OAHU, Hawaii -- I am no stranger to Spam. Growing up in South Florida, in a happy but not-well-to-do household, the canned pork regularly found its way onto my plate alongside rice and beans or with eggs for a hearty breakfast.
The writer's son loved the Spam musubi at Musubi Cafe Iyasume, but his daughter took a hard pass. Photo Credit: Hector Fadraga
And I still have my commemorative tin of the stuff from Monty Python's "Spamalot" musical stashed away somewhere (no worries about it going bad, right?). So I appreciate Spam both for its satisfying simplicity and for the space it occupies in popular culture.
There was no question that a Spam musubi or 10 would be consumed on our family's first trip to Hawaii for a hosted stay at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.
Spam occupies a unique space on the Islands, where it is called Portagee steak and goes with everything. Hawaiians have the highest per capita consumption of Spam in the U.S. There's even an annual festival on Oahu, the Waikiki Spam Jam.
Spam musubi -- sushi rice and a thick slice of marinated Spam wrapped in nori -- is a beloved snack found on the Islands.
During our pre-Aulani stay in Waikiki, we ventured into Musubi Cafe Iyasume, which has seven locations scattered around Honolulu. The Waikiki Monarch shop is worth a visit, with seating and musubi-related souvenirs and art on the walls.
We were tempted to bring back a Spam musubi-making kit complete with a can of Spam, a bottle of marinade, a shaping tool, instructions and a colorful lunch bag.
My wife tried the seaweed musubi, while my son and I went for the classic Spam musubi. My daughter was not a fan (yet). We walked to the beach with our handheld snacks and enjoyed them while watching the surfers do their thing.
Musubi with the Mouse
From Waikiki we ventured to Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa for a decidedly different experience of Hawaii.
Around every corner at the Ko Olina resort there were touches of Disney magic but also a focus on Native Hawaiian culture. The air was full of music and birdsong, and colorful flowers and plants popped and swayed in the breeze.
After Waikiki's more touristy vibe, Aulani was like another world.
The writer's daughter liked the rice and the nori in the mouse ear musubi served at the Aulani's Ama Ama restaurant. Photo Credit: Hector Fadraga
We sought a quick bite after arriving, and the Spam musubi once again beckoned. We found the now-familiar snacks at the grab-and-go Ulu Cafe, but with a Disney twist. These Spam musubis had ears, of course!
My son became emotional when little sister teased him about chomping the Mouse's ears off. But this time at least she gave the rice a try -- and a thumbs-up!
We again encountered Spam treats at the resort's Ama Ama restaurant, where Mickey and Minnie musubi were starters in the three-course keiki (children's) menu. Here, Mickey's face was the Spam and his ears were nori. This time, lil sis ate the rice and nori -- and big bro got a second helping of Spam.
On our last afternoon at Aulani, waiting in the Luana Lounge for our airport transfer after checking out, we treated ourselves to one last helping of Mickey-eared Spam musubi from Ulu. The little snacks were one delicious highlight from an unforgettable family trip.