Wednesday, November 9, 2011

let's talk about Spam.

If you recall from my previous story, my family has had some terrible luck with airplanes. One year, we were going to take a vacation to Virginia only to find out that the price to fly all five of us there was jaw-droppingly high. Since we suddenly had a bunch of time on our hands, how were we going to spend that time? My parents decided that we could not waste that time. We were going to take a road trip.

However, there were many rules for this road trip. We were only going to spend one night in a hotel, so the town couldn’t be too far away. Whatever it was that we wanted to see in said town had to be indoors since we were taking this trip in the dead of winter. And it had to be something that we could all agree on, which is just a shade away from impossible.

Now, where could we go that was within driving distance, but was somewhere totally great that we would all enjoy? Since I was a junior in high school and had yet to go on a college visit, my parents eventually suggested (and by suggested, I mean mandated) that we use this weekend to visit one of my college choices. Plus, if I could write it off as a college visit, it meant that the day off from school wouldn’t count against me. Score.

I chose to visit Gustavus Adolphus in St Peter, Minnesota. I had heard of the university at some college fair my class had attended earlier that year. It seemed like a cool place, and I was willing to check it out. We made an appointment with them and planned out our trip. St Peter was a little more than three hours away, which was not bad. Even better, though: a mere hour and a half away sat the town of Austin, home of the Spam museum. During that rather odd time of my life, I had an unexplained interest in Spam. I had never had to suffer through Spam as a kid, so it was a strange new thing to me. Meat in a can? How extraordinary!

I had tried my first can of Spam the previous Christmas, when my brother and sister bought me a can and put it in my stocking. The whole family gathered ‘round while I fried up a few slices and tried my first bit of gelatinous meat product. I was not impressed. Meat should not melt in your mouth, nor should it taste like a salt lick. I fed the rest of my Christmas Spam to our grateful dog.

Nevertheless, I wanted to see the Spam museum. How could the town of Austin create an entire museum dedicated to canned meat? We had to find out. We did our research, finding direction, hours, and admission. Turns out the Spam museum is free, which was a HUGE bonus. 
We planned our trip carefully: we would arrive in St Peter on Friday in time for the college visit, spend the night there, and arise early the next morning to travel to Austin and have as much time at the Spam museum as possible.

That’s just what we did. The college visit was fine; the architecture was impressive and it looked like a neat place, but I wasn’t too keen on going to a college that had curfews. I had never had a curfew in high school, so why would I want to start in college? My family and I were incredibly impressed with the cafeteria, though. Had the University of Minnesota, Morris not stolen my heart, I may have gone to Gustavus just for the food. They had an expansive selection with stations such as “create your own pasta” or piles and piles of fried things. It was really for the best that I didn’t go there – I missed out on the Freshman 15 at Morris because of the terrible food, but I surely would’ve gained that (and then some) had I gone to Gustavus.

The next morning, we got up, had our continental breakfast (this was my first experience with the do-it-yourself hotel waffle makers) and headed to Austin. What we found there was more Spam than I could ever imagine. There were Spam movies, timelines of the history of Spam, and Spam in different parts of the world. We saw how the Spam can design has evolved, and we played Spam games. There were countless Spam recipe cards free for the taking (which I completely ignored).Volunteers walked around with little Spam samples for us. And of course, there was a whole room devoted to Monty Python.

While I can’t say that a trip to the Spam museum was better than a trip to Virginia would’ve been, I must say that it was pretty great for a last-minute substitute. And really, how many people can say they took a family vacation to the Spam museum? Well, maybe a few, but how many people will come right out and admit it? My family, that’s who.
To this day, I have a soft spot for Spam.

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