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Saturday, 27 February 2016

Vintage Food Challenge: Spam


This post is the first in my Vintage Food Challenge series. 

Eating habits have changed dramatically throughout the ages, and I will be exploring recipes that have gone out of vogue in the modern era.

For my first food challenge, I'm going back to the austere years of the Second World War and early 1950s. Food was strictly rationed from 1939 to 1954, so housewives and cooks had to make the best of what they had. To combat the meat shortage, Spam became a household staple.



I'm not a fan of Spam, which is unsurprising for someone born in the mid-nineties. My only experience of it has been eating half a can while drunk on a camping trip when I was 18... However, I'm willing to give it a try. It can't be that bad, right?

Spam Fritters

I'm using the recipe from the official Spam website, which you can find here. I've had to adapt it slightly to match what rationed Brits would have used.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of Spam
  • A handful of fine breadcrumbs
  • 150g plain flour
  • 225ml cold water
  • Dripping for frying*

*During the war, lard or dripping was used as cooking fat. Vegetable oil was unheard of in cooking, and butter was tightly rationed. I managed to find a block of dripping in my local supermarket, but housewives would have salvaged theirs from cooked meat. 

Method:

Remove the spam from its can and slice it evenly. 

In a mixing bowl, add the flour and gradually whisk in the cold water until it creates a thick batter. Heat the dripping a frying pan.


Coat the spam slices in the batter, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, then fry in the hot dripping. Once all of the slices are battered and fried, drain on kitchen paper.


Spam fritters were eaten as an alternative to battered fish, so in true British seaside fashion I ate mine with chips and out of a newspaper cone!



Spam Hash

I'm basing this off a traditional corned beef hash recipe from BBC Good Food, which you can find here. Again, I'm adapting it based on rations. Luckily, potatoes and vegetables were not rationed and plentiful during this time period!

Ingredients:
  • 1 can spam
  • 200g mashed potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 can of baked beans
  • Dripping for frying
Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees/160 fan/gas mark 4. Boil and mash the potatoes (keep the skins on) and set aside. Finely chop the onion and the carrot and fry with a little dripping. 


Remove the spam from the can and chop it into cubes. Pour the spam cubes into an ovenproof dish, then spread the fried carrots and onions on top. On top of this, pour on the baked beans and mix thoroughly.

Spread the mashed potato on top and bake in the oven for half an hour until the top is crispy.



If it looks unappealing, that's because it was...

Verdict:

Spam has become a joke food to 21st century diners; but during the fifteen years of rationing, it was an essential foodstuff. I also use a lot of herbs and spices in my cooking, where as this wasn't commonly done in the mid-twentieth century. The spam hash was a very sad meal, and incredibly bland. The spam fritters were slightly more enjoyable, but I'm putting that down to the batter and side of chips! 

This challenge did, however, give me an insight into how folks coped with rationing, and how modern imports and diversity in Britain has improved our national cuisine dramatically. At the end of the day, I admire how hardy and tough the cooks and housewives of the British home front were. They made the best of what they had to hand when food was short, and we can't imagine that hardship now.

Regardless, I'm not going to be eating Spam again if I can help it...

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