Thursday, October 2, 2008

#50 Spam

Korean Moms everywhere love Spam. Sure, it is a chunk of pink mystery meat, but she does not care. The only mystery she cares about is where in the world you hid your report card. A Korean Mom may outwardly pretend she does not like Spam, but deep inside, her heart goes all a-flutter every time she spots that blue and yellow can of oily goodness. It calls to her from the supermarket aisles like porn calls to teenage boys. Yes, spam is like canned porn. It is so bad for you, yet so very good. No matter how awful it is, Korean Moms cannot tear themselves away from Spam's congealed goodness. Spam for a Korean Mom is what the comb over is for John McCain. It is hideous, in fact, you can't stop wondering why it looks like that, but you can't imagine it any other way.

Korean Moms often go through periods of Spam greed. Like meth or crack addicts they can never get enough. My Korean Mom once threw so much Spam into her shopping cart she actually became embarrassed and elected to put one can back to look less conspicuous. 10 cans of Spam is not crazy, 11 cans and you might as well be stocking a bomb shelter.
Do not ever tell a Korean Mom that you do not like her Spam inspired dish. If you do, somehow it will end up being all your fault. It is always your fault. The Spam is too salty? It's your fault for not eating it with enough rice. Spam gives you cancer? It's your fault for not going to medical school to discover the cure. You can never win.
Do not ever make her choose between the Spam and you. Sadly, she will always choose the Spam. Spam has always been there for her, it is always the same, if unopened, it will last forever. Sometimes it even has the courtesy to go on sale. It gives back. You on the other hand, after 15 years of piano lessons, can only play 'heart and soul'. Shame on you.

ps- Yes, I too heart Spam.

44 comments:

Shin said...

One can never forget the disappointment (and yet... strange joy) of discovering that a favorite Korean dish has been made with spam. It's sometimes to the point where you think that Kimchee Chigae or Curry Rice were originally made with spam instead of other, non-mystery meats!

shri ramesh sadasivam said...

Nice and funny. Keep them coming.

AmyJean said...

I too love spam... with anything and everything :)

ngf said...

spam is like bacon in a can...great to eat and cook with...join the spam subculture...

anyone remember the hawaii episode of no reservations with anthony bourdain?...there was a restaurant with all these spam dishes...

missfernie said...

i've never been to hawaii but i really want to go - and not for the beaches or the scenery or the natural beauty of the place but just because of their obsession for spam!!

queenbae said...

u never fail to crack me up.
canned porn--now that's a first.
mar would LOVE that.
forward to him.

Pearl said...

"Spam gives you cancer? It's your fault for not going to medical school to discover the cure."

LOL damn! this post was hilarious, great job, and I sensed it coming! Spam in jjigae seems to be all the rage among the k-mom circles these days... I do like it, except when they straight-up put a huge fatty slab of spam in my jjigae and then I have to figure out how I should approach it without dying of a sodium overdose.

Anonymous said...

For a second I thought I had a good abbreviation for Korean mom, Ko-Mo. But for obvious reasons, I realized (yes, after a second) the problem.

I'm new to this site and I apologize as this may have already come up.

Oh yeah, I love the site!! Keep on keepin' on.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAAAA! Please keep with your posts they are so spot on it's scary! :)

mrs m said...

spam kim bap... the best. spam in everything... *sigh* spam is wonderful.

Kwan said...

Kim chee Spam fried rice!!!!

You should see the kmom-for-alls at the spam isle when theres a buy two get one free day.

Anonymous said...

Spam, before it was legal to import into Korea for ordinary Koreans to buy, was the #1 most blackmarketed item from GI post exchanges.

Other hot black market items (these were actually rationed, you could only buy so much a month) Flex shampoo, Tang, Taster's Choice coffee, raisins, japanese sesame oil, ox tails (the Yongsan PX still sells more ox-tails retail than any other outlet on earth), Maalox, black pepper, nasty hot dogs (the other critical ingredient for budaegogi jjigae), and lastly, Kent cigarettes.

Anonymous said...

Ah ha!!!! No wonder my mom stocked up on Flex shampoo and Taster's Choice INSTANT coffee when we went to Korea last month! It all makes sense to me now...I kept telling her that it is the 21st century now and that Taster's Choice MUST BE available in Korea (IT IS) but *tsk tsk* I was wrong about the Flex. In fact, Flex is hard to find here in the US...my mom scoured over 10 different stores (Walmart, Target, various grocery stores, & the PX!!!) before she found the precious Flex!

Anonymous said...

kent cigarettes, omg, too funny. i'm hooked on this site

dreams2ashes said...

"The only mystery she cares about is where in the world you hid your report card."

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! i love ur anecdotes too omg lol ahahahhahaa

Anonymous said...

I've recently rediscovered my love for Spam. I have been making Spam musubi for my hapa son who really does not know the true joy that is Korean and Korean-type food.

Dory said...

I am from Hawaii and have grown to love spam. And true 10 isn't crazy but 11 is. Also, it is like porn. Something you should look at or like but you do. Yes. Mmmm... spam, eggs, and rice.

And the best Korean food in Hawaii are at Korean bars. Now there's some women you don't want to get stink eye from!
[Just say everything is ono! (Delicious) Because it is!]

Anonymous said...

Yes, the precious Flex shampoo was a hot item. You were allowed to buy one 8-ounce bottle a month. Almost all of it went out the front gate of the military post, into the Korean black market. Korean shampoo at that time was pretty harsh stuff, good for restoring your head to its original finish. The only alternative was Japanese shampoo, smuggled in through Pusan, but this was even more expensive.

As an elderly Korean-American GI, (married to a Korean Mom) it does crack me up to realize how much Korea has changed in just 30 years. And how little the younger generation realizes how scarce things used to be in Korea. It might go a long way in helping understand some of the geezer's strange cravings. For things like...Spam!

A similar Korean Mom fascination might be noted for bananas. These were not widely imported into Korea until the early 1990's. Prior to that, they could be found only on the black market (from the GI commissary) for as much as $4 a piece. An unheard-of luxury.

Another weird item that gained brand loyalty through the black market: Kraft American Cheese slices. They go hand-in-hand with Spam as vanguard products of American goormay cuisine in Korea. Maybe some other bells will ring when you read this, suddenly realizing where mom developed a fascination with this putty-like flat substance.

And then there's the mayonnaise...

Anonymous said...

Hehe I love this site.
So funny, and even though my family and I are Japanese, I still see resemblances!

And I too love Spam, it just seems to be in everything good! Mmm spam/eggs/rice combo is HEAVEN.

Keep up the good work Chiyo!!

-J

Anonymous said...

love spam and love your blog.... but i am sad to see recently deceased(heart attack) Tim Russert in the picture.

bokumbop said...

Spam!! It's like a crazy alternate universe caviar. How can something so readily accessible be so coveted? There was always something hideously satisfying about opening that can, wiggling out the suction, and smearing off that layer of fat. Fry it up! With bbap and egg.

pandy said...

When I was in Korea, I saw a gift package of Spam being sold. It came in a satin-lined box, with other Hormel goodies.

I'll bet any Korean mom who gets that doesn't re-gift it! Ha ha.

Re: Flex shampoo. I think it's discontinued. I saw some at a 99-cent store. It's probably like 20 years old and will make your hair fall out.

Anonymous said...

Believe me when I tell you that Flex was the stuff back then.

The funniest thing was that the military police were always trying to bust GI's for black marketing.

I remember opening up a copy of Stars & Stripes (the military newspaper) and seeing the headline "MP's Bust Tongducheon Flex Ring!". Sad, because these guys got court martialed for making a few bucks off some shampoo.

Su Won said...

I was visiting my relatives in Korea way back when I was active duty. My aunt and uncle drove me from Seoul to Osan so I can catch my flight back to my base in Japan. As a thank you, I offered to buy them whatever they want from the commissary. I was thinking they'd want some steaks, some cream cheese or Kraft singles, maybe some Dom Perignon...

All they wanted was Spam, Vitalis hair tonic, and a gallon of skim milk for my cousin. Oh the shame on my face for loading 10 cans of spam on the checkout line...

Ivy said...

A Japanese mother asks for every report card, even ones that don't exist. 'Where's your Latin report?' 'I don't do Latin.' 'Why? You got kicked out? Show me now!'

Anonymous said...

I too confess a love for spam. For me straight up, pan fried. Crispy fried outside, salty soft inside... I think I'm feeling inspired to go shopping.

As for the Spam gifts sets in Korea, that's for real. My husband used to get a kick out of seeing the yellow satin-lined beribboned boxes of Spam in all the high-end department stores (right next to the gift boxed olive oil and strings of gul-bi) right in time for Chusok (Korean thanksgiving) or New Year's.

Anonymous said...

suggestion for another post- cut fruit! it's amazing how much korean daughters' worth is judged upon how well you can/can't cut fruit. extra daughter-in-law points if you can make your apple slices look like rabbits!

Anonymous said...

awesome blog. keep em coming. i love this more than the stuff white ppl love blog now!!! represent. 8)

just wanted to add some more stuff KMs love for future bog posts:

1) guilt trips
2) the 1988 Seoul Olympics (yes, my mom still talks about it to this day)
3) toothpicks (and using them at the table not so stealthily)
4) zorries (those $2 plastic thong sandals - see #6)
5) PANADOL and/or Tiger Balm (im pretty sure it's basically a sugar capsule and vaseline with mentholatum respectively yet it seems to cure any/all ailments)
6) muu-muus a/k/a "home dress" (they're not just for fat people anymore - put on some neh-bok, with some SAS socks and a pair of zorries and you're rocking the latest in KM attire)

ok, that's all i can think of for now. :) nuh-moo jeh-mee-suh!!!

Lil said...

I hated Spam until I had it heavily fried and then I fell in love. =) As I type this I am eating Spam fried rice. Yum! Nothing like it!

What about plastic surgery Chiyo?

Also the topic of getting all of your moles and freckles lasered off! I had a lady tell me (I am a white American) that I had to have my moles lasered! I asked why I had to do that (I am quite fond of my model-like beaty mark and believe it gives me great character) and she said that any blemish on your face is unsightly!

HUH???

Pajeon Princess said...

laughing my arse off!

Clammy said...

Korea is the number 2 consumer of spam in the world. Nikita Khrushchev himself said that spam saved the russian army during WWII. Spam has a long proud history and is awesome! I think the cure to the worlds food problems is not more grain... it's SPAM! Spam and twinkies... neither ever go bad!

Anonymous said...

cho-tah!!

Ronnie said...

I like fried spam on nooreunbap, especially when camping.

Anonymous said...

My mom used to make us Spam breakfast sandwiches - toast, spam, fried egg. Oh man - I'm jonesin'.

mikekimchi said...

Ivy...you're crackin' me up!

I'm KA (could you tell from my name?) and I grew up in Hawaii till I was eight. Needless to say, I LOVE SPAM!!! Funny that kimchi jjigae was mentioned...I didn't know you could make it with other meats, and Spam was not in fact an original part of the recipe till I moved to California! The first time I had it with regular pork, I asked the ah-ju-mah, "Spam obb-so-suh-yo? (There wasn't any Spam?)" She looked at me and laughed with my parents, then gave me a bit of stink eye from the corner. She thought she was stealthy, but I saw it. I wanted to cry a little. HAHA!

Thanks for this blog, Chiyo. And thanks to everyone's comments for crackin' my ass even more.

Just a couple of random things to put out there...

Does anyone else's Korean (or any other) Mom tell you that you need to lose weight as she's putting 10 more pieces of kalbi on your plate? Of course, it's followed by more weight comments during dessert while she gives you the largest slice of whatever you're having, and continues on while she's packing you bags of said foods to take home with you?

And speaking of packing food to take home with you, my mom (and even sister, who's also a Korean Mom) use me as their recycling center. Even if I stop by unannounced, I end up leaving with bags of things that they want me to have (i.e., they don't want anymore). I literally have to run out the door if I don't want to take anything with me. This results in a resounding "Tch...Yah! Aigoo!" as they try to push it at me while getting into my car. I know...I'm a bad son/brother for not accepting their "gifts" with open arms. Memm meh for me!

MBALADY said...

yes, true true!

Anonymous said...

I love spam, rice and kim chee! My KM used to make this for me all the time saying that spam was healthy.

suz said...

great post! :o)

John Ji said...

spam and ox tail soup is something i eat on a regular basis but my wife who grew up in korea doesn't really like spam for some reason, but i ask for it all the time, think she's getting the message. spam, shin namyun, kimchi and bap is all you need. nice hang out place to reminisce about your younger days. great blog.

Grace said...

My Korean Mom declares that spam is soooo bad for you...but then puts it religiously into her Budae jjigae, kimchi fried rice and kimbab and various other dishes...
...just a little never hurt anyone...YET.

Karina said...

Flex shampoo is sold here in Mexico. It's cheap and for some reason, I think it's smells like bananas.

Jansy said...

We recently visited relatives in Gyeongju, and my mom's parting gift to her sister was a case of SPAM!

Anonymous said...

I love this blog. SOOOO happy to have found it, now I know I'm not alone. Yes, I have a KM and yes, she is a KM through and through, except for the spam obsession. For some weird reason, my mom was never into spam, but then again, this could be my mom's big secret.

I would love to see a post about the "sigh" and how that sigh can evoke the worst possible guilt trip. You know what I'm talking about right? That sigh that says "I want to die, right now, I have no reason to live bc you have failed me" and how you are the reason for this death wish. Because it's your fault.

KMs can convey a lot with bare minimal word usage. A lot can be said by a look, a well placed sigh...

Anonymous said...

I love spam thanks to my KM!
I never knew it was mystery meat until my friends told me. Somehow my KM made it seem like the most normal thing to put in every meal.