Spam (the Good Kind)

A few weeks ago, our Student Council announced a door decorating contest.  STUCO members were going to give out fall themes for each homeroom, and homerooms were to decorate accordingly.  The winning classroom (to be announced) would get a pizza party.*

“Oh, look!” my seventh grade girls said when they e-mailed us the themes.  “We got PSL!”

They seemed excited and I didn’t understand.  “Play Station Live?” I asked, confused.  Typically 7th grade girls don’t go all bubbly over Play Station Live.  In fact, does anyone get worked up about Play Station Live anymore?

“Oh my gosh,” I heard one of them mutter under her breath.

Clueless,” another agreed.

“Like an old lady Karen,” a third supplied.

“Alright, alright, THAT’S ENOUGH.  Someone just please explain to me why our fall door decorating theme is Play Station Live. What does that have to do with fall?”

Amid some eyerolls and lots of chuckles, they informed me that PSL in 2022 actually stands for “pumpkin spice latte.”  And that EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS, Wheatzie. 

“Really?” I said, completely unconvinced.  “Everybody in the whole world knows this except for me?  I find that pretty HARD TO BELIEVE.”  I was doing a lot of exaggerated head bobbing and shoulder moving to make my point, and this time it was my turn to roll my eyes.

It was in that very moment that, in a case of extremely unfortunate timing (for me), the teacher across the hall came breezing into my classroom the way that she does, coffee cup always halfway to her mouth, the tail of one of her long cardigans whipping cheerfully behind her.  “Oh, you guys got PSL?” she said, studying the list of themes over my shoulder.  “That’s awesome!”

“YOU’RE MY AGE!” I shouted.  “How do you know this crap?”

“Get back on Facebook, man,” she replied, lifting her eyebrows in an admonishing look.

Listen, I can’t help it that people miss me on Facebook.  I’m witty and I’m funny and I’m quite pretty. But I just shrugged. I deactivated my account over two years ago, and if I have get back on Facebook to “get with the times,” I’ll pass.  It’s not worth getting back into the habit of guzzling M&M’s and milk while getting into political fights with people I don’t even know all night and into the early hours of the morning.

Sometimes having summers off as a teacher isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Anyway, I gave my 7th graders two class periods to decorate both of our doors.  It kind of ended up that the girls did one and the boys did the other.  Here are the results (and I’ll let you guys figure out who did which one):


For about two weeks, the Spam door ignited several laughs and discussions about Spam—who had had it before, if there are actually flavors like pumpkin spice latte Spam, etc.—and one evening I was at Wal-Mart and happened to be in the potted meat aisle (as one often finds herself).  I noticed single-serve packets of microwaveable Spam. Of course, I grabbed a couple so I could surprise my 7th graders with a lovely Spam breakfast one morning.

When that morning came, I was very casual. I walked toward the microwave in my classroom—

--Side note:  My classroom smells like a movie theatre because I let kids bring in microwave popcorn and make it anytime they want, as long as they make sure with their other teachers and me that it’s a good time.  I’ve got 6-8th graders popping into my room all hours of the day to make their popcorn and it smells like a carnival and it’s so fun.  It’s the little things, people…anyway, that’s a life hack for any teachers out there reading.

So anyway, when the morning came, I was very casual. I walked toward the microwave in my classroom as the kids were getting out their binders, and I held up my packets of Spam. “Hey, guys,” I said, “I got us some single-serve Spam packets for breakfast.  It says here we can just microwave them.”

I set the packets down on top of the microwave and continued to the classroom closet in which I keep paper plates and plastic utensils. I got a paper plate out, set it on top of the microwave next to the Spam packets, and walked back to my desk for a pair of scissors. It was then that I noticed the looks on their faces.

They were excited.  I’m telling you, my Spam announcement hit them deep in their hearts.  I felt like freaking Santa Claus.

“You got us Spam?”

“And you’re gonna make it for us right now?”

I couldn’t help it. I got all puffed up with pride and I’m sure my nostrils flared all self-importantly like they do.  It's been happening since I was a kid and I try to stop it, you guys.  I do.  But this large Polish nose has a mind of its own.  

“Of course!” I said.

One of my girls was more awake than I’d seen her in weeks.  Just the other day I’d neglected to take her lunch count because she was so quiet (asleep) that I didn’t realize she was there.  But on Spam day, she was alive, plastic fork poised, so excited that her fists were shaking involuntarily like Beavis's.  “I want to try Spam!” she said, laughing. “I want to try Spam!”

For a flicker of a moment, there was doubt as one of the kids piped up from the back of the room. “Spam is a lot better fried.”

There was a small period of uncertain silence.  Then I said, “Do you see a frying pan in here, kid?”

The kids all shrugged and nodded.  Here’s the thing about 7th graders:  They hate to admit when they’re wrong (especially if it makes YOU right), but in the end, they’ll concede when it benefits them.  And they wanted that Spam, so into the microwave the patties (or, as I like to call them, the Spam fillets) were to go.

I used my scissors to slice open the first single-serve packet and we were all immediately hit with the smell.  “It smells like cat food…” one of the kids mused, “…am I right?”

We all nodded.  I held it to my nose just to be sure and—yep.  The strong odor of cat food hit me square in the face, almost making my eyes water, and I sucked in a breath involuntarily, which didn’t make things better.  Just to be a jerk, I shoved it right under the nose of one of the kids closest to me.  He jumped back but otherwise took it like a man.

We weren’t to be deterred.  The Spam might smell bad, but it looked—

Well.

It looked…it looked “like my legs in the wintertime,” I said as we watched the mottled, pale pink patty slide as one solid entity out of the package and flop onto the plate.  Three of the kids walked straight to the trash can and puked.

Okay, no they didn’t, but they made the retching noise, which was pretty funny.

I popped the patties into the microwave, and while they were cooking, I handed out the rest of the plastic forks.  A few minutes later, when we had all decided the Spam was sufficiently cooked (“See how the edges are a little crispy and curl up?” one of the girls said, “That’s how you want it”) and I had sliced it into strips (“Spam strips”), we had our moment of truth.  We all took a bite (except for three kids, one who swore he was really stuffed from his McDonald’s breakfast sandwich that morning and couldn’t possibly eat another bite, even if it WAS delicious gray Spam) and stared at each other.

Everyone was quiet, afraid to give his/her true opinion.  I understood. I mean, what kind of a person likes Spam?

But in that very moment, I realized…I realized that I’m the kind of person who likes Spam. 

I like Spam. In fact—

“I love it,” I declared.  “I LOVE SPAM.”

The admission was freeing, like I’d been carrying it around my whole life (even though that morning was the first time I’d ever tried Spam) and now people could finally see me in my true light.  I’m a Spam lover!  It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone—especially myself. I mean, I am a lover of all things potted meat.  I can’t get enough of those little Vienna sausages in the tiny cans; I love how they pretty much melt in your mouth. Throw me a roll of braunschweiger and stomachache be darned, that thing’s gonna disappear in about 15 minutes. 

Oh, and sardines?  GAME OVER. I love them so much that I’ve had to stop myself from eating the little beady eyeballs and tiny smiling mouths before.  I’d like to say I also stopped myself from drinking the oil they came in…but I’m honest to a fault, and that would be a lie.

(On a semi-related note, I will also devour a pile of non-flavored instant grits so fast it’s almost embarrassing.  Someone once watched as I poured salt onto a bowl of them and asked if I was planning to eat them or preserve them through the winter.  Ha ha!

“Eat them,” I answered, taking a huge bite.  I flicked my spoon in the direction of his Lumberjack Breakfast that consisted of three over-easy eggs, 2 slices of ham, 3 pieces of bacon, a pile of hash browns, and two pancakes.  “And what are you going for this winter?  Massive weight gain for hibernation or a simple heart attack?”

I can’t stand when people comment on how much salt I use.)

I love salty, mushy food.  It’s a problem.

Or is it?

Once I made my admission, it was like the floodgates were open.  There was a chorus of comments like “Me, too!  I love Spam, too!” and “It’s so good!  May I have some more?”

The three kids who didn’t give Spam a whirl that morning were now a little bit unsure. Were they missing out?  One of them broke out into an a cappella rendition of Reba McIntyre’s “Is There Life out There?” and I knew I might need to purchase more Spam the next time I was at Wal-Mart in case she changed her mind.

In the meantime, the kids were really opening up.

“My dad has Spam for breakfast every day!” one of the girls shouted proudly.  Her dad had been eating Spam since before Spam was cool.

One of the boys said, “My aunt makes it for my brother and me every time we go to visit…it’s actually better with a little bit of pepper.”

“You’re telling me that it gets better than THIS?” I asked, holding up my fork, which had one of the few remaining Spam strips hanging from a tine. I knew I needed to eat it before anyone else snatched it right out of my hand, so I gobbled it quickly before shaking my head.  “I don’t believe you,” I said around a mouthful of Spam.  “There’s no way it can get better than this.”

One of the girls pointed toward the back of the room, where we have an emergency supply of food and water in case of natural disasters.  “You need to fill our emergency box with Spam!” she said. “All of the other classes will be so jealous!”

I nodded. “Indeed they will be,” I said.  “Indeed they will be.”

I’m not sure how long it’ll take to get the cat food smell out of our classroom…but I can say one thing for sure without even the teensiest bit of hesitation:

It was totally worth it.

 

*I’ll let you know if we won the door decorating contest when I find out.
**Update:  We did not win.  RIGGED!

 



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