such characters were to be found.
So Spam was off the radar as an ingredient, authentic or not.
Now I know we can still go to the local market and buy this product. I have seen it. I have heard that some people actually like it. This past week I even stumbled onto a Spam revelation. I happened to read in an issue of Wall Street Journal about how the current economic crisis has brought about increased sales of, guess what? Yup, Spam!
People are doing as the rationing housewives of the war years did. They are preparing meals with substitute foods in an effort to stretch their grocery budgets. Now what do you think about that?
I just wish that article had come out before the Memorial Day weekend. I might have had enough nerve to put Spam and egg sandwiches on the Operation Celebration menu after all.
Well, probably not.
— SUSAN MARSHALL