EATING FOR BRITAIN: SPAM-A-LOT, A LOT-A-SPAM
A few weeks ago I received an invitation to take part in the UK Spam Cook of The Year 2009, which was a bit of a surprise to me as I did not know that there had been a UK Spam Cook of The Year for 2008 or any other year for that matter.
In fact, it had been well over thirty years since the thought of Spam had crossed my mind at all, since my father’s attempts at tea time cooking consisted of “grizzly bacon” i.e slices of Spam, sliced and fried.
Still, I accepted the offer to take part thinking that even if it is not strictly British, the event could tell me something about the way we as a country think about food, even if it is only that some of us are completely barking. Even more important, it could be fun. Hell, we all need some more of that right now.
When I realised that last week’s trip up to Wales would bring me in Spam can chucking distance of the home of last year’s winner, Stuart Higgs, I called up and arranged to meet him.
Stuart and his wife, Anne live in a smart house on the outskirts of Chester and he is seemingly enjoying a life of leisure after retiring from the R.A.F. A life which is filled, judging by our conversation, by and obsession with food and cooking. He spotted an advert from the 2008 Spam competition in his local paper and submitted his recipe and a photograph expecting to hear no more. But before he knew it, he had won the North West regional final and was whisked down to London for a face off with winners from around the country.
During the final, which apparently saw all the contestants getting drunk on champagne while chefs prepared their dishes, Stuart’s name was called and he was awarded the championship along with an all expenses paid trip to The Spam Museum in Minneapolis. Laugh if you will, but the winner of the 2009 competition will receive a similar journey to Hawaii where, Spam Musubi is to be found on menus of the discerning.
After a couple of cups of tea, it was time for me to have my own cook off against last year’s champion or Spampion if you will allow me. Oh,please yourselves. Stuart deftly prepared his own winning creation, Spam slices with chilli and peanut coating served on a Thai noodle salad and I began to create my own Spam based wonder drawing inspiration from the Bengali side of my family.
I mixed up some garam flour from Stuart’s cupboard and made a batter to which I added a few spices and then tossed in cubes of spam before frying them to a crunchy finish. Spam Bhajia, if you will, served with a cucumber, chilli relish and a suitable starter to a Spam based meal which Stuart’s dish finished off.
The truth is Spam doesn’t really taste of all that much, so you can pretty well do what you like to it, which made me come up with all sorts of other dishes as I headed on the long drive back to London. A Scots Spaggis? Or some Welsh Spaggots? Perhaps even continuing the Indian theme, a Spam Korma.
I know what most of you are thinking and it ends with the words "Oh, the humanity" but, go on, admit it, some of you secretly rather like Spam.
Anyway, if you fancy pitting your culinary wits against yours truly (come and have a go if you think you're hard enough) you can find all the details here so give it a go and you can pass the details on to your friends by e-mail. That is of course if it is not filtered out as……………