by David King
To quote Hipcamp.com, “Ain’t no party like a Mt. Tamalpais camping party! The Alice Eastwood Group Campsite located on the Panoramic Highway near the Mountain Home Inn, has two large sites for group camping of 25 to 50 people. Each site has tables, a large pavilion, grills, flush toilets, water faucets with sinks and a huge area to set up tents.” Mt. Tamalpais Alice Eastwood Campgrounds is one of the best group campsites offered in the Bay Area.
I was invited to join such a camping party, which was dubbed SPAM Jam Mt. Tam, aka SPAMAPALOOZA.
This was an inspiring weekend of camping with a whacky theme. Although the SPAM theme has been a perennial favorite with this group of 40 friends and families for the past 26 years, spanning three generations of campers. Allow me to share how such a party works.
The Mt. Tamalpais location was selected this year because June was the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco “Summer of Love” in 1967. Once a hippie, always a hippie.
It was a relief just to leave Concord’s 100 degree plus temperatures just to arrive in the mild seventies of Muir Woods. Once I arrived, the campsite was decorated with traditional Hawaiian-themed knickknacks. But the icing on the cake was the non-traditional SPAM paraphernalia, that can be obtained from the SPAM Fan Club. (Yes, SPAM has an official SPAM Club.) This included at the center of the campground a shrine built to honor the SPAM Spirits.
SPAM Jam basically started as an Hawaiian-themed camping weekend. But in 1991, Herb Anderson took it up another notch of silliness and it became SPAMAPALOOZA. “Everybody has an opinion about SPAM,” Herb says.
The theme stuck. So much so, that on the 10th anniversary, Hormel published the event in its corporate newsletter.
So, what do a bunch of hippies do at a SPAM themed camping party? Everything the park offers. Hiking through Muir Woods, just choose your degree of difficulty was a given. Some of the younger members went rock climbing on Mt. Tamalpais. Card games, Poker, Beer Pong, reading, biking, and just old-fashioned catching up. They even set up a challenging five-hole frisbee golf course that weaved through the redwoods.
However, SPAM was the central flavor of the activities. This included such activities as a poetic session around campfire. Each person took turns reading from a book of SPAM KU. (Hai KU’s about SPAM.) Accompanied by the traditional beatnik snapping of fingers.
There was the SPAM carving contest. Artists were given 30 minutes to carve a SPAM loaf into anything. Entries included Stonehenge, Sun Glasses, an alligator, wedding rings, and a two-headed pig.
A SPAM Cook-off challenged contestants to use any ingredient at your respective campsite and invent a SPAM dish, plate it, and present to three judges in the manner you would see on any number of TV cooking contests. In 30 minutes, there was quite the impressive array of creative cuisine. Hawaiian SPAM pizza, SPAM stuffed cheeseburger, Spam tacos, Spam Smores, SPAM nachos (using spicy pork rinds instead of tortilla chips), SPAM Cristo, SPAM Spring rolls, SPAM sliders. All were edible, some were outstanding. The winner was Hot SPAM Cocktail Cubes. This was a seared SPAM, flambéed in Fireball (cinnamon whiskey) served on a toothpick with a pineapple chunk, dipped in chocolate. Somehow it worked.
If you are interested, more creative recipes are posted below.
As the weekend closes a SPAM King and Queen are announced. But the highlight is the nighttime ceremony of Burning SPAM. A SPAM man is made using Mr. Potato Head parts and set ablaze.
Great fun, food, and a beautiful campground and park. Now that was a camping party.
SPAM Camping Recipes
Ingredients: SPAM, ground beef, cheddar cheese, McCormick garlic and herb seasonings, favorite hamburger seasonings, buns
Season ground beef and make into ball. Sear SPAM slices. Cube into small pieces. Make a thumb divot in the ground beef balls and place cubed SPAM pieces inside. Flatten into patties and sear beef on all sides. Add chedar cheese until melted. Serve on hamburger buns, and add favorite condiments.
Ingredients: SPAM, peppercinos, ketchup, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, spicy pork rinds
Chop or mash SPAM into small pieces, mix with ketchup and crumbled spicy pork rinds. Add chopped peppercinos. Cover with Cheddar and mozerella cheese. Heat until warm and cheese melts.
Serve on a bed of Spicy pork rinds.
Ingedients: SPAM, graham crackers, marshmallow, Hershey chocolate.
Add a grilled SPAM slice into a prepared Smore. (melted chocolate and marshmallow on Graham Crackers)
Gluten-free SPAM Cristo
Ingredients: SPAM, Walkers gluten-free Shortbread cookies (Imported from Scotland), water, half and half, egg, vegetable oil
In a baggie, crush Gluten-free Walkers shortbread cookies add a small amount of water and half and half and one egg. Mix until a batter.
Grill SPAM slices and place in baggie of batter. Coat SPAM slice and fry in skillet of vegetable oil until crispy on all sides. Serve with shortbread cookies.
SPAM Spring Roll
Ingredients: SPAM, Rice wraps, rice noodles, lettuce, bean sprouts, cilantro
Boil rice noodles until tender, drain and rinse in cool water. Fry SPAM slices. Dip rice wraps into warm water to soften. Layer SPAM, lettuce, sprouts, rice noodles, and cilantro anto wrap. fold edges and wrap.
SPAM Hawaiian Pizza
Ingredients: Bacon-flavored SPAM, English muffin, canned pineapple chunks, red onion, mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce, rosemary infused olive oil
Fry Bacon-flavored SPAM with rosemary infused olive oil. Chop into small pieces. Toast English muffin, cover with pizza sauce add chopped red onion, pineapple, SPAM bits, and layer mozzarella cheese on top. Place in pan with small amount of water to soften muffin, cover until hot and cheese has melted.
Ingredients: SPAM, aged cheddar, onion, Sweet Hawaiian rolls.
Saute onion until carmelized, spoon onto grilled SPAM slices , add cheddar cheese, serve on Sweet Hawaiian Rolls.
Ingredients: SPAM, lime, onion, cilantro, corn tortillas, Taco Bell Hot Sauce
Slice SPAM to 1/4 inch thick, marinate in lime juice, and pan fry. Chop into pieces when done. Chop onion, cilantro and mix with SPAM. Add taco sauce. Heat two corn tortilla on stove, and place ingredients inside. fold and hold together with toothpick with a lime slice attached.