30 NOVEMBER 2011


Spam's Carbon Footprint [Super Bowl Edition]

About Craig Santos Perez



SPAM's Carbon Footprint [Super Bowl Edition]

I eat therefore I SPAM. It was estimated that islanders on Guam consumed eight pounds of SPAM per person per year—try to top that Hawai'i! The Spaniards may have brought pigs to Guam, but the Americans brought us SPAM (invented on July 5, 1937). It's much easier to cook SPAM kelaguen than chicken kelaguen.  SPAM was the most loved food at my childhood home. My sisters ate it, my brothers ate it, and even my dog ate some. It was what my mom often cooked and fed to us for breakfast lunch and dinner. They say you aren't an "authentic" Chamoru unless you enjoy BBQ's, eating SPAM, drinking Budweiser, making babies, chewing Pugua, not working, and beating people up (especially haoles). On Guam and in other former colonies the canned meat has saved lives, but may now be endangering more. Among Chamorus, a staggering 60 percent are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. The above recipe has been passed down from generation to generation in my family. Visit the Guam International Airport: now with 50% more SPAM! But then the internet happened, and SPAM began clogging our online arteries and lost the luster of its sing-song repetition. How can I prove that I'm an indigenous person and not a SPAM script? At this year's Hormel SPAM Cook-Off in Guam, the Polish inspired "Pika Pieirogi" ousted the "Crisp Wanton Ravioli" for first place. What would John Steinbeck say about that? Either way you cook it, SPAM is one of the few canned meats that contains the same "stuff" that it did when during my grandparents' days. But now you can buy turkey SPAM, smoke-flavored SPAM, hot and spicy SPAM, garlic SPAM, SPAM lite and many other versions, which reflects our more complicated, modern, and stressful lives. If you bring your SPAM labels to the Sorensen Media Group Offices in Hagatna, you can redeem 12 labels for a SPAM shirt and 9 for a SPAM hat! Because Guam is located across the international dateline, the Super Bowl occurs on Monday morning, causing truancy at public schools. Thus, the Guam Department of Education has decided to close school on that special day. Students can now enjoy the traditional local breakfast of fried rice and fried SPAM as they squat in front of their television sets on Guam's newly declared school holiday, Super Bowl Monday! I wonder if children on Guam remember that scene from Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1939), when the tractor driver stops near a tenant house and eats his sandwich of white bread, pickle, cheese, and SPAM. The curious, starving children surround him. They don't speak to the driver; they don’t even watch him chew his food. Instead, they watch his hand carry food to his mouth; our eyes follow the hand that holds the sandwich.



a Chamoru from Guahan (Guam), is the co-founder of Ala Press, co-editor of Chamoru Childhood: an anthology of Chamoru literature (2010), and author of two poetry books: from unincorporated territory [hacha] (Tinfish Press, 2008) and from unincorporated territory [saina] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010), winner of the Pen Center USA 2011 Poetry Award. He is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of Hawai'i, Manoa.