Spam vs. Plasma


In last week’s Publishers Weekly, award-winning and bestseller author Joseph Finder wrote an essay about book tours–mainly why publishers finance them for certain authors when they don’t seem cost-effective. He ended the essay with an announcement: ten 42-inch plasma television sets would be given away during his book tour. (His protagonist in his latest book, KILLER INSTINCT, works for a company that manufactures plasma-screen TVs.)

Well, Mr. Finder, I hate to one-up you, but I’ve been giving away something even more powerful during my self-financed tour on the lower West Coast. Something that the characters on the TV show, LOST, would kill for. Yes, you Murderati regulars know what I’m talking about–a smaller than a bread box (and certainly a 42-inch TV), as compact and lethal as a hand grenade, coveted by citizens all across the globe–a can of Spam.

The reason why? You all know. My amateur sleuth, JA gardener and a-bomb survivor, Mas Arai loves it. My third mystery, SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, begins with it. Spam travels well and each can costs less than a gallon of gas. And it makes people laugh. The perfect door prize.

We officially ended the inaugural Mas Arai Spam Contest with an announcement this Saturday at my hometown mystery bookstore, Book’em Mysteries. Drum roll, please. The winner is Liz Peck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her entry, "Growing up, we had Spam with brown sugar and mustard. I can picture Papa now–he cooked our meals–carving the Lilliputian size main course, just like pretend ham!"

The judges were impressed with the brevity yet emotionality of her entry and, of course, the use of the word, Lilliputian. In a few simple words, Liz drew a precious picture of her father and the relationship they all had to Spam and each other.

For her efforts, Liz will win the following:

  • Signed copy of SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN01500015_1
  • Okinawan music CD
  • Go for Broke veterans cookbook
  • Spam musubi (sushi) maker
  • Nori (seaweed)
  • And–do we even have to say it?–Spam!

We at Mas Arai Central also had a special drawing of names from an L.A. Dodgers cap, no less. The winner of that drawing was Janet Cearley, the kind soul from Eugene, Oregon, who answered another’s call for a recipe for Spam Touchdowners. Here good deeds are rewarded, and Janet will receive a signed copy of SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN. Please go to my contest page to read the entries and full recipes of all the finalists.

In all seriousness, having an interactive contest has been great fun, but just like anything else, it takes time and effort to get the word out. I was surprised by the geographic diversity–I had submissions from all over the nation. I’m not sure if I’ll be doing a second annual Spam Contest, but rest assured, for the rest of my now sporadic book events for SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, I’ll have my cans of Spam in hand.

And regarding Mr. Finder’s contest vs. mine, we all know that a plasma television’s life is limited, while Spam lasts forever.

Here are a few photos from our Spam festival in South Pasadena:


Okay, Mr. Barry Martin–let Mary do all the dirty work.  I tried to get Barry to try to make Spam musubi, but he flat out refused. There’s only so much rejection a girl can take. Here Mary’s placing some sticky, short-grain rice on a sheet of nori.  The plastic frame keeps everything in place.


Next it’s two slices of marinated and pan-fried Spam on top of one layer of rice and then it’s more rice. Mary’s pushing down everything here with the clear plastic top of the sushi maker. The plastic frame is easily removed.


And here we have it–a nice juicy slice of Spam musubi!

Hey, Rachael "30-Minute Meal" Ray, you might have some competition. Mystery author and chef? Maybe the beginning of a beautiful career.

Come back next week for a quiz about an upcoming guest blogger and a new feature, WEDNESDAY’S WORD.

11 thoughts on “Spam vs. Plasma

  1. Elaine

    Plasma TV vs. Spam? No contest! Absolutely hilarious! Mahalo nui loa, Naomi for great memories of Spam – I’m running out right now to buy more!

  2. Naomi

    Remember, Elaine, there’s Turkey Spam, too. I know some would say that anything that combines turkey with Spam is blasphemous, but it’s not bad, especially if you marinate it in some low-sodium soy sauce and vinegar.

  3. Patty Smiley

    Naomi, Spam was a staple in our cupboard when I was growing up in Yakima, Washington, although even back then I refused to eat mystery meat, including weiners. As I recall, my mother fried it and sprinkled it with brown sugar. Yum? Not!

  4. Naomi


    We actually didn’t have much Spam in the house. Canned corned beef hash (apparently also manufactured by Hormel) was more like it. When I lived in Japan for a year after college, I noticed that my relatives in Tokyo were very big on canned Vienna sausages. Go figure. I find it fascinating that we associate these products with America’s heartland but now they are a bigger deal in Asia!

  5. Laure

    Ah, I haven’t heard a good Spam story in years. The column made me smile. Back in the late 80’s – early 90’s one of my favorite country/blues singers, T. Graham Brown (who I swear has to be kin to American Idol’s Taylor Hicks) had a running gag referencing Spam as often as possible. I believe his band was the fabulous Roack of Spam, etc. Good memories. 🙂

  6. Naomi


    What a small world! You might have heard of my younger brother James or “Jimmy.” He’s a couple of years younger than you. In the past, he’s worked in special effects (mechanical, not computer) in the movie and television industry.

    And in terms of reunions, they’re always scary–at least for me. I went for drinks with friends before my twenty-year reunion, but I never made it through the door of the Green Street Hotel, where the event was being held. Too much nostalgia makes my head spin.

  7. Rob Gregory Browne

    My wife and kids LOVE spam musubi. My wife makes it, but we used to also be able to buy it at Long’s drugs in Honolulu. And you can’t have a picnic without it.

    But better yet is fried spam, omelette and rice. Love it.

  8. Naomi


    Yup, it’s getting to be Spam musubi season. Heat up the barbecue for chicken teriyaki, make some potato and macaroni salad, wrap some salmon and mahi-mahi in some aluminum foil, and you’re set. Yum. Love summer.


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