Thursday, January 4, 2007

Spam and Other Trading Traditions

Every morning when I fire up my computer, click on the e-mail button and download hundreds of new missives, I am reminded of a significant component of my nutritional uprising. When Barry and I were running barefoot around Bluff, Spam, the bane of every e-mail user, had nothing to do with unsolicited electronic messages about erectable dysfunction, pornography, weight loss or on-line medication; Spam meant that agglomeration of leftover meat products in a rectangular blue and yellow can.

Spam,Smoked Oysters & Saltines, Yum!
The Trader's Lunch Kit

During the 1960s, Rose had convinced her naive saplings that Spam was actually the cuisine of kings. Grilled Spam, Spamburgers, fried Spam, Bar-B-Qued Spam, Spam casserole and even Spam in a blanket were frequent fare in the Simpson household; we loved it all. Even after we recognized that our inauspicious roots indicated not so much as a single drop of blue blood running through our veins, we imagined ourselves feasting at royal tables on every conceivable variation of those remnants of the butcher’s block.

My e-mail account had been seriously overextended as I downloaded the day’s messages, so Spam was on my mind as I trudged to the restaurant for my morning glass of iced tea with cranberry juice. As I sat down in a booth to talk with my best Bluff buddies, Art and Linda Moore, worthless electronic messages and jellied meat products were foremost on my mind.

When I mentioned what I was thinking, Art, who is always good for a funny story or a bit of useful advice, reminded Craig and me of other delicacies from our past. Potted meat product, tinned oysters and saltine crackers were all discussed with scrunched faces and not so generous comments. Having grown up in the Florida Panhandle, Art was extremely well versed in the consumption of these byproducts.

Jana, who is imminently proud of her trading lineage, often speaks of her father’s “survival kit,” and how it was responsible for saving their lives on more than one occasion. Kira and Grange have been advised that they would not be of this earth were it not for that package of crisis consumables.

The kit was created for those instances when trader John found himself stuck out on the Reservation with no prospects for immediate rescue from a too muddy road, a patch of sand that ensnared his vehicle or other similarly life threatening circumstances. Included in his survival package was, you guessed it, Vienna Sausages, Oysters in Mustard Sauce and Saltines.

It is common to find Indian traders with a special fondness for these prepared foods. In the trading business, tradition is an important factor, and maintaining one’s dietary habits is as important as sustaining one’s reputation. As a result, at any Reservation convenience store these products are prominently displayed on the shelves. I have even heard traders say that eating these things gave them the courage to enter into exceptionally difficult negotiations they were confident they would never win. Nothing could be as bad as consuming a can of gelled sausages they reasoned, so head long into the negotiations they charged, only to discover they were right; the dealmaking was easy by comparison.

Due to our consumption of what must have been metric tons of this stuff, years ago I had extracted a blood oath from Barry to never eat any of it while I was present. I was sure my stomach could not stand the strain, so I even got the commitment in writing. For years everything had gone well, then Barry scheduled a meeting with the most notoriously difficult turquoise trader in the business. Barry and I were no match for this guy, and we knew it.

Cheese and Peanut Butter Crackers
Peanut Butter Crackers

As we packed the Subaru for our meeting, I noticed Barry sneak a small, rectangular case resembling the lunch boxes we carried to school into the car. I really did not give the package much thought until we were about a half hour from our destination and Barry slyly reached into the back seat to extract his stash. As we cruised down U.S. Highway 98 toward Flagstaff, I was too entranced by the landscape, and my cheese and peanut butter crackers, to pay attention to what Barry was doing. Then I heard the sound that made my blood congeal; that click, schhhhhh I knew so well.

Trying to shake off my disbelief, I was horrified to see Barry stick his fingers into a newly minted can of Vienna Sausages and pull out a small dog dripping with gelatin. “No,” I shouted, almost running off the road, as he threw back his head and let the mini weenie slide down his throat. Gulping in satisfaction, “Courage,” was all he said. “Wouldn’t a shot of whisky suffice?” I demanded, reaching for the glove box. Barry reminded me that his wife had once advised him, “Lips that touch wine shall never touch mine.” “She didn’t say anything about Scotch did she?” I asked, knowing full well that I was canned.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2007 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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