This article appeared in the South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine
Every so often one hears scare stories about rising grain prices, food going short and the likelihood that soon we will all be stabbing one another in the throat in the clamour to nail down a rat for supper. All nonsense, of course: food was never cheaper or more abundant than in our own gilded age of biotech and agronomy. Which makes the continued presence of Spam, and its room-mate in the fraternity of indeterminate victuals, luncheon meat, on shop shelves and in Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng restaurants (out in the open for all to see), a confounding facet of modern life.
As with many other things, Hongkongers acquired their taste for this most dubious of substances from the British. The irony is that while doubtless it still goes on, very few people in Britain will confess to eating it nowadays: its street cred just never recovered from being the butt of a Monty Python skit in the 1970s.
Previous to that, British children were commonly force-fed “Spam fritters”, a deep-fried preparation regarded for decades as being essential to their well-being. It was later established, however, that there is more salt in a tin of Spam than nutritionists recommend you should eat in a month.
What else it contains is more of a mystery. Many of us no doubt blithely consume lung and testicle when it is in pate or sausage meat – but then such foods are often delicious. Spam, by comparison, tastes of not very much; boiled tile grouting, perhaps. It is also said it will remain edible inside the can for up to a century. A nice rat might not be such a bad idea after all.