SPAM COOK OF THE YEAR 2009: WHEN IT COMES TO JUDGING, I'M YOUR SPAM
A few months ago, those regular readers of the blog will recall, I visited a rather splendid chap called Stuart Higgs in Chester to talk about his success at the SPAM Cook of The Year competition for 2008.
As we talked, Stuart whipped up his winning dish of SPAM Thai Noodles for me to try while I countered with my own improvised dish of SPAM Bhajis with a coriander chilli dip.
It was a pleasing way to spend a morning and, after I wrote about it on the blog, the good people of Hormel, SPAM’s parent company, got in touch and asked me if I wanted to join them at the 2009 competition as a judge.
Well, of course I did. One of the things that I did develop during my recent trip was a willingness to say “yes” to new experiences and the opportunity to meet new people. Add to that the facts that I am a secret admirer of matters SPAMular and the promise to supply the judges with lots of wine and it did not take long for me to agree.
Move on to a morning last week and I found myself at The Commonwealth Club, near The Embankment, in a conference room that had been decked out Hawaiian style to reflect this year’s star prize of a ten day all expenses paid trip to those islands. Why Hawaii? Well, believe it or not food fact fans, they eat more SPAM in Hawaii than anywhere else in the world and the prize would even include a trip to the SPAM festival which takes place every year to celebrate their love of pork in a can.
All the regional finalists had travelled down the day before and enjoyed a night in a nearby hotel. They all seemed to be enjoying the attention and free booze as their dishes were prepared by the club’s chefs and brought out to us one at a time to sample and then pronounce judgment upon, the competitors quivering before us as we quizzed them about their dish.
Some, to be honest, were little more than “something with SPAM” with the canned meat replacing bacon or ham in a tart or omelette. Not bad, but lacking imagination. Others were more fun like “SPAM-doori with a yoghurt mint drizzle” and one showed far too much imagination, presenting us with a “SPAM-dora’s box” comprising a specially fashioned little chest of SPAM, filled with corn and then wrapped in filo,which in truth made us all recoil slightly in terror.
In the end, along with my three fellow judges, including last year’s winner Stuart, I gave my vote for the top prize to a lovely lady from the Midlands, for her creamy gratin of Gruyere cheese, potatoes and SPAM and she looked suitably astonished as the camera flashes went off and Stuart handed her the trophy.
I came away with a rather fetching SPAM baseball cap and a buzz from too much of the promised wine to show for my troubles along with an invitation to visit the SPAM museum in Minnesota, a promise I intend to take them up on next year. Perfect Honeymoon destination, anyone?
A fun day, even if I did have to face down something called a “SPAM-dora’s Box”