Sunday, December 28, 2008

Scene at a Post-Christmas Celebration

It is one of our annual traditions to have Christmas Dinner over at our friends, E and M's, house. This year due to various circumstances, we had said dinner two days after Christmas instead of on the day itself. This gathering includes friends and family members, including Friend #2's kids, her cousin S, and my elderly mom and aunt. Some of you will remember meeting Friend #2 during the incident of the camel milk.

E and M are consummate hosts and dining at their table is one of the pleasures of life. The atmosphere is serene, holiday music tinkles in the background, their Christmas tree sparkles. Somehow all of the food is ready at the same time, nothing is sitting around becoming cold while something else isn't quite done (which is what happens to me when I try to give a big dinner party). We end up sitting around the table after a delicious meal chatting with conviviality about all kinds of things.

Last night we got onto the subject of strange unidentified types of pork meat that are local delicacies in different parts of the country. First we started talking about that New Jersey tradition, known as Taylor Ham or more generically as pork roll. Friend #2 and I got into a discussion of whether the best version of a Taylor Ham sandwich would be Taylor Ham with Egg and Cheese on a Hard Roll, or whether it only needs the Taylor Ham and Cheese. I was pulling for the inclusion of the egg.

Then my mother started talking about Philadelphia Scrapple. My father, who grew up in Philadelphia, always liked it and my mother would make it for him in a frying pan, frying it up until it was brown and crispy and then serve it with maple syrup.

The conversation turned thence to Spam. Because what would a discussion of strange meats made with pig parts be without Spam? I heard on the radio the other day that it was being reported that President-Elect Obama had dined the day before on a Spam specialty in his native Hawaii, as if this was something strange and unusual. Obviously the reporters did not realize that Spam is a staple in Hawaii. Brought there by the U.S. troops during World War II, Spam is one of the most beloved foods in the Islands, and they even have Spam recipe contests. So it is no surprise that the President-Elect chowed down on one of the native Spam dishes.

I have my own fond memories of Spam. The night of the Great Blackout of 1965 we lived in upstate New York near Rochester, and the kitchen of our modern circa 1960 split-level was fully powered with electricity, not natural gas. So when the lights dimmed that November afternoon and then went out, we had no way to cook anything for dinner. We weren't the type of family that had a grill for these occasions; my father not the typical suburban dad who ventured out armed with charcoal and lighter fluid to start fires in the family Hibachi. So we had to make do with what we had, which happened to be a can of Spam and a can of Del Monte green beans. We ate our cold Spam (which thankfully was pre-cooked and ready to eat in its spiffy blue and yellow can, even though it would have been tastier heated up) and cold green beans for dinner while we listened to my father's transistor radio tuned to station WHAM, which was talking about looting taking place in downtown Rochester - which later turned out to be untrue. At the time we were all wondering if the Russians had something to do with this terrible event (it being 1965) and anything terrifying seemed somewhat possible even if it was only looting.

Where was I going with this? Oh yes, Spam. So during the course of this conversation the following exchange took place:

Mauigirl: "What about Spam? That's another good one!"
Mauigirl's mother: "Oh yes, Spam."
Mauigirl: "We used to have Spam a lot!"
Friend #2: "Spamalot???"
Mauigirl: "Spamalot!"
Friend #2: "Maybe that's where they got the idea for the name of the show!"

At this point the Christmas plum pudding was brought out, aflame with 151 Rum (the only thing that really burns properly) and we all sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," especially the part about the Figgy Pudding, which we sang more than once - and then the rest of dessert was served, including E's wonderful homemade chocolate truffles and cookies, as well as the pudding and its requisite "hard sauce." All was silent for a short time while delicacies were consumed.

I hope you too are continuing to enjoy the holiday season. And as Tiny Tim was wont to say, "God Bless Us Every One."


Fran said...

Oh my - the pork product conversation.

I am now going to reveal secrets which I would rather keep under wraps, but how can I do that now.

I have a soft spot for Taylor ham. Taylor ham and cheese is most excellent but the egg inclusion is also quite wonderful.

Sheesh- it must be at least 3 years since said food product has graced my table. Oh my.

And scrapple... I used to spend a lot of time in Philly with a friend of mine. She and I would amble over to Redding market and buy up some scrapple which would find its way to brunch the next day.

It has been many years since I have ingested that one.

Both time spans are probably better for my innards but I do look back longingly.

As for spam I have never, ever, ever eaten it. I do know how popular it is in Hawaii, having been there so many times.

I will leave the spam to the rest of you, but save the Taylor ham and the scrapple for me, will you????

Mauigirl said...

Fran, thanks for sharing your memories of pork products. Our discussion last night prompted Friend #2 to pick up a package of Scrapple for my mother, which she kindly delivered to her today!

I haven't had Taylor Ham, Spam OR Scrapple in more years than I can recall. Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese sandwiches were something an old boyfriend of mine really liked and we used to partake of them frequently.

Spam actually is pretty tasty when it's fried up nicely with some eggs!

Tom Harper said...

Ah yes, the great blackout of 1965, I remember that. I was living in Connecticut at the time.

Happy Holidays.

Christopher said...

I'm not a big pork eater.

As I get older, I look for ways to substitute meat in dishes. I can't say I'm a vegetarian -- I still love a hamburger and fries for lunch and a hot dog at a baseball game but, I have just lost the taste for a lot of meat dishes.

Strange, I guess.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you had a lovely celebration, Maui. I wish you a great 2009!

Randal Graves said...

Scrapple is simply another name for leftovers. ;-)

Spam is so exotic, like Hawaii, which is why I don't think I've ever had it.

Anonymous said...

For the record...the only way to eat taylor ham is to have a well grilled taylor ham with lots of melted cheese on a toasted hard roll with Gulden's spicy brown mustard!!

Never any type of egg with it - YUCK!!!

AndI believe we also snorted inappropriately over the "spamalot" comment.

Fran said...

Well your hostess realized you people would not go until you get some-- figgy pudding that is....
so there was a method to this madness.

We had a gathering with musical friends last night.
No pork or pork product discussion were involved, but we broke away from the X mas tunes & sang classics...

Hide your love away
Kansas City blues
Horse with no Name

two fantastic guitarists, a keybordist some hand drums & percussion toys.

I do love their get togethers.

Enjoy the season

Utah Savage said...

Now I'm really hungry. The day goes on and my hunger grows, but I'm not terribly motivated to get off my ass and fix myself something to eat.

Sounds like a wonderful evening.

Happy New Year, honey.

Anonymous said...

Oh darn... now you've got me singing the Monty Python Spam song. Hey. It sounds like you had a wonderful celebration. A toast to you and yours for a happy and healthy 2009.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, kiddo. (I'll admit that I'm jealous about the Christmas tree thing...I have to take down the monster tree in my family room this weekend...ugh, pine needles!)

Mauigirl said...

Hey Mary Ellen, nice to see you! Hope you had a wonderful holiday and have a great 2009!