Have you eaten Spam? I figure most people have at least once in their lives. If not Spam, one of the Spamstitutes that's out there. Do you know how many pseudo-Spams are available these days?
How is it possible the canned meat that no one outside of Hawaii willingly eats has been knocked off so many times? Is there something awesome here I'm missing out on? I had to find out. I lined myself up with a can of good ol' American Spam, then some vulgar Canadian Kam, something called Klik, and the shrug in a can known as Luncheon Meat made by the good people at the "Fuck It, Whatever" corporation. I also grabbed a handful of other canned meats just because they were the next shelf over and look weird, including spicy pike, cod liver, and deviled ham in a can gift-wrapped with Satanic paper. If Satan's selling your meat, I am on board. Let's get this party started.
Round 1: The Unadulterated Test
For this round, we have nothing but what the god of canning provided for me. One slab of some kind of protein, straight outta the can. Nowhere to hide, no lies to tell. Just honest pseudo-meats.
First: Hereford Corned Beef
Oh look at it, look at that coating of newborn-esque vernix, like this little corned beef was just brought into the world and is now ready to start its offensive life on my plate. And don't forget a glimpse to the bottom right there, that ever-so-slightly off-yellow, translucent globule clinging to the side of the beef slab like a gelatinous, salty remora. How could you not love it?
I cut myself a slice and tucked into the corned beef with all the urgency and desire of a cat being force-fed pineapple. It has the texture of tiny bits of cardboard and cat food that have been mulched together and reconstituted as a cube of something one person gives to another to express disappointment in their life choices. That plus grease. That cold, slick film grease that coats the inside of your mouth.
Klik is a Canadian Spam wannabe. As you can see, it's produced by having an ogre clear his sinuses into a can. Why is it called Klik? That's the sound you make at the back of your throat after you plop it onto your plate and see this.
In the industry they call this "Klik smegma," I assume. I would. I just did. Spread the word. Klik has a fairly firm consistency and tastes very much of salt and ham's third-cousin once removed. I wouldn't guarantee I know what animal it comes from, but I bet I'd recognize it if I saw a picture.
Third: Deviled Ham
I can't help but laugh when I see the resolution of this photo. I tasted this shit, but when faced with a high-resolution, well-lit image of it I feel it in my soul. Why are there three clearly discernible colors here?
I bought this stuff only because of the cartoon devil on the label, and I should have known better. The devil is not here to amuse me; the devil is here to torment, and torment he did. This slurry of mulchy meat was damp and vaguely juicy and tasted exactly the same way dog food smells.
Fourth: Cod Liver
Packed in its own oil, this cod liver told a story. I'll retell it here, for you. It's a gray spring morning. The kind when the air is crisp and cool, but not cold. That invigorating sort of cool that makes you feel alive. It prickles your lungs as you pull it in, but you like it.
You go for a walk in the morning because you have the time today. Today you're free to do as you please. And though the sky is overcast and the wind has a slight bite, you enjoy it because it's so fresh and real, and you're not stuck in an office or working some schlub job. This is real life. And so you walk. And eventually you make your way to the pier, and you look out at the sea, all rough and choppy, and it seems to stretch beyond eternity.
You head down the pier nearly to the end, when you find a lone fisherman on a bench. You sit next to him, partially because you want to enjoy the view and partially because you're tired from your walk and want to give your legs a rest. So the two of you stare out at the sea, you and the fisherman. He's older than you, and he looks like Mickey Rourke's brother who made worse life choices. There's a thick smell of fish and sea about him, and you notice he has scales and fish guts ground into his old jeans. You see through your peripheral vision that his thick fingers have fish slime caked under the nails and around the untamed cuticles, along with dirt and who knows what else.
Slowly, the fisherman turns his head toward you, and whether out of fear or some misguided desire not to seem intrusive, you pretend to not notice. You stare ahead, while your peripheral vision catches his slow turn, the patchy stubble around his mouth and chin making it look as though he kept starting and stopping the morning shave. And he fixes you with his gaze, one eye cold and muddy brown, the other eye rheumy and white, staring at nothing. And slowly, just as slowly as his head turn, he lifts those hands, those disgusting, fish-encrusted hands, and takes your face in them. And now you realize you're frozen. Whether it be fear or some other spell, you can't move of your own free will. And the smell of fish and sweat and dirt overwhelms you as those rough, greasy hands take you on other side of your face and turn your head to face him.
He locks you with his good eye and says nothing, not one word, and you feel his right hand drift down your cheek, until his thumb and forefinger are on either side of your jaw, and he squeezes, forcing your mouth open. You sit there, slack-jawed, mouth agape like a dummy, staring into his good eye, wordless and confused.
He leans in close then, and over the fishy smell of his breath is something danker and worse, like old booze and leather and dirt, and suddenly this sound erupts, from deep inside him, this droning cacophony, this churning, wet, and viscous growl as he pulls from his briny soul and clears his throat in the most ear-shattering way you have ever endured. As his eye stares into yours, he launches the most perfectly gray and yellow brackish phlegm lozenge, like a sardine made of lung butter, straight to the back of your disbelieving throat, and then he forces your mouth shut and laughs and laughs and laughs.
That's a can of cod liver. Don't fucking eat it.