I’m irrational about many things, but nothing more than the meats I will or won’t eat.
I don’t know how this happened, but I’d venture it was my father’s influence.
The story about his overindulging in corned beef and pastrami and then having his gall bladder removed is legendary. It might have led to my phobia.
But I suspect it was the story of those pork chops frying in the Albany, N.Y., boarding house where he stayed. The tale about how the pungent aroma made him nauseous was told so often it became part of family lore, and that affected me, as well.
In and of itself, the aroma of frying pork chops is harmless unless it enters the nostrils of a young, sheltered tax investigator who worked for New York State’s equivalent of the IRS.
I should add that this particular investigator, my father, happened to be Jewish, came from the Lower East Side, was sheltered by his immigrant parents and, I assume, had never encountered pork chops before – in or out of a frying pan, in or out of Albany, N.Y.
"Unfamiliar" is the key word, i.e. things he hadn’t experienced personally, and I guess it was the ethnic coccoon from which he emerged that colored the experience. Either that, or the meat was rancid and you can throw my whole theory out the window.
But I don’t think so.
I’m like my father about meats, and you can ask my wife if you don’t believe me.
She makes a hearty Crock-Pot soup that’s cooked with something called turkey sausage. In my mind, if you’re going to eat sausage, there are just two kinds: Italian sausage, which you put on pizza, and Polish sausage, which should taste exactly like a New York-style, all-beef, Kosher hot dog.
My rigidity isn’t negotiable, but neither is my wife’s. So the turkey sausage goes into the soup and I take out every little piece.
I’m as picky about deli meats and packaged meats, and I won’t eat any kind of ham. I do like bacon (just as my father would eat bacon, crisp), and I will eat the aforementioned Italian sausage, and Chinese barbecued pork.
I could blame this all on my father or what I was exposed to growing up; I could blame it on genetics, culture, religion or a million other things.
But I choose to laugh at it.
The issue presented itself while I was permanently deleting email from my G-mail spam folder. I noticed that a marketing genius was including links to Spam recipes at the top of the page. Spam and spam. Brilliant.
I just opened the page and the link that appeared was for Spam Quiche.
I’ve also seen links to recipes for Spam Skillet Casserole, Spam Vegetable Strudel, Spam Hash Brown Bake, Vineyard Spam Salad and Spam Primavera, Spam Confetti Pasta, Savory Spam Crescents and Spam Imperial Tortilla Sandwiches.
I’ve learned that Spam was served to American troops during World War II because it kept so well, and it’s still very popular in Hawaii, where it was imported during the war. Lots of people like it (”Spam is awesome!” an online commenter named OldManDeath wrote. “I have it every Sunday for breakfast.”)
There’s about as much chance of me eating Spam as there is of my father coming back to life to order pork chops. For one thing, it’s packed in this gooey gelatin. For another, it’s made from pork shoulder and ham, and you know I don’t eat ham.
My “out,” as if I needed one, is that it’s preserved with nitrites. They’re supposed to give me migraine headaches and the only exception I make is when they preserve Kosher hot dogs. That’s my position and I’m sticking to it, however irrational.
When I click the “delete forever” button in my spam account, I get the inspirational “Hooray, no spam here!” message. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Have a thought about Spam? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.