The food with one of the worst reputations will be at the centre of a celebration in Hawaii tomorrow that will close a street and attract thousands. The Waikiki Spam Jam is an annual festival that celebrates all things Spam — the canned spiced ham that hit American grocery store shelves in the 1930s. Since then, it’s often been stigmatized and ostracized, but there are still plenty of staunch Spam supporters, most of whom call Hawaii home.
Hawaiians eat the most Spam per capita in the world with almost 7 million cans cracked open annually. Here, Spam sometimes goes by its other name: Hawaiian Steak. Burger King, McDonald’s and Jack in the Box all have Spam items on their menus and you can find all kinds of Spam varieties on Hawaiian grocery store shelves, like Spam with Bacon and Hot and Spicy Spam, that you won’t find many other places.
The annual Waikiki Spam Jam takes place on April 27th this year. From 4 pm to 10 pm, Kalakaua Avenue is closed to traffic and Spam fans can try out unique Spam dishes put together by chefs from well-known local restaurants. This year’s offerings include Spam burgers, Spam okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake with toppings), Spam & cheese pasta, Spam tacos, Spam fried rice, Spam Thai style meatballs, Spam nachos and even “choco Spam popsicles” (yes, popsicles). Festival-goers also get live music and entertainment (including a performance from the 2013 International Ukelele Contest winner). Spam merchandise and Hawaiian crafts are available for sale as well.
10 Best signature food festivals around the world
- National Hamburger Festival, USA: Hamburgers are one of the USA’s national dishes and Akron, Ohio hosts the national burger fest every August.
- Fish & Chips, Italy: Every day is Fish n’ Chips Day in the UK, but one of the best festivals celebrating the dish actually takes place in Tuscany.
- Leskovac Grill Festival, Serbia: Cevapi, grilled minced meat nuggets inside a bread pouch and served with various toppings, is a popular dish in the Balkans and celebrated every year at this festival in Serbia.
- Gwangju World Kimchi Culture Festival, South Korea: Korea’s favourite fermented dish hits centre stage at this annual festival in Gwangju, South Korea.
- Oktoberfest, Germany: Okay, beer isn’t a food… or is it? Have a little bratwurst with your beer in a boot, then.
- La Chandeleur, France: This Catholic holiday is celebrated in France with the help of crepes, which can only be eaten after 8 p.m.
- National Empanada Festival, Argentina: Empanadas, South America’s take on the savoury turnover, are celebrated at the National Empanada Festival in a town called Famaillá in Argentina.
- Haggis hurling, Scotland: It sounds like something you might do after eating Haggis, but the best way Scots know how to celebrate their national dish is to throw it as far as they can, which competitors often do at Highland Games.
- Mole Festival, Mexico: Holy mole! The traditional chocolate and chilli-based sauce is celebrated in all its forms every year just outside of Mexico City.
- Couscous Fest, Italy: The staple grain of the Mediterranean diet gets the spotlight at the annual Couscous Fest on the northwestern tip of Sicily.
Closer to home
While the jury is still out, many Canadians consider poutine to be our national dish, and while there are festivals celebrating this perfect mess of fries, curds and gravy, all over the country, to celebrate it properly, head to the motherland — Quebec. At the Festival de la Poutine in Drummondville (between Montreal and Quebec City), you can sample all kinds of variations on the dish, vote on the best and enjoy some music and drink at the same time.