My last post about a Saveur magazine article detailing Jayson Pahlmeyer’s once-in-a-lifetime SPAM tasting menu at The French Laundry generated a lot of hits on this site, including a comment by Andrew Kubersky, Jayson’s friend and ghost writer for the Saveur piece, who said his original article was much funnier than the edited version that appeared in the magazine. I emailed him back and asked if he could send me the original article so that I might publish it here, and he happily obliged.
After comparing both versions of the article, it’s obvious that Saveur edited the original for style and length, but overall, I thought they stayed true to the vibe of the original submission. What the magazine left out, however, was an expanded paragraph on Jayson’s SPAM lust, some more specific details of both his and the rest of his family’s meal, and a another funny SPAM anecdote that occurred after a subsequent visit to The French Laundry. I’ve done some minor editing and excerpted them for you below.
My friends and family know of my Spam-lust. I make no attempt to disassociate myself from it, and quite to the contrary, bellow it with bravado. I wear a Spam tie, a Spam hat and Spam boxer shorts (with apologies to Tom Wolfe, talk about “Spam in the can”). As a result, I have been the target of unending Spam jokes. At my bachelor party, when others were served rack of lamb or fillet of salmon, I was served grilled slices of it on a silver platter. As tears of laughter and pain rolled down my cheeks the Spam was happily removed…
…It was when we were served Thomas’ small cones (“cornets”) of salmon tartar with créme fraîche that I realized that he had something in store. I didn’t get one and I like them a lot. Instead, the waiter presented me with Cornets of Minced Spam with Sweet Red Onion Cream. I laughed. “This was a great joke, Thomas,” I thought. “This will teach me to be careful what I wish for.” But the joke wasn’t close to being over.
As I ate Consommé of Spam with their Crescents, the family was enjoying Lobster Consommé en Gelée. While I was served Garden Tomato Sorbet with a Crispy Spam Chip, the family was savoring Cucumber Sorbet with Dill Sauce. It went on, and I couldn’t stop it. Yukon Gold Potato Blinis with Butter Spam Emulsion were followed by Perigord Truffle Omellete with Spam “Rissole,” which in turn was followed by Spam Custard Servi En Son Boîte (in its container). It was as though Spam was “The Ingredient” on The Iron Chef television show. Each dish was an ironic parody of a regular (for The French Laundry) menu item.
As my jaw dropped lower and lower, the smiles on Paige and the kids were broadening. They were savoring Jumbo Scallops with Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus Puree, Spotted Skate Wings with Braised Red Cabbage and Mustard Sauce, Roasted Guinea Fowl en Crépinette de Byaldi and Whole Roasted Moulard Duck Foie Gras. They were also relishing my growing discomfort. I was miserable. Despite my heartfelt pleas, the waiters could not dissuade Thomas from his plan.
What could I do? Under the circumstances I had to eat the Spam. To be sure, there was Thomas’ genius in the Spam preparations. But, still, it was just Spam in the Can and we were at The French Laundry, for God’s sake. I love being the center of attention but this time the joke certainly was on me. I paid French Laundry prices for Spam…
It was about two months later that we returned to The French Laundry and were joined by Andrew Kubersky, long-time friend, gifted home-chef, writer and consultant, and his wife Marita. The kitchen must have prepared 25 courses (no Spam) for us that night. Who knows? I was in no shape to keep track, having hosted a huge Pahlmeyer wine tasting party for half the day, immediately preceding dinner.
Afterward, they drove with us to our place in Napa to spend the night. We weren’t home more than a few minutes when Paige opened a can of Spam, sliced the meat, and started to sauté it for me. It was after midnight. Dinner had lasted about six hours. The appalled expression on Andy’s face was priceless as he watched Paige cook the Spam.
“How can you do this? We just dined at The French Laundry,” he pleaded.
Paige explained that that I found out years ago that Spam would prevent a hangover (due to its fat content). Perhaps this is what Hormel meant in the 1930’s when they marketed Spam as “miracle meat.”
Thanks again to Andrew for sending me the original version of the article and letting me publish parts of it here. And cheers to Jayson for being such a good sport about his SPAM obsession. I know I get my share of it from friends that just don’t understand the beauty of SPAM or why we have a SPAM shrine in our home. Luckily, my wife is from Hawaii, so SPAM is always welcome on our plates and in our stomachs.