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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spam, Indian Cheetos, and Comfort Food

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 7:30 AM


Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.

1. The Evil Side of Spam. Locavore distaste aside, Spam's popularity doesn't seem to have waned over the years. Perhaps California's huge Hawaiian community is just too good at making the case for America's favorite canned meat. You'd have to work hard to convince me that a freshly made Spam musubi isn't a marvelous snack. Yesterday, Mother Jones just might have. Ted Genoways' exposé on the Hormel plant where Spam is made is one of the darkest, most visceral stories you'll read all year, involving extreme union busting, neurological disorders, and the "brain machine":

Garcia inserted the metal nozzle of a 90-pounds-per-square-inch compressed-air hose and blasted the pigs' brains into a pink slurry. One head every three seconds. A high-pressure burst, a fine rosy mist, and the slosh of brains slipping through a drain hole into a catch bucket. (Some workers say the goo looked like Pepto-Bismol; others describe it as more like a lumpy strawberry milkshake.)

Kurkure: The Indian Cheeto. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Kurkure: The Indian Cheeto.

2. Snack foods, part 2. I fell in love with green chutney Kurkure, the Indian division of Frito-Lay's version of Cheetos, at Curry Up Now. It didn't seem worth chasing down the truck for a bag of chips, which is why I was glad to find them at Jai Ho, the Indian market in the plaza of the Fillmore Safeway, for $1.25. Made with a combination of rice, corn, and garam meal, the snacks have all the heat of Flamin' Hot Crunchy Cheetos, but instead of cheese and MSG they're coated in cilantro, garlic, ginger, and green mango powder. They'll rip your tongue out and stuff it up your nose, over and over again.

3. Snack for your own safety. It's fast food week on Gilt Taste, purveyor of luxury culinary pleasures and fine food writing. As an unintended prologue to today's ode to the nacho, last week Anneli Rufus wrote about the psychology of comfort food. "Food is a fort we build," she writes. "Rolls in my pocket feel like ballast. As a former anorexic, I imagine they will keep me safe because they are small, round, clean, dry, and can be eaten stealthily. Someone else might feel most secure when eating pudding, say, because she ate it in the playroom before knowing the meaning of pain."

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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