Jason Munson wins the Great American Spam Championship with his Spam doughnuts. (Blue Ribbon Group )
Reporting from Seattle —
In this era of "less is more" and "cheap runs deep," it’s no surprise that Spam, the canned meat staple that haunted dinner tables of the 1940s and 1950s, is reporting a continued and otherwise inexplicable uptick in sales.
Edible forms of Spam continue to enter the culture, with the latest coming courtesy of an aircraft mechanic from Auburn, Wash. He's won the grand prize in the Great American Spam Championship with his recipe for Spam doughnuts.
Full disclosure: This writer is not completely unbiased, having once helped her best friend create the winning entry at a private Spam party in Orange County: Spam Zimbabwe, consisting of chunks of Spam, pineapple and hearts of palm impaled on tiny spears. They’ve appeared at this writer’s parties sporadically over the years ever since.
The difference between those Spam-kebabs and Jason Munson’s doughnuts is that almost everyone who has tried Munson’s doughnut recipe has said they're delicious.
“Tasty,” said Seattlepi.com. “Scrumptious,” said the Cake Spy blog. "A straight-forward but serious recipe," said the Seattle Times' food blog. And that was on top of the judges, who congratulated Munson’s mini-doughnuts for their “taste, creativity and presentation.”
Picture a ring of homemade buttermilk mini-doughnuts baked around a ring of fried Spam. Then a maple glaze, topped with tiny chunks of fried Spam.
Munson, 41, said he was inspired by one of nearby Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnuts, a maple bar topped with a piece of bacon. Exactly: Why not?
An inveterate kitchen-putterer and barbecuer who the rest of the time keeps Alaska Airlines’ planes running, Munson is not a man who sailed to the top without even trying. Far from it — he’s been laboriously preparing and entering Spam entries at the Washington State Fair for the last seven years.
He has tried, and failed, with spicy Spam macaroni and cheese; Spam cream cheese dip; Spam “crab” cakes; turkey Spam with cran-raisins and pumpkin pie spice wrapped in puff pastry; and Spam marinated in Chinese five-spice, barbecued, and stacked with Chinese hot mustard, ketchup and sesame seeds.
“My son and my wife would be my testers, and it would be like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t work,’” he said in an interview.
Not so with the doughnuts. They took first place at the state fair in Puyallup, Wash., and then this week grabbed the national grand prize, sponsored by manufacturer Hormel Foods in honor of 75 years (and some 7 billion cans) of Spam. Now, Munson and his wife get an all-expenses-paid trip to Honolulu in April for the Spam Jam food festival at Waikiki Beach.
Munson, who’s been interviewed all over Seattle and suffered through endless morning radio DJ Spam jokes, says he feels like it was worth seven years of frying Spam.