The Yes and No’s of Spam

For many people outside of Hawaii, Spam is, in a word, intriguing. “Yes,” they say, “I know what Spam is, I’ve tried it before.” And they continue, “No, I don’t know what’s in it, and I don’t eat it very often.’” To be brief, Spam literally means “spiced ham,” though it’s truly a meat of its own accord. Maybe you heard a rumor or learned first-hand on your Hawaiian vacation, but… Yes, Spam is Hawaii’s unofficial state canned meat. This island paradise, population just under 1.3 million, consumes roughly 7 million cans every year. That’s a lot of Spam.
And no, that’s not a joke. Yes, Hawaii loves Spam. Probably more so than Michigan and Pennsylvania love bologna. Everyday, thousands of Hawaii residents enjoy some form of Spam cuisine: the ever-popular Spam musubi, Spam kastu (cutlet), Spam fried rice, flavored Spam straight from the can. Restaurants, food carts and convenience stores offer all sorts of intriguing spam inventions. Recently, deep-fried Spam musubi has grown in popularity on Oahu. But no, the Official Spam Museum isn’t in Hawaii. It’s somewhere in Minnesota. And so, every year 20,000 locals and tourists descend upon Kalakaua Avenue for the annual Waikiki Spam Jam. As Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist Betty Shimabukuo put it,
“Never underestimate the power of Spam.”
Yes, there will be Spam nachos. Garlic Shrimp and Spam Skewers. Spamburgers. Pineapple and Spam pizza. Spam Mac and Cheese. Even the affectionately titled Spamsicles, or Spam Popsicles. It’s Hawaii’s biggest canned meat celebration, featuring arts, crafts, live entertainment and an endless variety of Spam delicacies. But no, the event doesn’t exist for gluttony’s sake. The non-profit SJ Foundation founded the Waikiki Spam Jam as a way to educate residents and visitors about the growing needs of the Hawaii Foodbank and the Waikiki Community Center. Canned goods (preferably Spam) will be collected at the event to help these organizations serve people in need.

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