Published in National Geographic (July 2014).
WHEN I WAS A KID, my Chinese dad used to make me instant noodles with Spam and egg on top as an after-school snack. I loved the hot and savory soup, and always saved the perfect little rectangle of bologna-tasting meat with a gelatinous glaze for last. As I grew older and discovered the foodie scene, I shunned the canned meat as the very worst kind of processed food. Admitting to liking Spam was as bad as liking Big Macs or Cheeze Whiz among my Whole Foods-shopping, organic-wine-growing foodie friends.