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Tasty Tidbits About Spam

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In a recent entry, I poked fun at a 1958 "Chinese" recipe printed by Good Housekeeping whose main ingredient was "luncheon meat." Sounds sketchy, right? How many Chinese restaurants have you known that featured fresh deli products straight from the wok?

Then a long-time floss reader, Brian, wrote in from Barcelona. "Luncheon ham (also known as Spam) is actually wildly popular with Asian people," he testified. "My Japanese grandmothers would go crazy for that...so Good Housekeeping may have been more authentic than they knew."

We quickly stuck up a trans-Atlantic correspondence about our shared love of Spam (and all the generic copycats it inspired)—and this story was born.

"¢ The epicenter of the Spam universe is Austin, Minnesota, home of a spam factory and a remarkable museum dedicated to the town's most famous product. Spam has such a worldwide following that Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia—to whom Rastafarians would dedicate many a song—once toured the plant.

"¢ Hormel invented Spam in 1937 and still makes it today. At first, the product had a less-than-charismatic name: "Hormel Spiced Ham."

"¢ If you think there's just one flavor of Spam, you're missing out on a world of flavor. There is also hickory-smoked Spam, hot and spicy Spam, garlic Spam, and—for the dieting Spam-lovers among us —"light" Spam. There's even a collector's edition Spam Golden Honey Grail.

"¢ Hormel sponsors an annual recipe contest called the "Great American Spam Championship," with cooks developing new recipes for this product. Some of the 2006 winners state by state: philly cheesesteak spamwich with garlic mayo (California), a-spam-agus risotto (Alabama), and a "romantic country salad for two" with pecan-crusted spam and sweet-and-sour dressing (Tennessee). Extra points, it seems, are given for creative puns.

play-it-again-spam.jpg"¢ Speaking of puns, author Tamar Myers has developed a series of punny murder-mysteries that feature recipes (The Crepes of Wrath, Between a Wok and a Hard Place, The Hand that Rocks the Ladle). The 2005 installment in her series: Play It Again, Spam.

"¢ In South Korea, Spam is considered an appropriate gift for a guest to give a host or vice versa—which beats the hell out of trying to choose a bottle of wine, doesn't it? In fact, Costco carries a Spam gift pack that will make a perfect holiday gift.

"¢ Hawaii consumes about 7 million cans of Spam per year, which comes out to 5 or 6 cans for every man, woman and child. That's a lot of sodium and gelatinous fat, which in turn is thought to contribute to Hawaii's obesity problem. One very popular snack item is the Spam musubi, as shown on the front of this collector's Spam can...

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...[photo courtesy of pomai_05]. It's a traditional Japanese rice ball with a slice of Spam on top, wrapped in a belt of seaweed to keep that sodium-laden delicacy safely attached "“ a SEAtbelt, if you will.

mr-spam.jpg"¢ Since 1997, Hormel has sponsored the Waikiki Spam Jam, where it crowns a Mr. or Miss Spam! The 2006 Mr. Spam, a Mr. Wade Balidoy, won a PlayStation and a year's supply of a certain canned meat product.

"¢ Spam is so popular in some communities that it's infiltrated big chain restaurants. The McDonald's breakfast platter in Hawaii includes Spam. In San Francisco's Japan Town, Denny's serves a breakfast combo with Spam, two eggs, steamed rice, and kimchee. You can also substitute Vienna sausages for the Spam "“ or probably negotiate with the waitress to have both.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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