Food Column: Check your SPAM recipes to enter in the county fair

Maybe it's that unappetizing slurp when it plops unceremoniously out of the can.

Or maybe it's the fact that it's about 50 percent sodium.

Whatever the case, SPAM just has never done it for me.

When we were kids, my mom used to make open-faced SPAM sandwiches -- something involving English muffins and cheese, I think -- but that's one recipe I never bothered to request when I moved out on my own.

There must be a lot of people who think otherwise of SPAM, however, because the stuff -- What do you call it? Meat? Spread? Salt Jell-O? -- is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

Every year, the Washington County Fair hosts a cooking contest that doubles as a semifinal for the Great American SPAM Championship.

I always thought "fair food" meant old ladies competing for the blue ribbon for their homemade pies. And do not try to sell me on SPAM pie.

All right, enough dissing. Here are the details on the fair's two cooking contests:

For the SPAM competition, create a SPAM-based recipe using 10 ingredients or fewer. First place wins up to $150 and goes on to compete for national prizes.

For the Fleischmann's Yeast "Sensational Sandwich Bread Contest," use any type of Fleischmann's yeast to make any type of sandwich bread: loaves, buns, bagels, biscuits and so on, and top your creation with any sandwich ingredients you like. Prizes start at $150; the top winners from each regional event will go on to national competitions.

Register for either contest before July 20 by calling 724-225-7718. The contests will be judged at the fair on Aug. 11.

Heck, maybe you could reinvent SPAM Sandwiches and kill two birds with one stone.


Mmm ... bacteria!: Just kidding. The official name of this event is "Legume Fermentation Social Night," and as the Slow Food Pittsburgh promo ad states, "We'll enjoy all the fruits of friendly bacteria, yeasts and molds... house-made charcuterie, a fermented cocktail designed just for the evening, cheeses, chocolates from Mon Aimee Chocolat (yes, chocolate is fermented!)." 6 to 7:30 p.m. July 25 at Legume, Oakland. $15 for Slow Food Pittsburgh members; $20 for nonmembers. To register, e-mail

Holy Happy Hour: Imbibe with the nuns: appetizers, drinks, live music and photo booth. 6 to 8 p.m. July 26 at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side. $35 for adults under age 35, $40 for other adults; proceeds benefit the ministries of the Sisters of Divine Providence. 412-635-5401 or

Wine Tasting After Hours: Hors d'oeuvres and wine tasting with Christian W. Klay Winery and private tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Kentuck Knob, Ohiopyle. 6 p.m. July 28. $80 per person. 724-329-1901 opt. 1.

Also for charity

Knife-sharpening event: From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 14, Wusthof's Ed Bartush will be at In the Kitchen in the Strip District, where he'll sharpen your knives (not serrated or Asian ones, however). The store will accept a donation for each knife sharpened and give all the money to the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.


Rib & Wing Festival: Meat and more meat, music, games, crafters, a beer garden and kids' activities. 4 to 9 p.m. July 27 (plus fireworks after dusk), 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 28 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 29 at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. $7 per person or free for kids 12 and under; food is extra.

Pittsburgh Eggfest: Users of the Big Green Egg BBQ grills unite to cook up their specialties. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 28 at Hearth & Home Furnishings, Zelienople. Register to cook (it's BYO ingredients) for $5 per person, or sign up to eat at $18 per person or $30 per couple, plus enjoy grilling workshops. 724-452-6732 or


Eating seasonally: Want to eat seasonally but don't know where to begin? Taffani Emig, manager of Pittsburgh Public Market, and Kellianne Frketic, owner of eeash Bakery, share some tips. Meet at the market and enjoy a free lunch made with local ingredients from the market's farms. Preregistration is required by emailing

Pack a summer picnic: Children's cooking class, 2 p.m. July 25 at Giant Eagle Market District, Robinson. Free.

In other news

Serious heat: Red Robin recently became the first restaurant chain to add to its menu the ghost pepper -- the world's hottest pepper, billed as 300 times hotter than the jalapeno.

The pepper shows up in two burgers: the Fiery Ghost (with ghost pepper sauce, fried jalapenos and pepper jack cheese) and the Cry Baby (with crispy onion straws tossed in Sriracha dry seasoning, sauteed onions in Cholula hot sauce, pepper jack cheese and ghost pepper ketchup).

Better order your drink refills up front.

Cook for the Cure: Home cooks are invited to benefit breast cancer research by joining the "1,000 Cooks for the Cure" initiative.

Here's how it works: Host a party of any kind in your home between July 20 and 29, and ask guests to consider bringing along, instead of a hostess gift, a small donation for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Any party host who registers on and raises $50 or more will receive a Jacques Pepin-designed serving platter and will be entered into a drawing for a three-day trip to New York for a Pepin cooking class.

Here's an idea: Invite friends over for a SPAM sandwich party. You'll find out who your true friends are.

Rebecca Sodergren:


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