Thursday, May 13, 2010

Recipes for disaster

It's been more than a year now, according to the uncannily accurate archiving system at Bath Chronicle Towers, that this column/blog/whatever touched on the pink and meaty subject of SPAM®.

And from the capital letters, and the nifty little R in a circle, which it took the best brains in the IT department two and a half hours to find, you can no doubt tell that we're not talking here about Unsolicited Commercial Emails.

No, this is the real deal – 90 per cent pork, enrobed in clear salty jelly, and no less sustaining than it was in the dark days of World War II, when the Allied armies marched resolutely to the fray on nothing more than a bellyful, and whole families survived for weeks on SPAM® fritters, a few turnips and a dubious fish called the snoek.

(The snoek probably deserves a column all of its own, but it's not going to get one. Suffice it to say that it rhymes with "snook" and could either be a pike, a perch or a moray eel. And you'd only want to eat one in times of dire national emergency. Like in about six months' time.)

Anyway, Mrs D came back from a shopping expedition the other day with a reminder that SPAM® is now and forever shall be with us, in the shape of SPAM®: The Cookbook by Marguerite Patten.

And as often when there's the slightest suggestion that impulse buying might be involved, she deflected any criticism by claiming to have "got it in a charity shop".

We'll let that one ride.

Now, the Dixon household prides itself on culinary eclecticism and adventurousness, but this cookbook really does take the biscuit.

It includes recipes for such delicacies as Chicken Cordon Bleu (boneless breast stuffed with SPAM®); SPAM® Slippers (aforesaid luncheon meat, chopped and spread on a roasted aubergine); SPAM® Steaks in Port Wine (what it says on the tin); and Penny-Wise Paella (SPAM® with budget ingredients like peeled prawns, mussels on half shells and saffron, which the fragrant Marguerite admits is the "most expensive spice in the world".)

There are many more recipes, but what ultimately persuades you that none of them should be tried out for real is the SPAM® Porcupine.

Perhaps in recognition of the savoury luncheon meat's wartime heritage, it looks like one of those mines with prongs sticking out that you see at the seaside converted into a charity collecting box.

The body of the mine is a raw cabbage, or a grapefruit if you're feeling adventurous. The prongs are cocktail sticks. And onto the prongs are stuck alternating lumps of gherkin, pineapple, avocado, cocktail onions, glacĂ© cherries, and – yes, you guessed it. That meat.

Heston Blumenthal, look to your laurels. Jamie Oliver, eat your heart out. We have seen the future, and it is SPAM®.

We won't be using the cookbook any time soon. But if we decide to enter Masterchef, we'll know where to turn for inspiration.

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