User post: Spam: It's What's For Dinner. No, Really.

Today I'm going to talk about Spam. I'm not talking about the kind in your mailbox, I'm talking about the canned meat.

Hey, where'd everybody go?

Now that everyone, save for a few adventurous souls and the Asians, have left the room let me tell you about one of my favorite family traditions, Spam musubi, (pronounced moo-soo-bee), a kind of sushi concoction made out of spam, rice and seaweed.

Hey look - now only the Asians are still here.

Sure, being Japanese-American, it's kind of expected that my family tradition would be along the lines of a complex fish recipe handed down to me from my grandmother and featuring eyeballs and fins, or some sort of elegant cake concoction made from the delicate leaves of a young cherry blossom tree. Ideally it would be something that was created by my ancestors and whose ingredients were painstakingly written down on a piece of parchment and residing in an antique carved wooden box that smells like memories.

Instead, it's a meat of questionable origin, plopped out of a rectangular can along with it's glistening, quivering coating of gelatin. Then it's sliced, sauteed and sandwiched between some rice and wrapped in seaweed. It doesn't so much smell like memories as like ham.

Here, see for yourself:

More than a tradition, it's a constant presence whenever my huge family of 25 gets together. Unlike my mom's lime-green jello that only makes an appearance at Thanksgiving, Spam musubi shows up at birthday parties, Christmas dinner, picnics, graduation celebrations and Easter brunch. Usually my mom makes a platter of Spam musubi, but since its recipe is universal anyone can step in and whip up a batch. Unlike other more glamorous, gourmet holiday dishes, sister-in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles all possess the culinary skill to bring these beauties to the table. Take that, white-truffle-oil fingerling potatoes.

(It's not just my family tradition - Spam musubi can be found at many Japanese restaurants and all over Hawaii, where they even sell them at 7-11. Being able to walk into a convenience store and pick up a Spam musubi and a Big Gulp might just be the best reason I've ever heard for moving to Maui.)

So if you're ever lucky enough to be at one of my family gatherings, look past the turkey or the Easter ham or the platter of sandwiches and find the Tupperware filled with Spam musubi. Now there's a dish steeped in tradition. And gelatin.

Related posts on questionable food and tradition:

Thanksgiving Recipes: The Unwavering And The Unforgivable
(Hello, lime green Jell-O)

As Thanksgiving Traditions Go, This One's A Gamble (Bingo, anyone?)

Losing My Tradition (Advent calendar FAIL)

Christmas Comes Just Once A Year, THANK GOD (Telling your kid about Santa? Read this first.)