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The SPAM Post

SPAM! This isn’t junk email. It’s all about that ubiquitous canned meat.

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

In my writing adventures, I learn about all kinds of neat things. Technology, law, current events (whether I want to or not) and I write about them for other people. They pay me for this, although I need to get faster at it so I’ll have more time to blog about stuff that matters.

I also have a thing for vintage cooking stuff–ads, recipes, etc. It’s not that I want to make things like a Jell-O mold that looks like an aquarium, mind you. I just enjoy putting them on Facebook to make people say, “EEEEEEWWWWW!!” (You wouldn’t believe what they used to put into a Jell-O mold and call a “salad!”) But, admittedly, there’s a strange enjoyment from seeing what used to pass for “gourmet.” You’ll see some of them in this post.

On the healthier side, there’s news to report, especially if you like tortillas and wraps. But today, I wanted to have a little fun.

Healthy Options

You may be wondering why grocery stores have more “specialty health foods” than before. Things like Caulipower pizzas and other treats, gluten-free cakes, and brownies from baking stalwart Betty Crocker. There’s a good reason for it.

Multiple companies are trying to reinvent flour-based foods for a health-conscious consumer, and those with specific health concerns. And the way it starts is because frequently, it’s a necessity for one person.

In the case of Caulipower, it’s because founder Gail Becker had two sons who were suddenly diagnosed with Celiac disease. When she tried to make cauliflower pizza on her own, she wasn’t successful. So she sought to create the frozen cauliflower pizza for others who wanted it. Today the company sells a range of alternative processed foods around the country, including Walmart and Winn-Dixie. Forbes has an interesting article about Gail Becker and how she got started.

Egglife Wraps

Now comes the company Egglife, which aims to re-invent flour-based tortillas. You can buy Mission Tortillas that are “low carb,” but they frequently come with. . .wait for it–wheat flour. So they’re not gluten-free. That’s no help!

Egglife’s products include six different types of wraps made from cage-free eggs. Like Caulipower, founder Peggy Johns had to cut carbs and sugar for health reasons. They’re found in the refrigerator section and have just launched in Walmart. If you want to get something in front of the majority of Americans, that’s where you put it. So I’ll be looking for them soon and trying them out here at the Casa de Rurale with a full report.

The Definition Of Spam

Do you eat SPAM? Do you know anyone who does? I do–BF eats it. But until I met BF, I’d never met anyone who eats the stuff. Except maybe during a temporary emergency. If you’re in a shelter and the hurricane is blowing down the trees around you, you’ll likely be hungry for anything, and “special dietary needs” can go right out the window. But I digress.

Spam & Prunes

Because Spam goes with anything!

A couple of years ago, a client asked me to write about something called SAP. It’s a computer operating system that has both fans and detractors and elicits reactions from joy to despair. The reaction you get will depend on who you talk to about SAP.

I haven’t had the opportunity to learn SAP (stands for Systems, Accounting and Production), but if I had, I might still be living in the Houston area. Anyway. . . .

Deciding The Topic

While talking with this Manhattan-based client, I said, “It sounds like SAP is the Spam of IT.” He laughed and said, “that’s exactly what it is!” But they make their bread and butter with it (pardon the pun), so we didn’t want to be too critical. Here’s the article I wrote if you want to read it.

Fiesta Peach Spam Bake

I really doubt any Mexican restaurant would serve this.

But then I started thinking about. . .SPAM. It’s always in the grocery, but yet, “nobody” eats it. Really? I decided to do a little research.

History And Origins

Spam was created by the Hormel Company in 1937. There are some differences of opinion on the naming convention, but it either stands for “spiced ham” or “something posing as meat.” I guess it’s all in who you talk to. The US forces during WWII called it “ham that failed the physical.” This was not a compliment, as anyone at the company at the time could tell you. Spam was included in military war rations because it has a shelf life of approximately 9,724 years. A soldier far from home could eat it anywhere, hot or cold, right out of his or her backpack.

It was one of those foods that “thrifty housewives” knew would stretch their food budget like a rubber band. And so, recipes like this showed up frequently in popular media of the period:

Spam & Lima Bean Recipe from 1946

Isn’t it DELISH?

I did offer to make this vintage culinary delicacy for BF. He loves lima beans and Spam. Apparently, having them together like this isn’t as appealing.

Spam was also purchased by governments worldwide to add to their own military rations during WWII. Nikita Kruschev was once quoted as saying that if it weren’t for SPAM, they would have lost the war a lot faster.

Hormel, today, produces approximately 44,000 cans of this stuff per HOUR, every day. That’s not an exaggeration, that’s their own estimate. You know quality control keeps track of these things, right?

Spam Consumers

So who is actually eating SPAM? Besides BF, of course. One word: Asians. No kidding. SPAM is extremely popular in Asian American cuisine as well as Asian countries.

Spam became a symbol of American generosity after the war, and also kept people from starving in many of these countries. Agriculture took a long time to return to these smaller countries, so the easily transported cans of ready-to-eat protein helped them considerably. Today gift boxes of Spam varieties are a highly coveted holiday gift in Asia.

Hawaiian Spam

Another place it’s popular: Hawaii.

Spam musubi – “poor man’s sushi” – is a popular fast food in Hawaii. Photo: Alamy

Source: South China Morning Post

Not a joke–they even have even restaurants on the Islands dedicated to cooking and serving dishes made with Spam. Part of the love of Spam had to do with it being sent to the detention camps for Japanese descendants between 1941 and 1945. That’s why there are so many Japanese residents in Hawaii. It’s a sad part of US history for sure, but Spam love was one small good thing that emerged.

Post-War Spam

The company changed direction and began marketing the product to post-war American housewives who were now cooking for husbands and families in the 1950s.

Spam Meatloaf

Oh, YES. . . .

But because so many GIs ate it during their time in the US military, Spam’s pre-war popularity didn’t return. Still, Spam remains a best-seller stateside and quickly went on to gain a foothold in the Asian marketplace.

If you’re old enough to remember the original Monty Python, you’ll remember the skit about the restaurant that served nothing but Spam recipes. The sketch also came out of Britain’s recovery after WWII and the part Spam played in it, much like Asia’s. However, British agriculture returned quickly as did the US’s. There are also a few US restaurants that serve it. Comedy predicts the future!

And yet, when Americans like me think of Spam, the first thought is, “EEEEEEWWWWW!!” Others, like BF, adore it. Go figure.

Recipes

No–I’m not going to tell you I’ve eaten or cooked anything with Spam. That’s BF’s job, not mine. Usually, though, he goes for a “Spam sandwich.” I’ve also met people who will fry it up in a pan. I’m not one of them.

If the idea of cooking with SPAM appeals to you, their own website has a separate page of over 100 recipes available, such as:

Can you see me crafting these gourmet Spam recipes for BF? How about this one:

Ad for s-p-a-m with banana fritters from 1951

If people really ate this way in the 1950’s, that explains a lot, doesn’t it?

No, me either. I can hear him now:  “Stay ALERT! Stay ALIVE.”

Thirteen Varieties

In the modern (food) world, one variety of anything is usually not enough. During a visit to our local Rouse’s, I saw some of them:

Varieties on the grocery shelf at Rouse's

A great variety to choose from, including competitor varieties.

On the left, you’ll see a knockoff version. Our local Walmart also carries several types SPAM. The company actually makes 13 varieties, but I don’t know if all of them are available around the US, and in this part of Louisiana:

  • Classic
  • Lite
  • Less Sodium
  • With Real Hormel Bacon
  • Oven-Roasted Turkey
  • Hickory Smoke Flavor
  • Hot & Spicy
  • Jalapeno
  • Teriyaki
  • With Portuguese Sausage Seasoning
  • With Tocino Seasoning (I have no idea what that is!)
  • Two different sized packages with classic Spam

Somebody is eating Spam in this country, even if they won’t admit it. And yet, with all the variety presented, BF won’t eat anything but the original.

BF Loves Spam

Well, of course, he does! That’s why things like lentils, quinoa, Waffled Falafel, and Overnight Oats are so foreign to him. (Aunt Ruth is still laughing at my description of BF’s first taste of overnight oatmeal.)

BF grew up eating Spam, I didn’t, so that explains some of the disparity. But you won’t be seeing this around here anytime soon:

Spam and pancakes ad from 1946

Can you imagine? No, me either–because it was 1946.

When I showed this ad to BF, he was quite interested in all three of these. He’s welcome to make them for himself. Thankfully this “cutesy” form of advertising has given way to more genuine styles, mostly, and with SEO (search engine optimization.)

All You Needed To Know

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog post; it’s been sitting in the draft folder for a while. If you really like the salty, cold canned meat, go for it! BF does, frequently. And now you know about the incredible variety of multicultural recipes that start with a simple can of Spam.

Of course, you can find plenty of recipes and information on the Spam website. There is also a gift shop for Spam merchandise and some cans. Some varieties of Spam are currently in short supply. But you can purchase Spam temporary tattoos, posters, magnets, postcards, T-shirts, Polo shirts, golf bags, and other quality merchandise that you didn’t know you needed. Want to learn more? Check out the company’s FAQ page.

At The Casa de Rurale

We actually have one or two cans in the kitchen somewhere. BF cracks open a can when he just doesn’t know what he wants for dinner. Sometimes it’s because he is in a place where food is being served that he doesn’t quite understand. He just takes his Spam sandwich and goes into a corner until it’s all over. Or, on rare occasions, I’m that mad at him that I let him feed himself, and he’ll find his way to a can.

One thing that worries me–if I go first, and I’m not there to make BF a healthy dinner, is he going to spend his days eating cereal for breakfast and Spam other times? Oh, well–if I go first, I guess it has to be up to him to eat healthily. I hope he’s learned a few things in the time I’ve been here.

Enjoy!

Carrots and potatoes in the IP
Pot Roast, Instant Pot Style

Pot Roast in the Instant Pot. Yes, it’s possible for dinner tonight. I tried one from a fellow blogger and it’s pretty good.


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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

So, piggybacking on the last post about the Instant Pot, I’m reporting on a recipe that a), I actually made, and b) BF actually liked.

If you ask him about what he’d like for dinner, the answer is usually “meat & ‘taters.” Just like that. I’ve made many variations on the theme, but this time, it was strict. Pot roast with carrots and potatoes, and one surprise ingredient. Amazingly, for a change, he actually liked it.

Lots to tell, so let’s get started.

RIP Alvin Calhoun

A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be able to introduce you to this nice man when we went to Mr. Earl’s Awesome New Year’s Party:

Alvin Calhoun

The man, the myth, the legend!

Alvin Calhoun made some awesome barbecue, and you would not be looking for sauce, either. (Read the previous post to find out what I mean by that.)

We found out a few days ago that Mr. Calhoun had advanced-stage prostate cancer. He passed away the very next day. His children announced it on Facebook.

BF had tried to contact Mr. Calhoun this week, because he was going to bring some motor parts over to him to work on. That’s when BF found out about it. We had no idea he was ill, nor that he was in ICU at the time. I only got to chant for him once, because I had no idea he needed me to.

Although BF saw him again after the party, I didn’t, but never forgot him. He remembered me (and my red hair) and sent home some delicious ribs and things for us to enjoy for dinner one night. I thanked him later, I think on FB Messenger.

This picture will be printed up and framed soon.

Son Davin Calhoun will continue their company Calhoun Performance that’s based in Baton Rouge.

This was a very nice man, and we are both saddened at the news. Mr. Calhoun was well-liked by so many, and won’t be forgotten. Thank you for the delicious memories, sir.

SPAM!

No, not that stuff in the can–the digital kind.

If you were the unfortunate recipient of this site directing you to one where you “won a prize,” I apologize. Somehow, the site got hacked, but it’s fixed now. Seems that somehow there were extra plugins I wasn’t aware of, but are now gone. The ever-vigilant Banana Rat found them and removed them quickly, and you shouldn’t see that again.

Don’t worry, I changed the website’s password too.

Blue Kitchen

I subscribe to a number of food as well as other types of blogs, many of which I mentioned last time. Blue Kitchen is written by Terry Boyd and his wife Marion, longer than me–since 2006. While my theme is:

Because good food deserves to be passed around.

Terry & Marion’s is:

Good Food. Great Stories. I Swear.

As you’ll read in their About section, when things go off the rails–like they do here–the air “turns blue” with, shall we say, colorful language. It happens more often than I admit to. The Boyds haven’t–to my knowledge–detailed the “blue” thrown about in their kitchen in any blog I’ve seen. Just know that I’m being polite when I don’t discuss what is occasionally said in the HeatCageKitchen. I don’t want to get blocked by my own hosting provider.

Based in St. Louis, Terry describes himself as I do, as an “amateur chef.” There’s the fabulous and complicated recipes you see in books by famous chefs, and then there’s dinner you’re making this evening. Terry and Marion focus on the latter, because you always have time to think about the former another time.

Pot Roast In The Instant Pot

As I alluded to last time, pot roast is one of the things that an Instant Pot, other pressure cooker, or a slow cooker works well to create. The super-heated water cooks things much faster, so even a larger cut will cook in less time. This smaller cut cooks in under an hour if it’s not frozen.

When their post landed in my email, I figured this would be a good thing to try. I have a new habit of *not* telling him what I’m making for dinner, but that eventually backfires.

When I said “pot roast,” BF was interested, so I made some. Unlike Terry & Marion, we are *not* trying to consume less red meat. But this was just right for us and one guest, another car-guy.

Ingredients

The setup

I know, it’s a lot of ingredients. However, much of it goes into seasoning the meat ahead of time.

So I bought a big roast and cut it in half. One half is still in the freezer.

Whole roast

Just about three pounds of meat.

Cut it in half and freeze the other:

two halves one in a freezer bag

Just like that.

Now season it.

Making The Dry Rub

Just like barbecue, there’s a dry-rub involved.

Dry rub ingredients

Measure and mix

Note that this is onion and garlic POWDER, not SALT. Big difference, and you’ll notice it if you make that mistake. Mix them up:

Mixed dry rub

Real simple to do

Now just sprinkle it on:

Seasoning roast

Quick and easy

Don’t forget the other side, of course.

Terry says you’ll have more seasoning than you need, but I ended up using the whole thing. That’s OK. Onto the next step.

Liquid Ingredients

As I always say, READ THE RECIPE FIRST. Always. Or your kitchen will be turning blue as well. Ask me how I know.

So I measured all the liquids first:

Mixing liquid ingredients

It’s one of those “mis en place” prep things that makes it easier when cooking

Yes, that’s actually fish sauce, and yes, I used it. Obviously, it’s not much. That bottle is in that place in the fridge where BF won’t see it.

Chop Your Veg

And get everything ready for the pot.

Garlic doodad

Don’t forget the garlic!

Potatoes, of course;

Peeling potato for pot roast

I peeled a bunch of these little red potatoes

Chopped potatoes

Cut them into bits

 

potatoes in water

And put them here.

There’s also some onion involved:

Chopped onion

Like you’d expect in a pot roast.

Now on with the show!

Cooking The Pot Roast

Using the saute’ function, heat the oil:

heating oil in instant pot

Just like that

Now sear the meat on both sides:

Searing meat

Side one

Flip it:

Flip side of pot roast in instant pot

Now the other

Take out the roast and set it aside on a plate (and in the microwave if you have hungry dogs.) Now cook the onion and garlic, adding more oil if you need it.

Cooking onion

Cook it long enough to come out like this:

Cooked onion

Like that

Add the garlic in right at the end:

Adding garlic into IP

That’s the garlic we chopped earlier

Once the veg is cooked, shut off the saute’ function. Add in the liquids, which I mixed in the big cup to add at once:

Liquids added to instant pot

Deglazing the pot

Scrape the browned bits off the bottom–that’s where the flavor is. Now add the pot roast, the bay leaves, and any liquid on the plate into the IP:

Adding pot roast back into pot

Just like that.

Finish the Pot Roast

Now add the carrots and potatoes:

Carrots and potatoes in the IP

Lookng more like a pot roast, isn’t it?

Use the pressure cook function to cook it for 40 minutes. When the cooking is done, leave it alone for ten minutes and then pop the pressure out.

Of course, I had company and forgot to take a picture of the end result. But if you read Terry’s page, you’ll see the finished product.

Marion describes the beautiful platter it’s presented on. I just took out the pot and brought it to the table. It was gobbled in short order, and there is one more “winner” recipe I can use.

Mississippi Pot Roast

When discussing “pot roast” and “Instant Pot” together, you will probably hear about a recipe called “Mississippi Pot Roast.” There are multiple variations of this recipe from wherever you find it, including:

 

I have no idea if this is any kind of “Mississippi authentic.” Never lived in Mississippi and never heard of it until people started telling me about the IP. The thing is, these recipes all have one thing in common: pickles or pickled peppers.

And as I’ve mentioned before, that’s the one thing BF hates.

Serve him anything sour, tart, with lemon or lime, vinegar, sour cream, or tastes anything like pickles is an absolute “no” vote, every time. That lentil salad I made in Houston? He said if I’d served that on a first date, there wouldn’t have been a second one. (Had I known this. . . .) If he goes to a drive-through window and gets a burger, he requests “no pickles.” Frequently, he gets them anyway or the pickles were removed later and he can still taste them.

I told him last night that if his IP-enthusiast sister-in-law brought up MS pot roast yet again, he now had a reason to tell her “no thanks.”

In Terry’s version, there aren’t any pickle-y things. The fish sauce is very mild, it’s a small amount, so it’s not “fishy tasting.” That’s why I knew this would work.

Real Texas Chili In The Instant Pot

Last weekend I also used the IP for some real Texas chili.

Texas Granola Girl, to whom I also subscribe, has a recipe for Texas Keto Venison Chili on her website. (I have her book, and will review it soon.) I’d forgotten about it, and when I found the ground deer meat in the freezer, I remembered it. (Even commented on it, if you scroll far enough.) Well, I made it last weekend. And I liked it, he didn’t–no beans. I’ll have it all week.

First alteration: I cooked it in the IP for 20 minutes. Perfect.

Second alteration: NO BEER. It’s awful if you don’t actually like beer. I just addeed three cups of organic bone broth instead. Everything else was the same, half ground venison and half ground beef. No beans. 

And BF didn’t like it, because it’s not what he thinks is “real chili.” I’ll explain.

Define “Chili.”

Last year, we went to BF’s Dad’s place up the road, where they were making what they called “chili.” They’ve been making it the same way since he was a kid.

What “chili” means to BF is some browned ground beef, a couple cans of locally produced red beans, (of course) and a packet of this rubbish from McCormick. It contains–what?–WHEAT FLOUR. Why?

To “pump up” the flavor even more, his Dad added BEER. (It wasn’t a fancy pilsner, either–it was cheap Michelob Light.) People here do not realize that beer is made from wheat. I always hope that when I tell people I don’t eat wheat that they mention it. But I nearly always get ignored, even when we go out to dinner.

When I questioned the chili’s unusual taste, I was told, “it’s beer; that’s his ‘secret’ ingredient.” Had no idea beforehand, or I would have had dinner at home. Thank heavens I had plenty of Tums on hand.

I just don’t eat over there anymore because I don’t like being sick all night. It happens way too often.

McCormick actually makes this organic version that is gluten-free. We’ve bought it many times, but of course, now we can’t find it locally anymore. He insists that making our own chili and taco seasoning isn’t as good as the packets.

I used to enjoy cooking.

Until Next Time

Alternately, you could let this slow cook all day and come home to a nice dinner, but the veg might be a bit mushy. Cooking becomes easier once you get used to using the Instant Pot. I’m always looking for new ways to make dinner, and this one happened to fit the bill.

Oh, and if you like eggplant, Terry & Marion’s latest post is all about it. YUCK! You can have mine, and BF’s too.  

Whatever’s for dinner, Enjoy!

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