WHIDBEY RECIPES: Gotta love that Spam!

Spam is making headlines again. No, not the unwelcome flow of useless input that constantly pops into your computer; the other Spam, the pink meaty stuff that comes in a can.

At least, it appears to be meaty. Do we really know for sure?

Remember, Spam is also called “mystery meat” by thousands of us who grew up eating it.

In any case, Hormel Foods just announced that its second quarter profits rose 14 percent, “helped by falling pork prices and strong Spam sales.”

This came as a surprise to me because I thought no one ate Spam any more. At least, no one I know will confess to eating Spam, but I now believe there may be some denial going on.

Obviously someone, in fact a lot of someones, are eating Spam on a regular basis.

I am, I confess, eating Spam at this moment. On a small plate next to my computer rests a Spam sandwich, one slice of Spam between two half slices of John’s outstanding homemade bread, with a bit of mayo slathered on.

When I read the article about Hormel’s profits and their “strong Spam sales,” I suddenly remembered I had two cans of Spam sitting somewhere on my pantry shelves. I’m not sure why, but I purchased them last year when Hormel was celebrating Spam’s 70th anniversary and I happened to see the mystery meat of my childhood packaged in special anniversary tins. A fit of nostalgia, I guess.

It took awhile, but I finally located the cans and decided to make myself a sandwich.

At that point, I’d not eaten Spam for possibly 30 years or more. I’m frankly surprised; it tastes exactly as I remember. I somehow expected Spam to have evolved a bit, become a bit more high class and I certainly thought Hormel would have found a way to tout Spam as being healthier than in the past. After all, that’s the current tiresome trend; everything has to be low-salt, fat free, full of fiber and, if possible, organic.

Not Spam. According to the information printed on my can, one approximately quarter-inch slice of Spam (about 2 oz.) has 180 calories, 140 of which are fat calories and 6 grams of which are saturated fat.

Well, we all know that saturated fat tops the fat police list of no-no’s. As for salt, probably second on the thou-shall-not-eat-this list, that slice puts a whopping 790 milligrams into your blood stream. No fiber, no Vitamin A or C, no calcium but a substantial dosage of cholesterol, 40 mg. Safe to say, healthy eating this is not.

As for those mystery ingredients? They’ve not changed, either; it’s still pork shoulder meat and ham meat with salt, water, sugar, potato starch and sodium nitrite to preserve that pretty pink color. Now, however, there is also turkey Spam, low-sodium Spam, Hot & Spicy Spam, as well as “Classic,” meaning the original.

There is, however, one very big change from the Spam I grew up with; a can of Spam now costs $3.29 (or more, depending upon where you’re buying and which type), which is almost six times what it cost back when. No wonder Hormel’s profits rose.

So, did I throw away the rest of my sandwich after I read the back of the can? Am I going to toss out the remainder of that can, as well as the other still on the shelf? Not until I test a few of the recipes Hormel puts on their Spam Web site; a couple of which follow. But as much as I’ve enjoyed this trip down the memory lane of childhood foods, I fully expect to be joining the ranks of those who don’t eat Spam.

WORLD WAR II

SPAM & EGGS

1 T. butter

2 T. finely chopped onion

1 slice Spam

1 egg, beaten

2 slices bread

1 slice American cheese

1 slice tomato

In a skillet, melt the butter. Add onion and saute until golden.

With a fork, mash up the Spam and add to the skillet. Cook until browned. Add beaten egg, making sure it covers the Spam mixture. Cook until firm, flip and cook on other side until browned.

Place egg mixture on one slice of the bread, top with slice of cheese then slice of tomato. Serve.

Note: Bread can be toasted before placing egg mixture on it, or a sandwich can be made and then toasted in the skillet before serving, if desired.

Now for the bad news: This tasty sandwich has 561 calories, 39.2 gr. fat, 300 mg. cholesterol, 1458 mg. sodium! But, it also has 1.8 gr. fiber (that makes it healthy, right?) and 22.8 gr. protein.

Slightly less health menacing is another recipe that made use of Spam when beef wasn’t readily available. This recipe, by the way, is still on a Spam Web site and has been a long-standing favorite.

SPAGHETTI ON THE GO

1 pkg. (8 oz.) spaghetti, uncooked

1 T. vegetable oil

1 can (12 oz.) Spam, cubed

½ of a green onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 T. soy sauce

½ cup water

½ T. sesame oil

1 t. freshly ground black pepper

Cook spaghetti according to instructions; drain.

In a large skillet, heat oil add Spam, green onion, garlic and sauté until onion is golden. Stir in the cooked, drained spaghetti. Add remaining ingredients and cook and stir until heated through. Serves 6.

This dish has only 345 calories per serving, with 945 mg. sodium and 1.1 gr. of fiber.

Quick and easy, that’s what Spam was and is all about, after all. If you have some leftover mashed potatoes, try this (if not, well, make some).

ELEGANT SPAM

POTATO CASSEROLE

1 can condensed cream of potato soup

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 T. sherry

4 cups hot mashed potatoes

1 can (12 oz.) Spam, cut into small pieces

¼ t paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray a 1 ½ qt. casserole with cooking spray.

Combine soup, 2 T. of the cheese, and the sherry, stirring until well combined.

Spread mashed potatoes in prepared casserole, sprinkle with Spam pieces. Pour soup mixture over the Spam, sprinkle on remaining cheese and paprika. Bake 20 min. or until well heated through.

And finally, a really quick and easy Spam appetizer, great for summertime grilling.

SPAM ON A STICK

12 skewers

1 can Classic Spam, cut into 36 cubes

1 can (30 oz.) pineapple chunks, drained

1/3 cup bottled barbecue sauce (your favorite).

Thread the cubes of Spam alternately with pineapple chunks on the skewers. Grill over hot coals (or broil), turning often until lightly browned on all sides. Brush with barbecue sauce and serve.