I have early memories of Saturday morning breakfasts of SPAM. Salty, meaty, fried and curled up around the edges. I liked it then, but years later, out in the wilderness, I tried again and almost choked at the salt content. It drowned out any flavor the meat particles once had and made me thirsty for an entire day. Still, I couldn’t help but appreciate the survivalist capacity of SPAM and that iconic can-well traveled, dust covered, nostalgic, and dinged in ways that suggest a storied past.
Years later, I was in a gas station in Hawaii and very hungry. Under the heat lamp were the usual choices-hot dogs, burritos, and then SPAM, served over sushi rice and with a sliver of seaweed holding it together. I had heard about this this East- -meets-tinned-meat staple known as masubi. It seemed like the safest choice of the light bulb- cooked buffet. It had a sweet teriyaki sauce that balanced out the salt, and despite my biases, I enjoyed it. SPAM utilizes pork trim that normally goes to waste, so it was an early adaptor in our growing awareness about food waste. I set out to make my own SPAM, with less salt, but still using parts of the animal that are normally wasted. So I made one out of pig trotters, and a salmon SPAM from collars, bellies and tails.
This is not as easy as one might think. Using trotters for SPAM was first suggested to me by a butcher at the Ferry Plaza Market. However, the butcher told me they were out, as all the chefs wanted them. I felt a little smug. I was out there sourcing alongside top chefs in San Francisco. When I was finally able to get some, the butcher advised me: “Just cook them for a good, long time until the meat falls from the two bones going through the hooves.”