Sunday, May 28, 2006

SPAM and Eggs

     Until recently, if you mentioned SPAM, my mind would immediately shift to the Monty Python’s SPAM Sketch.  But this changed a few weeks ago, when I met my mother and father at a Holiday House for lunch.  On the buffet, amidst other dishes recognizable and unrecognizable, was a container of stewed prunes.  

     “I ate so many prunes in the Service that, when I got out, I told your mother I’d never eat a prune again,” my father remarked with a laugh.  “And I haven’t eaten many!”

     My father never talked much about his time in the military when we were growing up, but now that he is nearing 82, he will share his memories from time to time.  My father was a Naval Hospital Corpsman (HMC).  He retired from the Navy after having served in both WWII and Korea.

     As we ate our lunch, Dad shared a few of his memories with me and my four children.  Another dish that was apparently as ubiquitous as prunes was SPAM.  

     “Fatty stuff – couldn’t stand it,” he grimaced.

     My father’s grandmother loved fat.  She would eat the fat others removed from their meat.  Great Grandmother also made the best noodles on the planet – so good that my older brother once asked her to mail him some!  She kept a box of chocolate-covered cherries in her bureau drawer.  On our visits, she would sit me in her ample lap and share a precious morsel.  She lived to be nearly 100 years old.  My father loved his grandmother dearly -- but he doesn’t share her love of fat.

     Fatty or not, SPAM was extremely helpful in preventing starvation among British and Soviet troops and civilians in WWII.  However, my father and many of the soldiers on Guadalcanal might disagree with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who called SPAM a “war-time delicacy.”  My father described an incident when a Japanese plane bombed the supply depot – destroying their store of SPAM.

     “We all cheered!” he chuckled.

     I pictured my father and his fellow Skeeter Beaters, brave young men, standing in the suffocating heat so far away from home, applauding the demise of the hated tins of luncheon meat.  At that moment, those men seemed connected with all the other soldiers, past and present, who sacrifice not only their comfort, but risk life and limb to keep our nation free, and I was humbled by their sacrifice.

     Our meal progressed, and the discussion of war-time foods did as well.  After SPAM, there came the dehydrated foods, including powdered eggs.  My father said he used to carry a bottle of Tabasco Sauce with him in his pocket.  

     “It was the only way I could stomach those eggs.”

       Growing up, our kitchen never lacked Tabasco Sauce, and the pantry never held SPAM.  My husband and our four children like SPAM.  Maybe I’ve picked up an instinctive dislike for the stuff.  But I think I will always be happy to see SPAM, because from now on, when I see a can of SPAM, I will think of my father and the brave Allied soldiers of World War II.

1 comment:

Zoe Brain said...

I'm a stranger on the other side of the planet. Stranger than most too. Maybe even one you wouldn't care to know, or approve of.

Please thanks your Father for what he and so many others did. Thanks from me, and thanks for giving my little son the opportunity to grow up in a society where freedom is not just a word, but a way of life.

All the best, Zoe