Saturday, February 1, 2014

Expressing Love, with Spam

Nothing says “Happy New Year” like it.

In America, it’s either food for the underprivileged, or a damn fine door stopper. Not so in South Korea. Spam (the pork shoulder kind, not the unwanted email ads for Viagra) has held a special place in Korea’s culinary history for the past sixty years. In the years of privation during and following the Korean War, Spam was a luxury – tasty and safe meat that American GIs brought to Korean shores. And despite the country’s rise to the world’s first world elite over the ensuing decades, Spam's status symbol has been surprisingly robust. During the Lunar New Year celebrations, it is often encased in smart-looking boxes, sometimes alongside expensive wine or other meats. It is a well-received gift, one that can be assured of being consumed with relish (or following common Korean culinary practices, stir-fried with sour kimchee or stewed with instant noodles).
Korea’s love of the stuff has made it the second biggest market in the world for the telltale blue and pink tins. In a world of ever-elevating standards of status, it’s good to know that some humble things can hold their own. What, still don’t like Spam? Don’t knock it until you try it, at least in Korea. 

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