Mar 17, 2009
*Special to asia!

While Melanie Hilario keeps her Spam consumption a secret, she embraces other Spam-eaters as culinary siblings.

So it was in Manila, where great fanfare met the opening of Spamjam, a franchise where Hormel’s famous luncheon meat stands alone in the menu’s spotlight: Spam hero sandwich, Spam club sandwich, Spam potato chowder, bean soup with Spam, Spam Caesar salad, Spam poppers, Spam nuggets, Spam cutlet with fries, Spam dogs, and of course, the breakfast special of Eggs and Spam. “The restaurant looked like a blue and white McDonalds,” recalled Meeta. “My husband and his friends loved, loved, loved it!  I'm convinced more of it had to do with nostalgia and the excitement of their childhood favourite represented in international pop culture. I recall the nuggets tasting like chicken….”

Alas, Spam is not chicken and Spamjam not McDonalds, and arguably would not have the same adoration in mainstream America that it does in Manila, regardless of how the Spam is cooked. I supposed I’m just sentimental: when I taste Spam, I taste more than pork shoulder and salt—I taste my childhood.  Where adult life can be filled with pretension and complication, Spam embraces humility and simplicity, shouting:  Spam, I am!  And I taste good.

The wonder of Spam is what was done with it:  signature dishes like musubi, kimchi jjigae, even Spam spaghetti. Where in life some get lemons and make lemonade, others get Spam and make Spamburgers. It’s the epitome of necessity turned invention. Meals fashioned from a square of pork, a bit of creativity, and the will to make the best with the flavour life gives you.

That may be, in the end, what really nourished us.



Photos by Melanie Hilario

Note: This story first appeared in asia!'s October 2006 print issue.

A freelance writer and editor, Melanie Hilario became a contributor to asia! Magazine in 2006. She loves kung fu and grammar, and will usually partake in karaoke with one drink and very little force.