Learning To Live With SPAM

The inspiration for today’s Andy’s Corner is from a Perspectives narrative I heard on National Public Radio while driving Oakley and Wynn to the dog park the other day. It was simply entitled SPAM.

Of course I immediately thought of the annoying unsolicited emails, texts, and phone calls Ann and I receive daily. According to the 2022 U.S. SPAM & SCAM REPORT, people in our age group are disproportionately more likely to receive spam calls and messages than are our younger counterparts, which seems quite unfair in my opinion. Not only are we seniors saddled with being severely challenged when it comes to communication technology, we have to deal with a stream of seemingly unending spam messages which in the last year resulted in an estimated 39.5 billion dollars lost to scams.

Fortunately, Ann and I have not fallen prey to any of these scams (although we still are waiting for the bank transfer from Prince Alyusi Islassis who asked for our help getting his money out of Nigeria).

The actual number of spam messages flying through cyberspace and our phone lines is mind-numbing. The web site DataProt reports that

for every 12,500,000 emails sent, spammers receive one reply. And that’s one too many. The logic behind every email spammer’s operation is to flood the web with countless emails. Why not? The cost of spam is basically zero. One response makes the whole campaign worthwhile.

This is a screenshot of two texts that popped up this evening as I was writing this piece. The phone numbers, which are only a couple of digits from mine, are examples of “neighbor spoofing.”

Having said all of this, it turns out that the NPR Perspectives I heard was not about that kind of Spam. It was about the kind that comes in a can. The narrator, Hiwa Greig, a Hawaiian who recently moved to Oakland, was lamenting about the bad rap that Spam, one of her home state’s favorite dishes, gets on the mainland. Here’s some of what she had to say:

Growing up on the island of Maui in Hawaii I was surrounded by different cultures and — more importantly — different foods. But one stands above the rest as my favorite comfort food. I’m talking about Spam.

It wasn’t until I first left the island for college in California, that I realized not everyone associates Spam with comfort and festivities like we do back home.

…When I’m feeling homesick, I’ll spend a couple hours making Spam musubi, or Spam sushi made by hand. In Maui you can find it everywhere, holiday parties, restaurants, picnics, country fairs and bake sales. It always reminds me of home.

Spam Musubi (Photo and recipe from the Washington Post, 12/9/2021)

I must admit that Spam is not at the top of my list of foods that remind me of home (although my sister, Helen, told me that Spam was an important part of her cuisine early in her marriage – her husband, Dave, had just got out of the Navy). When I mentioned to Ann that I planned to write something about Spam she uttered a low but discernible “yuck.”

1941 ad that would not see the light of day in today’s world!

Despite its less-than-stellar reputation for many of us, Spam’s history and its influence on various cultures and cuisines is quite interesting. Hiwa Greig nicely summarizes some of this in her narrative:

Hormel Foods created Spam in 1937 as a cheaper and quicker protein alternative for housewives.

In World War Two it became regular in military meals. It’s common knowledge in Hawai’i that GIs sold and traded cans of Spam for fresh produce wherever they were stationed.

Because of the influence of American militarization, Spam is not only a comfort food for Hawaiians in Hawaii, it’s also popular among Filipinos, Japanese and Koreans.

[My note: I might add that in Hawaii you can enjoy Spam at Burger King and McDonald’s restaurants, attend the annual Spam-themed festival on the island of Oahu known as the Waikiki Spam Jam, or try Spam-themed dishes created by local chefs at a massive street fair on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. What more could you ask for?]

Perhaps the best known parody of Spam is a 1970 Monty Python sketch entitled Spam where two customers in a greasy spoon café try to order a breakfast without Spam from a menu that includes Spam in almost every dish. In true Monty Python whacky style, the skit includes a group of Viking patrons that drown out all conversations with a song, repeating “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam… Lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam!”. If you haven’t already seen it, here’s a link to a YouTube video of that skit.

The Monty Python “greasy spoon” menu.

The Python parody brings me back to the beginning of this Andy’s Corner and my rant about junk messages. That’s because, according to Wikipedia, that sketch was the inspiration to refer to those “annoying unsolicited emails, texts, and phone calls” as Spam.

Let me close with a suggestion about how to live with both kinds of Spam. When you’ve been pushed over the edge by all of those unsolicited, infuriating emails, texts, and calls, instead of taking a sledge hammer to your devices, play a few rounds of the Monty Python Spam Song (conveniently placed below). Then turn those devices off, relax, and make yourself some Spam Musubi. It will do wonders.

Conveniently placed Spam Song
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