Spam may be the pride of Minnesota, but it's the obsession of Hawaiians.
The Austin-made mystery meat is so popular that thieves have been stealing it by the case. Police reports chronicle how one person walked out of a store with 18 cases of it. Another man tried to steal a case and then punched a security guard who tried to stop him. Last month in the Pearl City community on Oahu, Safeway customer Arlene Sua watched as a man suddenly grabbed eight cases of Spam and headed for the door. She thought “‘OK, this isn’t real. No, he’s not going to take it, no, no,” she told KHON TV.
One retail official blames a law that raised the level for a felony theft from $300 to $750. You can get a lot of spam for $749.99 and less.
“They’re just getting a lot more brazen. A lot of times when loss prevention is trying to apprehend them, they’re being attacked. Either they’re getting punched or they’re seeing knives being used. I’ve heard of some guns a couple of times,” said Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii.
She says a black market for Spam exists in the state. Yamki tells The Washington Post retailers are putting Spam in locked cases as a result of the thefts.
“We hear a lot of rumors where it’s going,” Yamaki said. “We’ve heard they work through middlemen. We’ve heard that they’re selling it from the back of their cars. We’ve heard all kinds of rumors. Whether they’re true or not, I’m not sure.”
To some mainland Americans, this may all seem funny. But mainlanders often think of Spam either as junk email or a cheap meat that comes in a can and has no taste, which is true if you just eat plain Spam from a can. After all, how flavorful is a mixture of pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrite?
But in Hawaii, nobody eats it plain out of the can. They eat “Spam fried rice,” or “Spam and eggs” or a Korean spam stew called budae jjigae and especially Spam musubi, a sushi-like snack of cooked rice, Spam and often teriyaki sauce all wrapped in seaweed. (Try it in Hawaii, you’ll like it, Anthony Bourdain once advised. “They love it,” he said. “They’ll make you love it.”)
Hawaii's Spam mania is well chronicled, as residents of the island state eat more Spam per capita than any other state.