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I was in the grocery store one day with some friends, and as we passed the cans of SPAM, singing the obligatory Monty Python song, my eye happened to chance upon a tiny can nearby.
"Potted Meat Food Product?" I exclaimed. "What the smeg is Potted Meat Food Product?" So I picked up the can, and made a dreadful mistake:
I read the ingredients.
"Beef Tripe," I read. "Isn't beef tripe another way to say cow stomachs?" I asked. My friends, having lived in the South for many years, and being more familiar with the foods I never encountered while growing up in New England, nodded.
I thought that was pretty disgusting; little did I know that it was but the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
"Beef Hearts," I continued. "Chicken."
"What part of the chicken?" one of my friends asked. "Chicken lips?" Another friend pantomimed holding a chicken by the legs and feeding the whole thing into a meat grinder.
Then I came to the ingredient that forced Potted Meat Food Product to become a permanent resident in my consciousness: "Partially Defatted Cooked Pork Fatty Tissue."
Partially defatted cooked pork fatty tissue?! Now, I wouldn't be too averse to trying beef hearts -- after all, hearts are pretty much all muscle, which is what regular meat is. Beef tripe, while it sounds rather disgusting, also isn't entirely foreign to my realm of experience, since I once ate a (very) small portion of haggis. But partially defatted cooked pork fatty tissue? That raises a few questions in my mind.
Most importantly, what is partially defatted fatty tissue? Isn't that a bit like saying "partially dehydrated water"?
Another question which occurred to me: the label proudly proclaims, "AMERICA'S #1 CHOICE" -- now, does this mean that the Potted Meat Food Product is America's #1 Choice? For what?
The back of the label gives some interesting nutritional information. For instance, this tiny three-ounce can contains a whopping 820 milligrams of sodium, thirty-four percent of the recommended daily value! There's also 80mg of cholesterol, which means you could exceed your daily value of cholesterol by eating only four servings of this stuff!
(Not all of the figures are that high, however. The combined percentages of carbohydrates, vitamin A and vitamin C add up to zero. Fortunately for those of us who refuse to "eat healthy", the label assures us that Potted Meat Food Product is Not a significant source of fiber and sugars.)
But why is it a "Food Product"? Why can't they just call it "Potted Meat"?
Fortunately, I noticed that the can had a toll-free number for "Questions or Comments". And what good is a toll-free number if it isn't used?
I called the "Questions or Comments" line. At first, I got a message that the customer service lines were all busy, and that my call was important. Rather than getting the usual hold muzak, though, I was treated to a canned spiel (pun intended) about other fine Armour Star products. (Apparently, the symbol is meant to be pronounced.)
Fairly soon, however, the line was picked up by a representative named Bob. I told him I had some questions about one of their products, specifically, Potted Meat Food Product.
"Go ahead," Bob said. There was no fear or hesitation in his voice; I could tell that he was well-versed in Potted Meat Food Product lore.
"Okay," I said, "One of the ingredients is listed as `partially defatted cooked pork fatty tissue'. What exactly is partially defatted fatty tissue?"
"Well," Bob replied, "There's a certain amount of tissue that holds fat. This tissue has the fat rendered out of it, and it's used for flavoring and seasoning." He further compared it to "cracklins", which I've seen in the supermarket. They frighten me.
"Okay, my next question is, since Partially Defatted Cooked Pork Fatty Tissue is the only one specifically labeled as being cooked, does that mean that the other ingredients aren't cooked?"
"Oh, no," he assured me, "it's all cooked before it goes into the can."
"Okay, good. Now, then, it says `chicken'. What part of the chicken is it? Is it, like, just regular chicken meat, or what?"
"Yes, it's just regular chicken meat. I think it's usually dark meat that goes into it."
"Great, thanks." I was impressed. Bob really knew his stuff! "One last question. The label says, `America's #1 choice.' Is that talking about Potted Meat Food Product, or Armour Star?"
"Okay, great. Thanks for your time!"
Before I got off the line, he offered me some coupons for Armour Star products. I figured, what the heck? Maybe I can get some more Potted Meat Food Product!
In December 2003, Fark ran an AudioEdit contest with the topic "Audioedit a commercial for a foodstuff you would never eat". Of course, this simply begged for an entry on Potted Meat Food Product. Following is an improved version, now with more cowbell!
Occasionally, I get emails from people regarding this page -- almost always from people in Alabama or Texas -- telling me how Potted Meat Food Product is delicious and tasty, and I must be some kind of sissified city boy for not wanting to try something wherein the primary ingredient is part of a cow's gastrointestinal tract, and which looks like something that came out of said tract. One day, however, I received a different kind of email, one which I simply had to share. A WebTV user, one Ms. C____ J______, writes:
You were asking about separated chicken, beef hearts,etc., but why
didn't you ask or try to find out about sodium eythorbate? Is this
alright with you? I"ve heard its EARTHWORMS, ground up. I"ve just
eaten some breakfast bacon and it was the best we had in quite a long
time. Since I had been informed about the worm incident, I decided to
look at the ingredients, guess what-----sodium erthorbate, so now there
is a bit of uneasiness in my stomach, especially since I"ve bee on the
net about two hours trying to find out exactly what it is and there is
truely a run around, bu we"ll keep looking, and if nothing shows up,
there is always the FUNK and WAGNELLS.
Alas, beef tripe has not lost its place as most disgusting ingredient in Potted Meat Food Product; sodium erythorbate is a man-made chemical, similar in structure to Vitamin C but lacking its nutritional qualities, used primarily as an antioxidant and color fixative. I was able to find this out from a reasonably trustworthy source within thirty seconds, which tells me that (a) the efficient use of search engines is probably a lot easier if you spell your search term correctly (it's erythorbate, not erthorbate or eythorbate), and (b) people are apparently very eager to believe any horrifying thing they hear, which goes a long way towards explaining the huge number of "hypodermic needles in gas pump handles" hoax emails I received during that same week. And (c) the WebTV stereotype is not entirely undeserved.