Home for the holidays. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Hot chocolate spiked with rum. And now Figgy Pudding Spam. Ho ho ho.

A friend sent me a Washington Post article about the Hormel Corporation’s limited edition Spam flavor. (“A hot dog fruitcake”) I was mildly intrigued. An odd choice, figgy pudding. We eat it, British-style fruit cake flambéed with brandy at Christmas but how many in the US do? And what’s that got to do with canned meat?


The Tasting

Monique Heller, a friend and neighbor, gamely agreed to sample Figgy Pudding Spam, which we did this week. We ate it sliced and roasted following directions on the can. And grilled over a wood fire. (That produced better results and became our preferred cooking technique.)

Orange, clove and cinnamon notes overlay a bland and greasy paste.  No discernible pork or ham flavor. Not even the promised hot dog taste. I found it somewhat inoffensive and worthless.  Charlie and Monique gave it a strong blechhhh.


When Charlie was growing up, his mom prepared little Spam roasts garnished with cloves and pineapple. It was wartime and the pork and ham loaf didn’t require ration cards to purchase.  Spam launched in 1937 as a way to market pork shoulder, which was then an underutilized cut. (And probably other pig parts.) Spam sustained armies all over the world and entered the cuisines of Guam, Hawaii, the Philippines and other Asian countries as well as Britain and Latin America. And the US too of course. It’s been mocked, derided, immortalized and adored.

In my grammar school, the lunch ladies served fat Spam fingers that were rosy pink and crispy on the outside. They made the canned spinach served with them almost palatable but never the rank watery boiled potatoes. (After one such lunch, I told Sister Agatha I was allergic to potatoes.) I don’t hold any special nostalgia for spam, but I do remember the taste.  It was slightly sweet with definite pork notes along with a strong clove and pepper taste.

Marketing teams love new flavors. They create buzz and sell foods by the truckload. But who the heck thought up this one? Wasabi Oreos and pumpkin spice hummus I get.

Walk the aisles of Whole Foods or Walmart and you’ll find flavorings on most labels. Ketchup? Salad dressing? Even premium brands of jams and jellies rely on “natural flavors” to give fresh-picked strawberry flavor for the shelf life of the product. All those plant-based milks are packed with flavoring. Mustards and hot spicy condiments will ever need artificial flavorings. But most everything we consumer is enhanced with them. The dark arts you ask? Flavorings make things palatable, which is important in bottle of Pepto Bismol. But flavorings, fat, sugar and starch = junk food. They keep you coming back to eat more. In the biz it’s called cravability or the Dorito Effect.

The Verdict

Figgy Pudding Spam? Adventuresome types might like to baste it with a spicy glaze and roast the Dicken’s out of it. But we’ll give it a definite NO. Skip this one unless you’re a true Spam-Head.

Kitchen Notebook

This is one among occasional “I tried it, so you don’t have to” field reports. (Canned cheeseburgers and dried beef among them.) Next up Underwood Deviled Ham and Chicken, Chaat Masala Popcorn and Mexican Street Corn Pringles.