Hawaii and its Love Affair with SPAM

Here's another installment in our series on the foods of Hawaii:
Hawaiians absolutely love SPAM. And mainlanders, when they learn this surprising fact, always react with confusion and funny looks. I mean, really now, who eats SPAM?

Well, Hawaiians do, with a vengeance:

1) Citizens of Hawaii consume more SPAM per capita than any other state in the US.

2) SPAM is a legacy of GI rations from World War II. The canned meat found its way into the diets of local Hawaiians during and after the war, thanks to SPAM's low cost and the fact that it can be shipped long distances without refrigeration.

3) SPAM also became popular throughout many countries and territories throughout the Pacific, including Guam, the Mariana Islands, the Philippines and even Korea.

4) SPAM is on the menus of both Burger King and McDonald's throughout Hawaii.

5) One of the more common ways to eat SPAM in Hawaii, Korea and the Philippines is SPAM musubi: a slab of spam over rice, held together with a seaweed wrap.

Not only do Hawaiians love SPAM, but each year, Honolulu's Waikiki district hosts an annual street fair dedicated to SPAM. It takes place at the end of April and it celebrates Hawaiian culture, music and food. It's one of Waikiki's most popular community events.

All of the restaurants in the area serve SPAM-inspired foods, which get gobbled up by hungry tourists and locals...

...and there were temporary stages set up on each end of the festival, featuring dozens of performers showing off traditional and modern Hawaiian music and dance.

Yes, that's right, this beautiful hula dancer is wearing a SPAM hat on her head.

If you're not from here, it can be difficult to understand the love affair Hawaii has with SPAM. The other day we were trying to explain SPAM Jam to some Italian friends, who had asked us, "why would anyone host a street festival about unwanted email?" And in a preposterous twist of fate, a vegetarian friend was visiting us during this year's SPAM Jam. "What exactly is SPAM?" she asked us.

It is a bit difficult to explain isn't it? It's meat, sort of. It's pork, I guess. And it comes in a can. It's really salty. And they write haikus and Monty Python skits about it. Naturally, our vegetarian friend wanted to see this festival for herself.

There's only one state in the Union that would have a festival dedicated to SPAM without a trace of self-consciousness or irony. And that, in a nutshell, is exactly why we love Hawaii.

Related Posts:
What's the Most Heavily Used Tool in Our Kitchen? Our Rice Cooker.
Make Your Diet Into a Flexible Tool
When High-Fat Food ... Can Actually Be Healthy For You
Collard Greens with Rice and Kielbasa

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Melissa said...

"Spam, spam, spam, spam...
Spam, spam, spam, spammity spaaaaam!"

I still haven't tried SPAM, though am not averse to it. I could try musubi at any one of my local "Hawaiian" (*snicker*) takeout places, but am more tempted by an Australian friend's use of it, diced, in fried rice. Seems like it would be great.

Amanda @ Mrs.W's Kitchen said...

I remember my mother making us sliced spam fried in butter & brown sugar for breakfast on occasion. Yum!

When I lived in S.Korea and learned how to make kim bop (their little sushi rolls) they used spam in it.

LOL @melissa. That's exactly what I was thinking! "Spammity spam..."

pixelgal said...

Spam is by far the yukkiest of yuks in my book. A long time ago my Mom made it when we needed to stretch a dollar but the resulting hue and cry caused her to drop that little item from all future menus. Hooray! But still I enjoyed reading about a real Spam festival.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the increasing popularity of Hawaiian cuisine is one of the reasons that spam sales are trending up? The economy is, of course, the other contributing factor.

Joanne said...

SPAM is one of those things that I've heard a lot about but have never actually seen up-close and in-person. Do they even sell it in most supermarkets? I imagine that it IS possible to do some good things with it, but I'm not sure that I ever really want to find out.

The Diva on a Diet said...

I've heard tell of Hawaiian's love of Spam ... but I had no idea there was a street festival in its honor. Wow! Looks like fun ... though, I'll have to pass on eats. LOL

Great post, Dan!

Amanda is a Traveling Photographer said...

I've been to Hawaii a few times and noticed the spam thing. I don't get it, but I love unique quirks about places and it's definitely " Hawaii ". ~Amanda

Daniel said...

Thanks everyone for your comments!

I can't help myself--I have to share my favorite SPAM haiku with you all:

Twist, pull the sharp lid
Jerks and cuts me deeply but
Spam, aaah, my poultice.

I mean, come on. That is timeless poetry. :)