Dear Mr. Know-It-All, OK, can you explain the Spam thing to me? Why is Spam served in diners on top of macaroni noodles? Surely there are tastier things in the world? – Sir Spamalot Ah, spam. Lovely spam, wonderful spam. The processed food of the gods. In a way, you’re right. In general Hong Kong cuisine prizes freshness in its meat, not unrefrigerated longevity. But spam occupies a niche for us: it’s comfort food with history. Spam—and here I’m using the word to denote “luncheon meat” in general, and not the brand name stuff in particular—has its beginnings as a universal foodstuff in nothing less global than the World War II. When the US joined the war, they joined it with men, muscle and luncheon meat. Spam became one of the great gifts of the American war effort, providing sorely needed (and rapidly hated) sustenance to Allied armies. It spread with the States, to the Pacific Theater—and when the US army (mostly) left the Pacific, it left spam behind. Whereas GIs may have got tired of the tinned stuff, it didn’t affect the locals in the same way. Hawaiians eat 7 million cans a year (try spam musubi, which is basically spam sushi), and in Guam, islanders eat 16 tins of spam per person, per year. In the post-war years, and for long afterwards, meat was scarce or expensive, and spam—or its locally made equivalent—was cheap, plentiful and fatty. To poor Hongkongers, it was tasty and affordable. Alongside the global spread of the tinned treat, you have to add Hong Kong’s own food culture, with its mix of Cantonese roots, colonial influence, and a willingness to try eating anything. Why else would you cook macaroni pasta and serve it in a clear chicken broth, topped with a fried egg and a slice or two of spam? Stuff your “east meets west” nonsense. A bowl of spam and macaroni is smooth and oily, pure and rich. They’re pure, unsophisticated flavors that remind us all of being young. What more could you want from a meal? Slice it very thin, fry it very crisp, and bring on the spam. Mr. Know-It-All answers your questions and quells your urban concerns. Send queries, troubles or problems to email@example.com .