In a conversation earlier this week with a friend I mentioned the word Spam, as in, "Have you used up your supply of Spam that you said you might make use of during the pandemic?"
There was a person in his 30s nearby, not trying very hard not to listen in on our conversation. He asked, "Do you have that on your computer too?"
My friend and I looked at each other, began laughing, and were going to explain because the person who had been listening to our conversation looked hurt, thinking maybe we were laughing at him. We were.
He couldn't help it and we told him that. He had grown up in a world where spam — unsolicited messages on a computer, or junk email — was the norm, not Spam, a pork meat product that some say got its name because it stood for "specially processed American meat."
Our listener looked confused at that point so we told him a little more about Spam, a product that was invented at Hormel in Austin, Minn., 83 years ago and then became popular a few years later during World War II when, according to a Star Tribune story last Sunday, 100 million cans of it were shipped throughout the world.
He still looked confused so we explained a little more, armed with extra knowledge after reading that story on Sunday. Spam includes pork shoulder that is mixed with ground ham, we told him, plus a bunch of other other ingredients like salt and sodium nitrate. (He made a face at that point.) We told him it's available in 44 countries and that Hormel has sold billions and billions of cases of Spam. And, just to explain the endurance of Spam, we mentioned that if all those cans of Spam were stacked end to end, they would go around Earth 19 times.
By now our new younger friend was trying to slowly edge away. We prevailed upon him to listen a little longer and told him some of the uses of Spam, other than just frying it up in a pan as part of a meal. We mentioned that it could be used in scrambled eggs, in hot dish, or eaten cold out of the can as some do (it's already cooked), although that's something I have never done and likely never will. And then there's Spam fried rice, we told him, a dish with rice, onions, red bell peppers, carrots, peas, a couple eggs, a quarter cup of wine and a bunch of spices. Or you could throw in asparagus and maybe a thawed bag of frozen vegetables.
"It sounds horrible," was his comment. "And I don't know how healthy Spam is."
"Well," I answered, "It's very popular in Hawaii where musubi (grilled Spam, rice and nori — edible seaweed, said to be very healthy) is a staple. Hawaiians consume 7 million cans of Spam a year and you know the life expectancy there is about four years more than the average of the rest of the United States."
Our listener was on the run by now but thanked us for the information. "You should try it," I said, my voice trailing off as he was in his car and headed out of the parking lot.
I had just eaten some fried Spam a couple days earlier, a newer version that includes bacon, and included hash browns and broccoli with the meal. But I didn't know until I read the story on Sunday that there are now 16 varieties of Spam, including some with less sodium, and novelty flavors with jalapeño, teriyaki and garlic. I guess they even have a pumpkin spice flavor. But, no thanks, I like my Spam to taste like Spam.
If you're a ham and pineapple pizza person (I'm not) you can make it with Spam, pineapple, red onion slices, chopped green pepper and provolone cheese. They tell me Hormel's website has all kinds of Spam recipes.
People have poked fun at Spam for decades. Be that as it may, Spam is in the midst of record sales, according to a secondary headline in Rick Nelson's story in the Star Tribune. Nelson, a master at informing people about different foods, put it like this: "Think of it this way," he wrote. "If a recipe calls for ham, then it might be successful with Spam. Scalloped potatoes. Strata. Pizza. And definitely fried rice."
Hey, I didn't say it was health food, I had told the interloper to our private conversation. I just happen to like it. I've got a couple more cans in the cupboard that I bought when it was on special and I'll figure something out over the weekend — maybe a little potatoes au gratin with veggies thrown in and cheese on top for a hot dish (casserole if you don't live in Minnesota). I think the pandemic has us trying different things, being more creative as we find ways to make the days go by.
Hope to see our listener again and ask him if he has tried Spam. He'll probably want to talk about the spam on his computer.
PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES
May 6, 1965 - Gordy Meyer won the 220 and long jump as Princeton placed second in the third annual Princeton Invitational. He was second in the 100 . . . Russell Anderson was named manager of the Princeton town baseball team.
May 6, 1970 - In the first-ever game at Veterans Field (now Solheim Veterans Field) in Mark Park, Bob Soule threw a three-hit shutout as Princeton beat Mora 2-0. Jeff Howard had the first hit, a single off the third base bag, and his cousin, shortstop Jerry Bergeron, hit the first homer and scored both runs . . . In 38-degree weather Princeton won the 17-team Princeton Invitational as Mark Blaske ran a :22.9 220-yard dash.
May 7, 1975 - Trisha Reiman was named all-conference in volleyball . . . Pete Steinhagen struck out 10 in a 4-1 win over Elk River as Keith Julson drove in two runs.
May 8, 1980 - Princeton beat Foley and St. Francis in a triangular track meet as Tammy Simon, Robin Hayes, Lisa Herman and Kelly Auers had first places . . . Todd Dery led Princeton with an 81 and Russell Bohm had an 82 at the Elk River Golf Invitational.
May 9, 1985 - Trailing 7-4 in the sixth inning, the PHS baseball team rallied to beat Cambridge 8-7.Tim Vagle threw 160 pitches in going the distance for the win and Marco Voce had three hits . . . The boys golf team beat Chisago Lakes as Jay Perbix shot a 37 and Chris Williams a 38.
May 10, 1990 - Karla Kingsley and Bobbi Koelman were chosen to play for the Outstate team at the state high school all-star series . . . Princeton beat Foley in golf as Kathy Adair led the way with a 45.
May 11, 1995 - Winning pitchers were Norm Johnson, Mark Stay and Justin Priess as PHS beat Duluth Denfeld, Monticello and Minneapolis Edison to win the Tiger Baseball Classic . . . Troy Scheffel and Brian Dorr each drove in three runs as the Princeton Panthers beat Sartell 17-6. The Panthers also beat Sauk Rapids the same day as Dorr was 6-for-8 in the two games and Ryan Jensen was 4-for-6.
May 5, 2000 - Renee Bartz won the shot put, pole vault and triple jump at the Dawn Hurni Invitational in Princeton as the team was second. The boys team won over five teams as Perrin Werner won the shot put and discus, and Paul Gibbs won the 100 and 400 . . . The PHS baseball team beat Monticello 3-1 in the Tiger Classic but lost to Brainerd and Maple Grove. Corey Erickson hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to beat Monticello as P. J. Wiedewitsch went the distance for the win.
May 12, 2005 - Lee Dettmer, PHS softball coach for 17 years, resigned. He was also the wrestling coach from 1977 to 1987 . . . PHS grad Jenny Cartwright ended her tennis career at Division II North Dakota with a 13-6 record in singles as a senior and placed second in the North Central Conference tournament. She was 10-4 in doubles for the season and was on the winning doubles team in the NCC tournament.
May 6, 2010 - The PHS baseball team stretched its winning streak to six by beating Becker 6-1, Monticello 19-14 and Buffalo 3-0 as Brent Miodus pitched afive-hit shutout over Buffalo. The Tigers scored 10 runs in the first inning against Monticello . . . The boys track team was last in a triangular at St. Michael but Dylan Hass won both hurdle events and was second in the high jump.
May 7, 2015 - The PHS baseball team trailed 10-3 at Buffalo but rallied for a 13-11 win as Nick Zeroth and Joe Bernard homered. Zeroth drove in five runs . . . Tanner Palmborg won the 100, long jump and triple jump as PHS finished third in the Princeton Invitational.
(Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years) and has covered sports in the area for the past 53 years.)