Author Theresa L. Goodrich presents Two Lane Gems, Vol. 2: Bison are Giant and Other Observations from an American Road Trip in serial form. Enjoy!
I love the big puffy clouds,” I said, “when they’re not dropping stuff.”
I’d officially hit the loopy stage. That’s OK. We were getting closer to “home” with every mile. In two more days we’d be back in Illinois and then we could rest.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, my. Anyway… Day 33’s agenda was light. We drove through Owatonna so I could see a Louis Sullivan-designed jewel box. It was built in 1908 as the National Farmers’ Bank of Owatonna and it’s now a Wells Fargo. Since it was Sunday I couldn’t go inside, but that gorgeous red brick exterior with green terra cotta and stained glass windows was worth the quick detour.
The only other item on our list was SPAM®. There is a SPAM® Museum in Austin, Minnesota. I think if I had decided to skip this palace of pork, everyone who knows me, including you (because you know me by now), would be disappointed. SPAM® is one of those polarizing foods that people love to love or love to hate. It’s the cilantro of canned meats.
SPAM® has quite the history. Hormel first produced it in 1937, which proved to be good timing for both the company and U.S. soldiers. More than 150 million pounds of the preserved pork product were shipped to the front, which is how it landed in Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines. The museum has a whole room showing how this product has supported and continues to support the troops. There are lots of interactive exhibits, a section just for kids, and screens of recipes showing the various ways you can use SPAM® in your menu. We also learned what’s in those rectangular cans. Surprisingly, it’s just six ingredients: pork with ham, salt, water, sugar, potato, and sodium nitrate. If you want a little more flavor they’ve got jalapeno, black pepper, chorizo, teriyaki, and other varieties.
A friend of ours lives near Austin and she met us for lunch. The museum doesn’t have a cafe, so we found a restaurant a block away that had a whole SPAM® menu. We shared chorizo SPAM® quesadillas and Philly SPAM® and Cheese. Both were surprisingly tasty, and I felt better knowing the meat was actually meat and wasn’t just a tin full of chemicals as I’d assumed. Teach me to not look at labels.
We left Austin, drove towards the Mississippi River, crossed it, and entered Wisconsin. It was 7:30 when we checked in to our hotel in Onalaska, and I was in bed by 7:45. Two more days.