Specially Processed American Me

I wanted to do a project on SPAM® because I think it’s a really perfect symbol of sort of the Asian-American identity. You know it’s this like this super American iconic product yet somehow super marginalized in the country and really embraced by Asian people and integrated into Asian cuisine. So that’s why I called the project Specially Processed American Me, a play on the acronym specially processed American meat for SPAM®, to talk about that.
— Artist Jaime Sunwoo

Melissa Slaughter:

When Alex told me there was a workshop about SPAM® and storytelling, I couldn’t contain how excited I was. For me, there’s no better representation of the Asian-American/Hapa experience than SPAM®. SPAM® was a patriotic US wartime food spread around the world that has turned into a beloved staple of many Asian-Pacific Island nations. My love of SPAM® was been documented in our first issue when I presented my SPAM®Musubi recipe.

Specially Processed American Me, led by artist Jaime Sunwoo, was a journey that highlighted everything I love about SPAM®. SPAM® is like the gateway drug for food and culture. It’s culinary anthropology. She gave a thorough and interactive history of SPAM® and how it became a staple of the Asian/AsAm diet. And, she gave everyone a chance to tell their stories about their relationship with SPAM®. Recipes and experiences were shared, and Budae-jjigae (a.k.a. “Army Stew”) from The Kunjip was had.

Jaime herself is full Korean, but she also understood how SPAM® is related to the Hapa experience. Her SPAM® workshops cater to anyone ready to tell their story, as long as it comes back to SPAM®. The workshop I attended had people get emotional at sharing their stories. That’s the power of food, and SPAM®. If you can’t attend a workshop, Jaime set-up a page on her website to Submit Your Story!

Jaime will be presenting more workshops in the future, as well as a performance in August for the Fail Safe Festival. Her producer for both the workshops and the show is Hapa producer Chris Ignacio.

Whether you’re Hapa or not, your story counts and your story matters. Why not share it through food? For me, SPAM® is the vehicle to bridge my story and my experiences. Will be yours too?

My story on the Specially Processed Story page. 

My story on the Specially Processed Story page. 

I didn’t realize that this project is about how food is really a gateway for storytelling. Just like how weather is something you talk just about to start a conversation, food is a deeper conversation starter because it goes back to culture.
— Producer Chris Ignacio

Alex Chester:

I recently went to a SPAM® workshop by Specially Processed American Me. Did you know SPAM® has a dark side? Essentially the reason why so many Asian cultures incorporate Spam into their foods is because of colonization. Yup, that’s right folks. #TheMoreYouKnow

Growing up in a Kosher household, I was not allowed to eat SPAM®. I have since eaten SPAM® but I still consider it this exotic, forbidden, weird processed meat in a can. I won’t even try cooking it. Which is pretty ridiculous, but years of being told pork is unclean tends to fuck with your head... and it comes in a freaking can. I’ve learned that most things that come packaged that way should be avoided.

However, if any of my friends make SPAM® Musubi, I will devour it like a starving actor and ignore the nagging ping of Jewish guilt I feel. This is something I should probably address with my therapist.  

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Alex Chester is the creator and producer of the theatre company WeSoHapa - a theatre based on diversity and inclusion. She is a New York City based columnist for On Stage Blog and contributing writer for ManhattanDigest.com and HuffPo. She also hosts a podcast with fellow writer Melissa Slaughter,  We're Not All Ninjas.  Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @AlexFChester if you like food and cats.

Melissa Staff Pic

Melissa Slaughter has lived in all four time zones in the contiguous United States. A former actor in Seattle, WA, Melissa now resides in NYC as a content creator. She is the producer of the We're Not All Ninjas podcast, which she also hosts with fellow Hapa Mag writer, Alex Chester. Melissa also writes for online blogs Nerdophiles and The Nerds of Color. Find her @NotAllNinjasPod.