Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spamalicious Meal Solutions (Cooking With Amy)

I picked up a delightful little book--bookLET--at last weekend's garage sale: Great-Tasting Recipes With SPAM Luncheon Meat. Retail price of $2.99. (Free if you went to this garage sale.)

Evenings standing in front of the freezer, shouting, "Hey, what am I supposed to do with this chicken?" may be part of the past if I take full advantage of this fascinating cookbooklet. When your family's dinner menu almost always includes grilled chicken, you'll settle for just about anything. Not that SPAM is "just about anything"...

Caprice said she once was preparing Spanish rice, only to find out too late in the game that she didn't have any meat to add to it. I'm not sure what kind of meat typically goes in Spanish rice, but I'm fairly certain it isn't SPAM. But SPAM was all she had in the cupboard -- because SPAM is the only meat you can keep in the cupboard. So she added it and declared it a crowd-pleaser. My only comment was (say it with me): "Wouldn't that make it 'SPAMish rice'?"

Anyway, SPAM saved her day.

The booklet, published in 1996, begins with an introduction to the World of SPAM and is titled "The SPAM Luncheon Meat Story." And a story is probably in order, since I don't know what the heck SPAM is made of or why it was invented. UNTIL NOW...

SPAM (always in all caps) Luncheon Meat was introduced in 1937, but it was during World War II that SPAM first rose to fame. Since SPAM required absolutely no refrigeration to keep it fresh and great-tasting, it quickly became a military staple. Following World War II, Hormel Foods combined America's newfound patriotism with a SPAM Luncheon Meat promotion that enlisted the help of The Hormel Girls. This 60-member performing troupe traveled throughout the country in the late 1940s and early 1950s singing popular show tunes and providing samples of SPAM Luncheon Meat in supermarkets and through door-to-door appearances. (Editor's Note: That had to be weird, to open your front door and a group of women is singing about potted meat and offering you samples.) In 1940 Hormel Foods introduced what is said to have been the first singing commercial. Featuring George Burns and Gracie Allen backed by Artie Shaw and his 23-piece orchestra, this ad sent SPAM sales skyrocketing. (I imagine so! I loved George and Gracie!)

...and the story goes on and on, never really revealing what SPAM is or what makes it so great, other than its long shelf-life and affordable price point. (That may be all we need to know.)

I would be remiss if I didn't provide you with at least one recipe to assist with your meal planning. I've chosen the SPAM Veggie Pita Pocket, which looks like a predecessor to the Hot Pocket. (Click on the underlined text to view Jim Gaffigan's bit on Hot Pockets. I promise it's worth your time.) And get to choppin' ...

SPAM Veggie Pita Pockets

1 7-oz. can SPAM Luncheon Meat, cubed
1 c. chopped broccoli
1 c. chopped cauliflower
1 tomato, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1/3 c. chopped cucumber (man, this is a LOT of chopping)
1/3 c. finely chopped onion
1/2 c. Italian salad dressing
4 pita pocket breads, cut in half

In large bowl, combine SPAM, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, carrot,cucumber and onion. Toss with dressing. Cover and refrigerate several hours. Spoon salad mixture into pocket bread. Then you can eat it if you want to.

Nutritional information per serving (remember! only one serving!):
calories, 216; protein, 8 g; carbohydrates, 22 g; fat, 11 g; cholesterol, 20 mg; sodium, 539 g