Winston Churchill once said, “I’m fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals”. Puerto Ricans tend to like pigs, particularly as a slow-roasted pork dish. I am Puerto Rican. Therefore, I love pork. See, I aced my LSATs (syllogisms galore standardized test for law school). Indeed, I do love pork. I like it guisado (stewed), fried, chunked, pulled, and battered. Ok, I think I made up that last one, but one must show solidarity with Paula Deen. Evidently, I am just one of millions that celebrate the gastronomic joy of eating pork, as it is is one of the most commonly consumed meats worldwide with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC. Back in the 19th century, a barrel of salt pork served as a measure of the family’s financial well-being. I can get behind that concept. Can I take that to the bank? Perhaps then they wouldn’t go bankrupt, or rather become too big to fail thus needing my middle-class self to bail them out. Anyway, prosciutto, bacon, ham, ribs, and chorizo warm my belly on any cold day.
While millions consume pork on a daily basis, not all share the love. Besides certain worldwide religious restrictions against pork there are also a lot of general misconceptions about pork contributing to the public’s somewhat love/hate relationship with pork. Pigs don’t sweat. No sweat glands at all. Consequently, they get really hot, really easily. That’s why pigs spend a lot of time rolling around in nice, cool mud. Many will thus remind you that pigs are a dirty animal and that they are scavengers. Pigs are actually rather fastidiously clean, their rep for dirtiness having a lot to do with their frequent mud baths. Of course, you’re probably familiar with H1N1, better known as ‘the swine flu” thus furthering the perception of pork being unhealthy. There are even those that argue that Mozart died suddenly at the age of 35 because of pork. So, as you can see pork is often a contentious subject at the dinner table. I am not here to argue the health merits of pork. I like it. I find it tasty. To each their own. Because of such contentiousness back in 1987 there was a national campaign put in place by the National Pork Board to label pork the other white meat in order to make it seem healthier to the public. The campaign was highly successful and resulted in 87% of consumers identifying pork with the slogan. Because of its success that campaign was retired in 2011.
I’ll tell you which pork is truly bad and unhealthy for our public well-being. If only we could get rid of our United States’ pork-laden congressional bills. Apparently, pork is also used as a derogatory political term in other countries. For example, in Scandinavia there is a term that translates as “election pork” that is used to describe a politician’s pre-election empty promises (those promises they make with little intention of fulfilling them). It is so not cool that such a wonderful food item is used to describe shady politics. Well, again, that’s the only bad pork there is.
Ah, wait a minute there is one other type of pork that I am not too fond of but my mom couldn’t get enough of: Spam! Spam, if you don’t know, is a canned precooked pink meat product very high in sodium nitrates (meat-processing chemical) and sold at relatively low cost. Basically, Spam is simply processed and cooked pork shoulder and ham preserved in a can. The residents of the state of Hawaii consume the most Spam per capita in the United States. So much so, that both McDonalds and Burger King have spam on their menus there and there are spam varieties not seen on the mainland of the United States such as Honey Spam, Spam with Bacon, and Hot and Spicy Spam. I knew there was a reason I loved Hawaii (besides the 99 cent Mai Tais available at 9am). What’s cool is that my mom would have loved living in Hawaii. She wouldn’t have cared for the sun and heat. She probably would not have cared for how far away it was from the mainland. Nor would she have cared for the high price of toilet paper. But she would have cared to live in Hawaii for two things: Don Ho and his tiny bubbles and Spam.
My mom loved spam and she tried to pass that love onto me, but I was a vegetarian at a very early age and remained one until my mid-20s. So, I never really had the pleasure of sharing a spam meal with my mom. As a low-cost food made ostensibly out of pork, it made sense to me that my mom liked it. Oddly enough, Spam’s Hispanic market share is not that grand and as a result in 2006 the company released its first ever Spanish language ad targeting Hispanics. Thus, my mom’s love of spam was not a cultural Hispanic thing. For my mom, her love of Spam may have been a Brooklyn in the ‘60s thing where all cultures mixed at the factory and spam was brought back by the soldiers.
So, on this Mother’s Day, here is to pork. Mom is probably enjoying some spam in the sky watching her favorite telenovela and I will go get some pulled pork at the fair.
Some websites for inspiration:
Have you caught the glorious tower of spam at http://www.spam.com/
Have a hankering for a spam-filled breakfast: http://www.spam.com/recipes/Breakfast