SPAM may come in 14 varieties, but as far as its detractors are concerned, it's all just Spam. Not so in the place our Lee Cowan has traveled to, where Spam always gets the warmest of receptions:
There is hardly a more maligned meat than Spam. But if you think Spam is just a culinary punch line, you haven't spent enough time in Hawaii.
Known for their trade winds and rainbows, the Hawaiian Islands are also a Spam-a-alcoholic's paradise. In fact, no state eats more.
On the island of Kauai, at the Foodland Waipouli that Orlando Dutdut manages, Spam is as plentiful as sun block.
"It's a staple," said Dutdut. "Everybody eats it here."
They sell 14 varieties of Spam. There's Spam with cheese, Spam with Garlic, with Turkey and Jalapeno . . . and nothing says "Aloha" quote like Spam-flavored Macadamia nuts.
In fact, the taste of Spam is so popular in Hawaii you can even order it at McDonald's.
Here, Spam and Eggs beats out the venerable Egg McMuffin, says McDonald's Ruth Johnson.
"We call it Hawaiian prime rib, or Hawaiian roast beef," she laughed.
Hawaii's love of all things Spam started during World War II. Millions of pounds of the stuff were shipped to GIs in the South Pacific, largely because it didn't spoil in the tropical sun.
But when the serviceman left, the Spam stayed -- and it became part of the Island diet.
By far the favorite local dish is a Spam Musubi, which looks a bit like sushi.
Robert Kubata's grandmother taught him how to make a Musubi the Island way.
He bathes the Spam in teriyaki, and then places the pink rectangles between layers of sticky rice.
After it's pressed together, it's all wrapped in seaweed.
"It's like Asian culture, Western culture, everything was mixed up," said Kubata. "Put it all together, wrap it in nori, and here you go!"
Recipes courtesy of spam.com:
Spam has even entered the kitchens of the touristy restaurants, like Tiki Iniki in Princeville, where ordering the Spam Burger has become as daring as the owner's blue hairdo.
Cowan asked, "So what do the tourists think?"
Michele Rundgren replied, "Most people say that's the best burger they've ever had. Or, 'Oh my God, it was good! It was amazing!'"
"Well, the cocktails have a lot to do with it as well!" laughed her husband, music legend Todd Rundgren. (Remember, "Hello It's Me?") Mixing Spam with ground beef was his idea.
Rungren says he wrote that -- and plenty of others -- while eating plenty of Spam.
"He has been eating Spam since he was little," said Michele.
"Really? It's no worse than a hot dog . . . " said Cowan.
"No, it's way better than a hot dog!" said Todd. "It doesn't have any snouts or anuses in it!"
"Dude! You can't say that on TV!" said Michele.
The good folks at Hormel Foods -- an ocean away in chilly Austin, Minn. -- tell us Spam is mostly pork shoulder and salt, and not much else.