Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Those were the days...

In these days of financial uncertainty I've started thinking of meals we used to eat when the kids were little and we were living our personal mini depression trying to make it on my husband's salary and save something for our future. Someone brought up spam the other day. Not the kind of spam email we all know, but the canned kind that sends shivers up the spines of most people my age.

Spam is a processed meat that comes in a can that had a key to open it. I think it has a pop key now. Then you dumped out the meat onto a plate to make your own special recipe or slice cold and serve as a sandwich. Spam helped many people through World War II. It was being developed by Jay Hormel during the Depression, but it was World War II that cemented its place in American culture. After WWII when the soldiers came home they brought the Spam habit back with them to those on the home front. My step father was very much a fan of the canned stuff after he came back from the war. We ate it fried, baked, and my all time favorite...spam and mashed potatoes. I did a google search and couldn't find a recipe for it, though. That was about the only way I liked Spam and when my kids were growing up and we had to feed a family of five with not all that much money it stretched our dollar. That is when they learned that Spam was not all bad. My youngest still makes Spam and potatoes as a comfort food when she is sick. All I remember about the recipe is to make a big bunch of mashed potatoes and then you mash the Spam with a potato masher separately until it is broken up then I then mixed the Spam into the potatoes with a hand held mixer. I really liked it.

In these days of healthful living I'm sure the fat content would be enough to send most sensible people into a paroxysm of fat fear, and well it should. There are 15 grams of fat and 6 grams of sat fat. For those of you who long for the recipe for the Spam with cloves and the little lines cut in it like a ham, I'm sure they have it here at the Spam website.

There is a recipe and picture on the Wikipedia website from a magazine in 1945 for a Spam upside down pie. The whole article on Wikipedia about Spam is pretty interesting. In some areas Treet and other canned meat products are called the "poor people Spam". My kids shared their stories about spam and potatoes and other Spam recipes with their friends and that starts a whole trip down memory lane for all of them about how their mothers cooked Spam when they were growing up. If you have a good Spam story, I'd love to hear it.

I understand Spam has become very expensive. I bought a couple of cans back after 9/11 for my "shelter in place" stock, but it has been thrown out now. The expiration date came and went and thank goodness we didn't ever need it. There is probably some in Galveston these days. They are getting to go back today, but I'm not sure there is electricity. That's ok if they have Spam.

There was one food from WWII that I totally despised and it was canned corned beef hash. I thought at the time it looked like dog food and some times I wasn't sure it wasn't. That was another of my step father's things. He would open the can on both ends and push it out onto a plate. The he would cut it in slices, like some people do cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, and fry it up. Then he would put an over easy egg on top of it and that would be breakfast. It grossed me out and that was a LONG time before that word had been coined, and someone probably did just because of corned beef hash. I just googled corn beef hash and found a guy that actually liked it when he was little. There were all kinds of helpful hints in his comments about how to "doctor it up some". I would be a happy woman if I never have to even see a can of corned beef hash again. Oh...this is it...made by Armour.

My oldest daughter told me about when she and her friends would tell their "poor days" stories about how and what they cooked to make ends meet until payday. Those were the days when they were in college or just out of school, and were up and coming professionals. I had some really good round steak recipes that were passed on to my children so they could survive. So did other mothers, apparently. Anyway, my daughter and her friends decided to have a round steak cook off, but when they checked around at the grocery stores they found that round steaks have become so expensive they decided to called it off. Now and then they still have a "Bring Your Own Steak" night like they used to. It allows them to get together without spending a fortune entertaining. They spend their money on other things these days.

My son is a really good cook, as well as, being a very good engineer. He can make a some really good pinto beans to go with his brisket or ribs. There isn't a dish much better than a pot of red beans and cornbread. Cornbread with some canned or fresh corn and some jalapenos is delicious. In the summer some sliced tomatoes and banana peppers are good on the side.


  1. My cousin loves spam. We ate it when I was young, but I have to admit, Weight Watchers frowns on this comfort food! LOL!

  2. We used to fry it up with scrambled eggs, I don't remember it tasted to good that

  3. My cousin is right...I do love it, especially in the Hawaiian spam musubi! But...alas...I'm a committed WW, so none for me...also they do have one that's less fat now.

  4. Thank GOD my mother never made me a cold Spam sandwich! I doubt I would have gotten it down. The way my mother made it was fried - probably the same way PJ ate it... it wasn't good! I PROUDLY proclaim that I have never sunk to Spam for my younger kids... but there was a recipe I tried a time or two for Amanda when she was little - it was Spam and noodles and creamed cheese - baked. She LIKED it... but I couldn't handle it so I only made it a few times.
    Of course, WE were the family that lived on NOTHING but half a pot-pie each for 3 months for dinner! So after THAT Spam probably DID look like a step up!

  5. Amber, I loved this post. I had not thought about spam in years. My mother fried it and we also ate it out of the can on sandwiches. To this day I cannot eat it. We had spam sandwiches and kool-aid for lunch when we were kids. I hate kool-aid, too. Jello is another thing I can't eat because Mom fixed it a thousand ways. Great post.

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