An elderly friend was enjoying a can of Armour's "Potted Meat Food Product" when I stopped by for a short visit a few weeks ago. I say "enjoying" because she was still upright and smiling when I brought her some real food several hours later and not ill like my entire family once was after eating something called "Sack O' Sauce in a Can O' Meat." It was 37 years ago, but the incident has a strong smell attached to it. I still remember my mother reading the label and musing in between our groans, "Hmmm, they don't say what part of the cow 'beef parts' are from." A call to the manufacturer rewarded us with only a larger supply of "Sack O' Sauce in a Can O' Meat," which was immediately tossed and likely still intact beneath the Earth's surface, now the Holy Grail of potted meat.
After I insisted my friend eat the Wild Oats salad I'd brought her, she took me down to her basement and revealed cases of Armour's product as well as a veritable shrine to other regrettable mummified foods she had purchased late in 1999 to live on if civilization collapsed from the Y2K bug.
Although her clear favorite is the Armour product, she keeps several cases of Spam — which she claims is "better than steak" fried with cheddar and mustard — and boxes labeled "Nonspecific Luncheon Loaves." Curious, I asked for a can of the Armour potted meat to take home for examination.
The words "food product" should be the first red flag. If a company needs to remind the consumer that the contents are food, it isn't.
Also, the label proudly proclaims, "America's #1 Choice" (for what?) and "Ready to Eat."
The list of ingredients is horrifying, beginning with "mechanically separated chicken," a process similar to steam cleaning a carpet but more violent. Everyone knows that chickens can only be separated by beak-to-beak combat. Other than hot dogs, there's one other product I'm aware of that has mechanically separated meat: dog food. Ironically, I began to feel separated from the contents of my stomach.
"Beef hearts" and "beef tripe" are ingredients you should eat only if it involves a large cash prize on Fear Factor. But the oddest ingredient has to be the oxymoronic "partially de-fatted cooked pork fatty tissue." How does one de-fat fat? That's like saying "partially dehydrated water."
As I pulled back the lid, the first thing to hit me was the one-two punch of a malodorous fist: ugh, cat vomit and the time my dog ate a sack of cheap tacos and we had to evacuate the house. Inside, the product resembles a creamy, pink meat paste. I wonder what would be an appropriate wine pairing?
I gulped, closed my eyes, pinched my nostrils and dipped the spoon in. The potted meat tenaciously clung to the palette like salty mucilage and left a spicy afterburn at the back of the throat. Or perhaps that was the sensation of my taste buds expiring.