Wednesday, June 15, 2011

These Nuts Taste Like Gelatinous Canned Meat

It's been months since I first learned about SPAM-flavored macadamia nuts, and yesterday, I finally stumbled upon 'em.

Apparently, these can be found EVERYWHERE in Hawaii. SPAM is, after all, the unofficial state meat here. Folks on the islands consume more than 7 million cans of Hormel's "Hawaiian steak" each year. When Burger King introduced a breakfast SPAM Platter on its Hawaiian menus, it sparked a SPAM war with McDonald's. There's even an annual SPAM JAM Festival on Oahu celebrating these pink gelatinous bricks of processed meat.

And for all my talk about "eating real food," I still harbor fond memories of downing nori-wrapped SPAM musubi while strolling around Waikiki with M in our pre-kids, pre-Paleo days.

Of course, I didn't expect SPAM-flavored mac nuts to taste anywhere near as good as SPAM musubi, but I wasn't going to pass up the chance to try some of these lab-concocted pink-dusted nuts, either.

I bought a single can. (Baby steps, yo.)

The ingredients? Dry-roasted mac nuts, salt, and something called "SPAM Brand Flavoring."

This is a change from its original packaging, which listed the non-nut ingredients as "Maltodextrin, Sugar, Salt, Natural Flavoring, Yeast Extract, Cornstarch, Sunflower Oil, Silicon Dioxide, FD&C Red #40 Lake, Onion Powder. Contains Sulfate." Mmm -- FD&C Red #40 Lake makes everything delicious and pretty!

It comes as no surprise that SPAM nuts are treated with some kind of sensory-altering chemical known only to Hormel's crack team of flavor scientists. But how do they taste?

Kind of foul.

If you're not used to your nuts smelling like pork (and who is?), you're in for a surprise: The pungent aroma of fake meat punches you in the face as soon as you pop open the can.

On the plus side, while these macadamia nuts have the odor of SPAM, they obviously come without any smooth, slimy meat parts. As a result, the nuts are slightly less unappetizing in appearance than real SPAM.

But they certainly taste just as SPAM-my. As soon as one of these nuts enters your mouth, the distinctly sweet/salty SPAM flavoring is front and center. Even actual SPAM doesn't taste like this when you first pop it in your mouth; you first gotta bite into it to release the porktastic flavoring. With the nuts, however, the SPAM essence is entirely in the pink powder coating.

As soon as the powder dissolves on your tongue and the smell dissipates from your nostrils, what's left is a plain old mac nut. The SPAM taste is super-ephemeral; it doesn't linger for long.

But here's the thing: If you're a fan of super-processed meat products, you want the SPAM flavor to stick around. And if you're not a SPAM enthusiast, you're probably not going to buy this crap anyway.

Then, there's the third group: People like me, who just want to try SPAM nuts to say they've tried SPAM nuts. We'll try a nut. Maybe two or three. We'll blog about it, and take photos, too. And then we'll toss the rest of the can.

Everyone leaves dissatisfied.