By Peter Nowak - Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 0 Comments
McDonald’s Spam platter is a delicacy in Hawaii. And the new star of my nightmares.
I’ve eaten a lot of crap for this blog. As a guy who wrote a book that’s one-third about how fast food has contributed to technological advancement, I’ve strangely felt it my duty to keep up on the latest developments in the field. That includes sampling a lot of weird, unique and often gross fast-food concoctions.
In Sex, Bombs and Burgers, I spend some time explaining the origin and spread of Spam – the canned meat, not the email – and its ties to food technology and the history of war. The product was invented in the 1930s by Jay Hormel of the Hormel meat empire in an effort to use up the unwanted parts of pigs. Surprisingly, this canned Franken-meat didn’t sell well – until the Second World War broke out, whereupon it became the perfect food for troops: high in calories, completely portable and virtually indestructible (and unperishable).
Spam was shipped by the ton to the Pacific Islands, where American troops ate it up. It also filtered into the general populace and has since become enshrined as local cuisine. Islanders have come up with numerous new ways of eating the canned meat – small slices are placed on top of rice in a sushi-style musubi, or it’s cooked like sausage and served along with rice and eggs in breakfast platters.
As such, they eat lots of it. In Hawaii, where I spent the past two weeks on vacation, the average person eats the equivalent of six cans a year.
Having written about all this, I felt duty-bound to try it, even though the very thought of Spam sends waves of revulsion through my belly. I haven’t had it since I was a kid and really, the idea of meat in a can still seems like one of humanity’s most unnatural inventions.
Nevertheless, earlier this week I sauntered into a McDonald’s for breakfast and boldly ordered the Spam, eggs and rice platter. The cashier didn’t bat an eye. Obviously, a lot of people do this on a regular basis.
At a glance, the tray didn’t look too dissimilar from a regular McDonald’s breakfast. The differences only became apparent upon closer inspection. The yellow, square dollop of “scrambled eggs” were normal enough, but the round scoop of sticky white rice was new. Of course, the real star of the show were the two small rectangles of cooked Spam, which could easily be mistaken for ham or sausage.
I bit into the eggs first. Yup. Standard-issue McDonald’s eggs: flavourless, with a bit of rubberiness to their texture.
The rice was next. Yup, it was rice alright. Not even Mickey D’s can screw up rice.
At last, I cut off a piece of Spam and gingerly took a bite. And then the revulsion hit.
The sensation is hard to describe. It was salty and slightly warm, with a texture sort of like squishy leather. At best, it tasted like dirty ham. Or old ham. Or just nasty, nasty ham.
I hadn’t actually noticed the smell until I bit into it. It was similarly pungent, like someone had cooked ham that had been left out on the counter for a few days. After that first bite, I was forevermore wary of that stench.
I quickly doused the rice with soya sauce and shoveled it into my mouth, hoping to kill the horror that lingered therein, followed by a large gulp of my Fanta Fruit Punch (which is awesome, by the way). The queasiness subsided somewhat.
After mentally regrouping, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I had to take another bite, if only to confirm that the first wasn’t just a fluke. I had to confirm that the cooked Spam was indeed disgusting. I steeled myself and cut off another chunk, then stabbed it with my fork and slowly raised it to my mouth.
The second bite sealed it: still horrible.
I took another nibble of the “eggs,” a few more fork fulls of the rice and then chucked the whole thing in the garbage, followed by a thorough palate cleansing via Fanta. I’m sure I’ve had worse breakfasts, but I was hard-pressed to remember any.
I understand that Spam in all its forms is an acquired taste that’s enjoyed by millions of people, but there’s simply no way I’ll ever get it. If anything, my inborn revulsion to it has only been strengthened by my Hawaiian adventure. Now, even the thought of it is enough to unnerve me. I think I’ll stick to writing about it.
The things I do for this blog…
By Rachel Mendleson - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 1 Comment
Unseen by us, a war on spam rages—and it’s about to heat up
For a brief instant in November 2008, the spam-industrial complex—that amorphous machine that sends out some 62 trillion junk emails a year—suffered a blow. McColo, a Web hosting ﬁrm based in San Jose, Calif., known as a safe haven for some of the Internet’s most virulent spammers, was knocked ofﬂine. Overnight, global spam, which by then totalled 100 billion messages daily, plummeted by 70 per cent. Purveyors of emails about cheap Viagra were beaten back; techies in the know rejoiced. But within three months, spam levels were back to where they had been. And if anything, the spammers had gotten wiser. After the next rogue-company takedown, last June, spam levels fell by a more modest 30 per cent, and crept back up in a matter of weeks. By the time the Latvian-based firm Real Host was disconnected in August, says Adam Swidler, product marketing manager for Google, “it only took them three days to get spam volumes back.”
Since the ﬁrst known spam message was sent more than three decades ago, junk email has gone from mere nuisance to actual danger. Today, almost all spam is part of an organized criminal activity, says Gordon Cormack, a University of Waterloo computer science professor and a spam researcher. And it’s no longer limited to email: blogs, search engines and social networking sites, which exploded in popularity before developers could prepare their defences, have given spammers lots of room to grow. All it takes is a few clicks on an email or a perfectly legitimate-seeming Web page to download a virus. According to a recent Sophos security report, a new infected website was detected every 3.6 seconds last July, a fourfold increase from a year earlier.
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
I am a fan of spam. I am. But the recession seems to have robbed it of its creativity.
Most people think of email spam as annoying, but I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s like getting a tiny novella delivered to my inbox for free—an exotic fiction designed to grab my attention, my imagination and, should 78 of my IQ points happen to stage a wildcat strike, my money. But I’m worried about what the recession is doing to spammers. They appear to have lost their creative spark.
This past week, I received from “DHL Delivery Service” the following message: “When do you want your Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars to be delivered to you?” That was it. That was the entire con. Earlier, an equally imaginative proposal had arrived: “I am Mr. Vincent Cheng, GBS, JP Chairman of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited. I have a transaction of 22.5 Million USD for you.” Continue…