Ogilthorpe’s Oatmeal Spam Squares

The stomach wants what the stomach wants

One afternoon in late fall, Jack and I thought we’d take old Freddie, the retired flat deck logger crummy, and scout some local bush roads for mule deer bucks.

Overnight snow followed by daytime thaws made for greasy mud slicks and deep white shoulders, perfect for tracking deer. It didn’t take Jack long to spot some hoofprints, big ones.

Light began to fade and it started snowing again. We followed the tracks, which were rapidly disappearing in snow, until Freddie’s rear wheels began to spin.

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Ogilthorpe's Oatmeal Spam Squares. Illustration by Keith Milne and Gord Coulthart.
Illustration by Keith Milne and Gord Coulthart.

“This is far enough, Jack, don’t go up there,” I says.

“It’ll be all right Esther, we’ve got four-wheel drive.”

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“Oh, since when did you fix that?”

Jack jumped out, found a rock, beat the hubs into submission, climbed back in and ground the stick shift into gear.

“Hmm, I guess we’ll have to settle for three-wheel drive,” he says.

After a couple of kilometres in deepening snow, the pickup finally slid off the road.

“Well Junkyard Jenkins, what now?”

“There’s a cabin up ahead, Esther. Grab your pack and let’s go.”

There was nobody home, but the woodstove was still warm, the propane light worked and the shelves were stocked full with cans of SPAM.

“Well, at least there’s plenty to eat,” says Jack.

We didn’t have a can opener. Luckily, each serving came with its own pull tab, but the thought of rolling back the rim on a can of pork jello made my stomach flip flop.

Heavy boots stomped on the front porch of the cabin. The door flung wide and a snowman backed in carrying a bucket of water and some kindling. His hair looked like he’d been too close to a lightening bolt and he was missing a few front teeth.

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you were here. Could you give me a hand with the sled?”

Jack and the mountain man unloaded another hundred cans of SPAM and Jack took a long look at the hairy lug that had joined us.

“Hey, you kind of remind me of somebody. You wouldn’t be Ogie Ogilthorpe, would you? Used to play for the Brampton Bulldogs?”

“Nope, Ogie’s my brother.”

“Oh, how is he these days?

“He’s good. After hockey he went to Hollywood to try out for wild man type roles, like when he played left wing. It didn’t work out for him.”

“Well darn. And you?”

“Doobie, Doobie Ogilthorpe.”

“You’re kidding me. Say, what’s with all this SPAM, Doobie?”

“Oh, a little habit I picked up from an old timer, shipwrecked in the Second World War in the South Pacific. Survived on the stuff. Want some? They make all kinds now: pineapple SPAM, jalapeno SPAM, bacon-flavoured SPAM. Come spring, I’m headed to Minnesota for the SPAM festival in Austin. I thought I’d borrow this old stove here this winter and work on an entry guaranteed to top the chopperless category of their annual SPAM off competition. Would you mind guarding the stash while I run back to my hole… I mean cabin, for some ingredients.”

Ogilthorpe pushed on the door. Nothing doing.

“Who’d put an outie on a mountain cabin? We’ll have to thaw our way out. Better yet, we’ll cook our way out.”

Jack and Ogilthorpe played rummy and ate can after can of nameless jellied pork bits. I pulled out a jar of granola and cooked something like oatmeal on the stove.

“What’s that, oatmeal?” asks Doobie. “That’s it! Can I borrow some?”

Ogilthorpe mixed a can of regular SPAM, one cup of granola and three squirts of ketchup. He baked the concoction for an hour and set it by the door, to speed up the thaw. He sliced it into squares and spooned one down.

“Mmm, that’s the winner all right. Try some.”

Well, what the heck. It was kind of like a mashed hot dog with crunch. Not bad at all.

Jack and Ogilthorpe laid the lumber on the door, double teaming it until it finally opened just enough to slide through.

“Let’s get out of here, Jack.”

“I’ll help you push your truck if I can bum a ride to town for more oatmeal.”

I never did hear if Doobie Ogilthorpe won at the annual SPAM festival. Jack tells me he saw oatmeal SPAM advertised in an outdoor magazine (I won’t say which one), marked, “Not available in stores.”

Nothing like making the best of a bad ham.