Bad Taste

Spam: yuck or yum?

Bad Taste

Illustration of a tin of Spam

People either love or hate Spam, but its worldwide popularity is undeniable.


Published 18 May 2022 at 7:01am
By Jess Ho
Source: SBS

People either love or hate Spam, but its popularity is undeniable. Find out why it is in such high demand in this episode of Bad Taste.


Published 18 May 2022 at 7:01am
By Jess Ho
Source: SBS


Spam is an ingredient that causes reactions of intense excitement, or strong, visceral disgust.

In the first episode of the podcast , we speak to TikTok influencer and home cook Nathan Lyons and chef Rosheen Kaul about their relationship with Spam, and figure out how it turned from an army ration into a worldwide pantry staple. 

I was a bit of a…snob. So it was never a case where I was ashamed of my food or being Asian. I was just like, ‘What are you guys eating? That's gross. - Rosheen Kaul
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Hosted by food writer Jess Ho,  is a six-part podcast series that will make you reconsider the perception of good taste. Each episode will analyse a food, trace back its history, and look at its relevance today. 

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Each episode of is paired with a recipe on . Try Jess' recipe for .

Host and producer: Jess Ho
Executive producer: Michelle Macklem
Series producer: Bethany Atkinson-Quinton
Sound designer: Nicole Pingon
Editor: Zoe Tennant
Theme music: Rainbow Chan
Art: Joanna Hu

Want to get in touch? Email us at 



Transcript

(soft city ambiance in the background)

Jess Ho: Hey this is Jess and I’m recording this on the lands of the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation, where the rest of this episode has also been recorded. I acknowledge the ongoing effects of colonisation and how it impacts the soil, the production of foods and in turn the foods we eat today. I pay my respects to the elders past and present, it always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

(city sounds fade out)

Ho: I remember the blue of the tin, the pop of the seal,

(seal of can creates popping sound)

Ho: and the scraping sound of aluminium.

(can lid scrapes back as it’s being opened)

(glittery sound effect)

Ho: He’d turn the can upside down and smack it onto a chopping board.

(a curious bassline emerges)

(hand smacks a can)

Ho: A quick shake and a thunk and a pink brick would slide out, shiny from jelly.

(sparkles from a shaker and a warm thump are enveloped in a heavenly harp)

Ho: A savouriness would fill the air as the gas stove would hiss and click, followed by the eruption of a blue flame.

(sound of a gas stove fizzing then clicking on)

(a shaker joins in with the bassline )

My dad would take a knife and run it through the block.

(sound of knife slicing)

Ho: He’d fry each slice on both sides to crisp the exterior and draw out the sugars. He’d remove each slice with chopsticks, lower the heat, beat a few eggs in a bowl and scramble them in the fat left in the pan.

(sounds of eggs scrambling in a bowl and frying up)

(bassline shifts, becomes bouncier and upbeat)

Ho: Once cooked, he’d layer Wonderwhite, luncheon meat, egg and Wonderwhite, cut it horizontally and wrap it in a flimsy, plastic sandwich bag.

(sandwich is cut in half and placed inside a sandwich bag)

Ho: This was meant to be my lunch, but I'd feel the warmth of the sandwich and smell the salt of the fried meat through my backpack. Before I’d walk through the school gates, my lunch was gone.

(bassline cuts out)

(a sparkle repeats and delays, punctuating the moment)

(romantic strings fill the air)

Ho: The perfect recipe: Homogenised pork, salt, sugar, potato starch, water and sodium nitrate. The stuff of gods. The stuff of my childhood. Spam.

(the sparkly punctuation returns)

(strings fade out)

Ho: So, what exactly was an outer-suburban Cantonese-Australian kid doing eating spam in the early 90s? I thought my dad was making me a white person lunch to help me fit in, so other kids wouldn’t yuck my yum. He wasn’t.

(Melbourne tram in motion)

Ho: As a teenager, When I got a bit of freedom, I’d go to Box Hill with a bunch of mates and eat in Chinese restaurants. It was all we could afford back then. One of these restaurants was New Age Cafe (may she rest in power).

(faded background sounds from a bustling cha chaan teng)

Ho: It was a cha chaan teng- a Cantonese-Western cafe- in suburban Melbourne, where the population was mostly Cantonese. Even though I had never been in a HK cha chaan teng, the cafe felt nostalgic to me. I knew all these not-quite-white dishes that were also not-quite-Canto, either, cos it’s what my dad always cooked for me. Pork chops baked on tomato rice, French toast with a slab of butter drowned in condensed milk, and  of course…fried spam and egg sandwiches.

(a curious guitar and percussion enters, gentle and warm)

Ho: The dishes were an affordable, approximation of Western food by the Hong Kong working class, for the Hong Kong working class. a product of colonialism in Hong Kong which was thought into existence as an aspirational way of eating for the locals.

(we enter back into the bustling cha chaan teng)

Ho: Spam became a staple in these cafes after the post World War II manufacturing boom, offering factory workers a cheap and easy source of protein. It was satisfying on a taste level and would fill people up.

(guitar wahhhs good-naturedly and repeats)

(sounds of the cha chaan teng fade away)

Ho: Hong Kong is known for its seafood, just look at a map. But it lacks agricultural land to rear pigs and cattle. Spam was a cheap way to enjoy the taste of pork in a time where meat was rare and expensive.

(guitar does a final wahhh and fades away)

Ho: Spam and instant noodles.

(glittery punctuation)

Ho: Spam and macaroni

(glittery punctuation)

Ho: And of course, spam fried rice. 

(glitter reverberates and fades into background)

Ho: These were the dishes my parents knew from Hong Kong, and so that’s what they cooked for me.

(theme song: ‘Ylang Ylang’ by Rainbow Chan - urgent strings and inquisitive bassline begin)

Ho: You could say, I was built by spam.

(sound of 2 claps)

(theme song whooshes and settles into background)

Ho: I’m Jess Ho and this is Bad Taste, a podcast about who we are through the foods we eat.

I'm a food critic with over a decade of experience working in every part of the food and drink industry imaginable. I’ve seen firsthand how the foods we eat erase cultures, processes – and the people – who are behind them.

So who gets to define what ‘good food’ is?

(sharp clap clap)

Ho: I’m used to working in Westernised structures where products, content and research are made for the white, Western consumer. But… what if it wasn’t?

Ho: I want to know if food can be a way of getting closer to a freer, equitable, anti-racist world. Especially, if we hear from the people who are usually left out of the narrative.

Ho: You’ll also hear from me. I’ll tell my story as a child of immigrants trying to find my identity between old-school Cantonese culture in a white Australian backdrop. Investigating the foods I eat has changed my thinking and brought me back to my roots- it’s allowed me to create my own definition of what it means to be Australian.

(theme song: ‘Ylang Ylang’ by Rainbow Chan - fades out, and is met with a warm pad)

Ho: This is why I’m doing a deep-dive into Spam- an ingredient that causes reactions of intense excitement, or, a strong, visceral disgust- and nothing in between- depending on who you talk to. 

Ho: Right now, we’re in the middle of a spam resurgence. In 2021, Spam sales hit a record high for its seventh year. While some of you are suss on Spam, the reality is that Spam is popular.

So why is spam having a moment? How did it make its way into our pantries in the first place? And how do we eat it? Get ready to be spammed with spam.

(music reverberates and fades out)



Nathan Lyons:  I've got six kids. I've got three boys and three girls I've got [kids aged] 15, 9, 8, 5, 4, 3. Out of the six kids, they all like different things.

Ho: This is Nathon Lyons, a Wiradjuri man with a big family. A big family of picky eaters.

Nathan Lyons: When I do hot dogs. There's 2 of them that doesn't want the red skin  on the hot dog. So I've got to sit there and individually peel a couple hot dogs for them.

Ho: I’ve never peeled a hot dog before, but something tells me that it’s harder than a banana.

Nathan Lyons: Sometimes when I'm cooking, I'm doing separate versions of what I’m doing. So yeah, there's a wide range of palettes in my house and then a lot of fussy eaters.

(funky and percussive beat kicks off)

Ho: But do you know what this wide range of picky palates universally enjoys? Spam.

(piano notes ascend upwards quickly and sparkle)

Nathan Lyons: So we do like, spam fried rice, just spam on its own, fried up with a bit of sauce. You know, the kids love it. It's definitely a hit in my household.

Ho: In addition to being the official cook of the house and lover of Spam, Nathan is a tiktok influencer.

(glimmer of glitter)

Nathan Lyons: I'm better known as Kooking with a Koori. I make a lot of stuff with spam and yeah, I'm pretty much just a bit of a home cook who uploads stuff and people seem to like that.

Ho: Nathan’s being humble. When he says he uploaded stuff and people seem to like that, Kooking with a Koori has amassed over 181 thousand followers and almost 2 million likes.

(percussive music dissolves into the background, and a warm pad rises up)

Nathan Lyons’ Kooking with a Koori video: Welcome back to Kooking with a Koori. Today’s we’ve got a classic of Spam and Fried egg on classic white bread.

Ho: He’s part of this great Spam revival. And he cooks with Spam a lot.

Nathan Lyons’ Kooking with a Koori video: Welcome back to Kooking with a Koori.This morning for breakfast I made some Spamalicious eggs.

Ho: I’ve wasted hours of my life watching endless cooking videos on social media. A lot of them are professionally lit, technique-driven, filled with bougie ingredients and unprocessed foods…and Nathan’s isn’t. So, how is it that he’s attracted so many followers?

(music spills out into the foreground and fades away)

Jess Ho: why do you think people love and respond to your videos so much?

Nathan Lyons: I think one of the reasons I respond to it so much is they can identify with what I cook. The stuff that I do is just a homemade, homecooked, you know? It looks like what Dad makes and some of the stuff I do, they want to do themselves some, just not too short on how to do it, but seeing and hearing just an average Joe doing it, I think that gives them a bit more confidence to get in the kitchen and do it.

(an earnest and heartfelt pad flutters)

Ho: The pandemic’s been tough on a lot of people. Money’s tight. Spam’s cheap. It’s no wonder that Nathan’s Tiktok following exploded during 2020.

Nathan Lyons: I'm feeding a family of eight on a single income. Sometimes I can feed them dinner for $8 or less. I think that's what people love about it.

(music shifts, a bass guitar enters and creates momentum)

Nathan Lyons: Everyone's struggling both financially mentally and all the stuff that's going on,  to be able to feed such a large number of people on such a tight budget, I like that’s what people like.

Ho: And there it is.

(bass hits one more beat, then fades away)

Ho: Spam is a saviour in the pantry. It’s practical, easy to cook and, as Nathan’s harshest critic says:

Nathan’s child: That’s really good!!

Ho: Spam has always been a secret shame ingredient for me, so, it’s a surprise that it is popular. Like, really popular. But where did it get all its fans?

(upbeat thumps and snaps create upbeat motion)

(Melbourne tram gliding on the tracks)

Ho: I’m heading to Etta in Brunswick. An intimate restaurant obsessed with seasonality, artisan products, sustainability and fine wines. Exactly where you’d expect to find Spam… Right?!

(drums do a tiny roll and end)

(sounds of entering into a building, footsteps on a concrete floor)

(funk bassline fills the space)

Jess Ho: Hey! I'm well how are you

Rosheen Kaul: I'm so good nice to see you

I’m friends with Rosheen Kaul, the head chef at Etta. Rosh is also a cookbook author and a food writer. It’s her day off and she’s dressed down, but is still one of the most glamorous looking chefs I know. Gold jewellery, a flowing dress, and ‘auntie’ slippers.

(glittery shimmer sound)

Ho: Good to see you too Muah muah! How are the children?

Kaul: Hahahahaha. Very well, thank you.

(Kaul and Ho laugh in unison)

Ho: Every time I’ve been to Etta, it’s been full and loud. It’s packed with people and warm from the hearth that fuels the kitchen. Today, all I can hear is the hum of the fridges.

(low rumble of fridges increases in volume for a second, then fades away)

Ho: Rosh has a refined palate, she’s known for having good taste. That’s why she’s respected in the food industry.

(upbeat bassline returns, propels us forward)

Ho:…and also why she is the most unlikely candidate to be a lover of Spam.

Kaul: it Is incredibly delicious. I love spam deeply

Ho: So how often do you eat spam?

Kaul: probably like once or twice a month

Ho: Oooh!

Kaul: yeah Is that a lot ?!

(bassline hits a final beat and fades away, twinkly synthesiser glimmers sincerely in the background)

Ho: Like me, the basis of this deep love is something that’s tied to her experience of growing up, and Rosh knows her Spam.

Kaul: So, it was always a food that I had with my mum. My mum grew up in Singapore and as did I… And convenience food was definitely a big thing but also something that's so delicious and so accessible and also very affordable. Mom grew up in um sort of like yeah  like sort of council housing in Singapore. So mum still calls it like low class food but we eat it all the time Cause it's quite naughty

Ho: But that love of Spam didn’t extend to all her family members…

Kaul: My dad is not really in the spam fan camp because he is from Kashmir and they don't have that there. I would eat when dad wasn't around because my dad thought it was a bit naughty cause he had to always eat proper meals. He always has to have rice and vegetables and like quite nice balanced um healthy Asian food basically.

(synthesiser reverberates out on a single ascending note)

Ho: Even though Rosh’s Dad wouldn’t eat it, Spam was a staple in her house.

(fast paced drums kick off)

Ho: And it’s something she keeps on hand, always in the cupboard

Kaul: Probably my favourite thing to eat when I come home from work really late is just slices of fried Spam, instant noodles and an egg. Classic.

Ho: That's awesome! That's how I ate it, too. Sodium levels, what’s that?

Ho: And if you’re going to compare sodium levels of Spam to other meats, look at your beloved prosciutto, salami, pastrami. It’s much of a muchness.


Kaul: Well it's spam or it's like prosciutto or it's mortadella. Like it's all the same, it’s all just salted pork isn’t it?

Ho: High fat, salted pork.

Kaul: That’s it.

Ho: All these are very salty meat products of varying degrees of processing. Mortadella, like Spam, is a forcemeat. Basically a forcemeat is animal protein that has been finely minced and emulsified with fat. Think: pate, terrine, rillette, salami - all that stuff you like to chew on with a  glass of wine. But why does Spam get the bad rap?

(toy synthesiser and drums twinkle and reverberate out)

Kaul: Basically the crux of it is that spam was brought all around the world to anywhere that the US had an army base.

(glitzy and low pitched pad underscores this next section)

Ho: Spam was first introduced to the world by the American company Hormel Foods in 1937 but sales didn’t really take off until world war II.

Kaul: In WWII, anywhere that the U.S. troops went so did Spam. and you can see you can basically see the trail of where they were by what they left behind mainly in the Philippines, in Japan, in Korea all the major places where spam is now celebrated and become very much a part of that place.

Ho: If you look at the Philippines, Spamsilog was a reminder of the US army bases stationed there during WWII. Budae Jjigae, or the aptly named “army stew ” was a remnant of the US presence during the Korean war.

Kaul: The culture and the fabric of that place. It's a history of where the U.S. has been

(thoughtful and apprehensive medium-paced percussion begins)

Ho: Spam became celebrated across Asia. It was a symbol of American freedom and wealth, without actually having to be American or go to America. Kinda like drinking a coke.

Kaul: We'll say like I can only speak obviously as my as an Asian person for Asians it's you know being like American items are you know they're glamorous they're expensive they're shiny They are having a Western product in your pantry Is it makes you seem affluent

Ho: But somehow Spam is still looked down upon in Australia. Even with the staff at Etta, Rosh says there’s some hesitance around eating Spam.

(final drum hit and fades out)

Kaul: So we have quite a diverse team with a few white Australians and as you can imagine there is a bit of discomfort around spam. Because it seems that the Western world has an enormous amount of disdain for it because it represents poverty It represents you know hardship represents like basically a time where life was really difficult and they had to eat out of cans.

(twinkly and mysterious synthesisers echo in the background)

Ho: After WWII, it seemed like Spam in the West couldn’t break its association with wartime poverty. It symbolised hardship and rations.

Kaul: So you know the the tables turned whereas you know like basically like you know caucasian people would think that spam is like cheap and horrible and disgusting because of what it represented to them.

Ho: And it’s more complex than being just a bad taste on the white western tongue. When the American government detained Japanese-Americans in internment camps during world war II, they sent them canned meats like Spam. For many, it’s a painful reminder of that time.

(music fades back in and becomes brighter)

Ho: On the other hand, in Hawaii, Spam was embraced by locals. Japanese Americans and immigrants were considered threats during world war II and they weren’t allowed to fish. So, Spam was sent over as a protein rich substitute. Enter the rice and Spam speciality - Spam musubi.

(music fades out)

Ho: Today, Rosh works with ingredients like fish roe, lobster, and heirloom vegetables. As a chef who joined an already established restaurant, provenance was always at the heart of the kitchen’s ethos and is synonymous with good taste.

(bouncy and upbeat bassline returns briefly)

Ho: This way of cooking seems to be at conflict with everything Spam is and what it represents. How does she have the same appreciation for lobster as she does for Spam?

(music fades out)

Kaul: My heritage and my you know my family history and what I grew up eating is they're all major major parts of how they informed my cooking So you know abalone is still is to me a luxury item you know so I'm not going to be eating it at home because at the end of the day what we cook for diners and what we eat you know at home is this still such different things. And I am the same person in the restaurant as I am at home. What really drives my cooking is just honesty, and I am just in the pursuit of what's yum. So yes, Etta is very much based on provenance but I'm still gonna put soy sauce on it, you know? So I I cook what I know with the ingredients that I understand.

Ho: Oh I love that! (brief pause) How do you think growing up in Singapore impacted what you ate?

Kaul: I would say that because of my formative years in Singapore and the food that I was exposed to I guess I didn't realise how much of an effect it would have on me until I moved to Australia. When I saw how much my palate had been influenced by those early years and the food that I was eating.

(bright and lively piano enters)

Ho: I envy her childhood. Singapore is known for its delicious and accessible food like chicken rice, chilli crab, fish head curry, sambal stingray.

(music cuts out abruptly)

(record scratch sound effect)

Ho: But then she moved to Australia.

Kaul: It was almost like somebody just sort of turned the lights off in flavour and I don't mean that in an insulting way it was just that you know I would eat like fried anchovies with curry sauce and a little plastic bag for breakfast, whereas here they were like please eat this toast.

Ho: There better be some Kaya on that toast!

Kaul: I was like I don't want that, it's got no flavour but you know slowly I began to appreciate you know Australian like pretty white Australian cuisines I got a bit older. But initially, it was shocking. Truly shocking.

(bassline kicks off and thrums alongside the dialogue)

Ho: Even though I grew up in Australia, I didn’t encounter Aussie food until I went to school. What I was fed was what my parents were eating and that was my normal. I was shocked when I saw plastic cheese, pre-packaged muesli bars and dry biscuits as a lunchbox staple. Everything seemed so one dimensional. Everything was one texture, only salty or only sweet.

(luminous and melody from a synthesiser begins)

Ho: But in the dishes I was eating, it was salty, smoky, sweet, crunchy, snappy and gelatinous all at the same time, and that was before you introduced it to a mound of fluffy, white rice.

I wondered how Rosh dealt with that culture-shock.

Kaul: I was quite lucky cause my sister and I we were already fluent in English. So I was a bit of a little you know snob. So it was never it was never a case where I was ashamed of my food or being Asian. I was just like what are you guys eating? That's gross. It was actually a bit of a turn the tables kind of. However, I think I know a lot of young BIPOC kids would have been bullied quite a lot probably for the food they used to bring to school, whereas I used to have like thermoses of delicious food my mum would cook and I'd go hang out with little Thai girls and be like, "What are we eating today?"

Ho: This is not a normal dynamic in an Aussie primary school. It certainly wasn't mine. What a power move.

(synthesisers fade away)

(curious strings tippy-toe forward)

Ho: I’ve asked a lot of questions so far, but this is a very important one that will determine the future of our friendship. How do you like your spam?

(2 string stabs punctuate the question)

Kaul: Truly sliced and pan fried. In its pure form. You know just like just fries also It's crispy on the outside but not getting dry either

Ho: See, that's my favourite way to eat it!

Ho: And that’s what we’re gonna do!

(intriguing bassline from Ylang Ylang by Rainbow Chan begins)

Ho: There’s 6 types of spam in Australia and I’ve brought the OG, hot and spicy, and bacon. The others are less sodium, lite and oven roasted turkey (there’s a reason why I didn’t buy those) We’re not doing anything fancy, just a classic taste-off. It delights me to no end that we are introducing spam to Etta’s prestigious kitchen.

(music fades out)

(hum of fridges and kitchen atmosphere in the background)

Ho: So I’ve got the regular Spam as a control

Kaul: Delicious, perfection

Ho: Spam with bacon

Kaul: I don’t really rate it.

Ho: Aaaand hot and spicy Spam.

Kaul: Delicious!

Ho: We open the cans and the sound immediately initiates a pavlovian response.

(sound of lip scraping)

Ho: Oh I love that sound!

Ho: The sound of the vacuum release when you tip out the meat? Not so much.

(sound of vacuum release)

(sound of knife chopping through Spam)

Kaul: So I just sliced it up into three little slices. So we can fry them up and test them

Ho: We, of course, cook Spam that way god intended. FRIED.

(sound of spam frying)

Kaul: As you can see, the bacon one has so much less fun. So, I don't think it's going to be work. You can see the hot and spicy one that we're frying. You can see this like amazing thoughts on to render out of it. So it's going to be really crispy

(sound of spam sizzling on the pan)

Kaul: The sound is telling you quite a lot, you know, it's the fat content which leads directly to crispness.

(the sizzling spam continues, occasionally sputtering fat)

Ho: The original and hot and spicy are cooking evenly. That’s because of the fat content. This means crisp slices. But…the bacon is sticking to the pan.

Ho: Who knew? The bacon one would have less fat in it

(sounds of spam flipping in the pan)

Kaul: my theory is that the, the more scrutiny a product or a businesses under the bed, or they to be in practices. They're like, how many, how many secret cameras you reckon have been in the Spam factory

Ho: After all this faffing about, we finally get to eat some Spam.

Ho: We start with the bacon.

(sounds of light chewing)

Kaul: It doesn't taste like bacon at all.

Ho: No,

Kaul: it's just firmer. Al Dente.

(a playful bassline gently nudges the scene along)

Ho: We are really not fans of the bacon. Not in appearance or performance. Then the hot and spicy…

(more light chewing sounds continue)

Kaul: Oh, that's like a chorizo. That's amazing. That's actually spicy. Yum!

Ho: Yeah. And you actually get the bit of heat under your nose

Kaul: you know, when cans say spicy, but they're lying to you. That's actually, that's actually spicy, I wouldn't eat a whole kind of that in a good way. Yum! Back to the OG then.

Ho:

Ho: And finally, the original Spam…

(the final light chewing sounds, we promise!)

Kaul: How good’s Spam?! Still good. Mm. And. It's just…no words

Ho: We have some shocking results with a winner we did not see coming.

(bassline re-establishes itself and descends back into a gentle melody)

Kaul: I think I would actually even say the hot and spicy. I think I like it more than the original is that…

Ho: OOooh!

Kaul: Is that naughty? Is that, that controversial.

Ho: Potentially. I feel that the OG is probably more versatile but

Kaul: True, true, true

Ho:  But for fun times, I’m gonna eat… When I’m drunk or after service, definitely the hot and spicy

Kaul: Yeah, it’s yum! I'm going to say it's a solid 9.95 out of 10.

Ho: Who knew you could improve on perfection?

(bassline finishes it’s melody and fades away after final note)

(sincere and gentle synthesiser returns)

Kaul: Yeah, eating spam definitely tastes like home to me. Reminds me a lot of my mom and I'm just eating lunch with her. When my Dad’s not at home... Dad's not at home to judge us,

Ho: Girls gone wild with Spam.

Kaul: literally. Hahahaha. Yum!

(bassline joins in with the synthesiser melody)

Ho: History and nostalgia aside, Spam is definitely not healthy. No forcemeat is. No cured meat is! It’s processed meat out of a can, what do you expect! But it is undeniably delicious and that deliciousness has a place! Because even Rosh’s dad who was adamant on eating balanced meals sounds like he might finally be enjoying Spam, too…

Kaul: Now that my dad's retired and my mom and dad are at home together mum's just like, ‘Raj, ‘make spam!’ And then he'll just you know begrudgingly eat a bit. Um but I think I think he actually likes it but he's just pretending that he doesn't just out of principle.

(music fades out)

(warm, bright and full melody begins)

Ho: The truth is, my relationship with Spam has changed over the years. I am no longer built by Spam. It may be in my foundations, but the bricks are now consciously made up of less processed, less shelf-stable foods. My health has become a focus.

(drums join in the melody)

Ho: When I was first given Spam, I assumed it was to help me assimilate. Truthfully, I don't know if it was meant for me to feel like I had a foothold in white culture despite my Cantonese exterior, or if it was meant for the kids at school to see that I could fit in.

(music fades out)

Ho: Now, on the rare occasion that I eat Spam, I still think about my dad frying it up and shoving it in my schoolbag.

(sounds of the spam sandwich getting put in the flimsy sandwich bag)

(a dash of glitter sound effect)

(music from above returns)

Ho: The thing is, he offered it up to me because he thought it was tasty. There was never an explanation about where this dish came from. He didn't sit me on the counter and tell me about the history of Hong Kong, or about social or class structures. He didn't inject the dish with intention. He was just making me lunch. Quick. Easy. Satisfying.

Ho: As an adult, I’ve been going out of my way to investigate the food I grew up with. I want to find meaning, understand my roots and the conditions my parents grew up in. I found out for myself that fried spam sandwiches were part of a desire to eat like rich, British colonisers.

My dad didn’t think that way. He was time poor, we were poor-poor, and sometimes a sandwich is just a sandwich. So I can analyse Spam, trace back its history through a world war and American exceptionalism, fry up hot and spicy spam (which was a real breakthrough !) and I can talk to Spam aficionados but all this information keeps leading me to the same conclusion: Spam was and always will be delicious. And I'll keep eating it as long as I can... even if I have hereditary high blood pressure.

(music flourish and fade out)

(a bright dinner bell rings and reverberates)

(theme song: ‘Ylang Ylang’ by Rainbow Chan - inquisitive bassline begins)

Ho: Wanna raise your blood pressure? Stick around after the credits for a recipe on how to enjoy spam with minimal guilt and maximum satisfaction.



Beth Atkinson-Quinton: ​​Bad Taste is an SBS podcast. It’s hosted and produced by Jess Ho. Michelle Macklem is our executive producer. Our sound designer is Nicole Pingon. Our producer is Bez Zewdie (pr: Zo-Dare). Our editor is Zoe Tenannt.

And I’m Beth Atkinson Quinton the series producer.

Big thanks to our Spamily, the SBS team: Rachel Sibley, Caroline Gates, Joel Supple and mix engineer Max Gosford.

Our theme music is Ylang Ylang by Rainbow Chan.

Our stunning podcast art is by Joanna Hu.

Thanks to Nathan Lyons, Rosheen Kaul, Shopfront Arts Co-op, Helen Zaltzman and our masubi master Shirley Wang.

We’re back next week with more delicious and disgusting flavours, so make sure you follow BAD TASTE in your favourite podcast app so you get every episode delivered straight to your device. If you enjoyed the show and want to support us, hit the share button, reply all to your emails, retweet our tweets so you can spam every person you know.

(theme song: ‘Ylang Ylang’ by Rainbow Chan - clap clap and fades out)



(upbeat and fun recipe time song begins!)

Ho: And the recipe is fried spam and eggs on rice.

If you’re looking for a vegan alternative to Spam, omnipork are manufacturing a plant-based luncheon meat. Keep an eye out in your local grocer.

For this recipe, you’ll need rice- white, brown, sushi, multigrain- your preference, cooked the way you like.

An Egg

And, der, Spam.

Slice your spam into 1cm thick slices and set aside. Cook your rice, when it’s done and you’ve fluffed the rice, heat a pan and add your spam to it when the pan is cold. As it heats up, it will fry in it’s own fat. Flip the slices to crisp the other side and fry the egg, sunny side up, in the same pan. Add the cooked rice to a bowl and top with the fried slices of spam and egg and enjoy.

For the full recipe and instructions head to our website on SBS: sbs dot com dot au slash bad taste [ ]

(music fades out)

Ends


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