Albion Monitor /Net Surfing

It's an American Thing, You Wouldn't Understand

by Jeff Elliott

Gourmet cooks everywhere will be sad to know they missed the National "Best SPAM Recipe" Competition.

The Internet is an international community with more than 100 countries directly on-line. Thanks to the Usenet newsgroups, we can eavesdrop on our global neighbors. What do they talk about? Often, the topic is American culture or stateside news.

Their view of our culture is sometimes oddly distorted, like looking at ourselves in a funhouse mirror. Because American television programs dominate the Australian airwaves, the newsgroup recently pondered the title scenes of Roseanne, which shows the family gobbling pizza. What's the stuff that each family member sprinkles from a can?

Some correctly believed it was Parmesan cheese, but others weren't so sure. One writer thought it was "some sort of spice or flavouring." As a recent visitor to the states, the same person claimed to witness other American pizza oddities, such as "breakfast pizzas, which seem to me to be omelettes made on a pizza base."

I shudder to think how our Aussie pals would interpret last year's Kentucky State Fair ( Although the actual fair ended last August, a glimpse of this most American event can still be seen in cyberspace.

State Fairs still have some of their old-timey charm. I'm sad to have missed the Costume Poultry Contest, where kids dress up as their favorite fowl. And I'd really like to learn the winners of the daily pipe-smoking contest, where contestants were required to bring their own pipes for this highly competitive sport.

But like everywhere else, commercialism has crept in as corporations seek publicity. Sometimes the sponsor and event are oddly paired. While I'm certain Arby's synchronized bungee jumpers were fun to watch, I doubt many of the acrobats downed fast-food burgers before plunging headfirst off the tower.

Gourmet cooks everywhere will be sad to know they missed the National "Best SPAM Recipe" Competition. Also popular was the Evan Williams Bourbon Cooking Competition, where entries were welcome for "any main diner entree, soup, stew, barbecue or casserole using Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey." Alas, winning recipes are not provided.

After puzzling over such typical American experiences, they can also visit the 1994 Illinois State Fair ( A highlight is the Swine Barn, where ham fans can marvel at the 1,107 pound winner of last year's largest Boar Contest, and even download a picture of owner Fred Bell with his pig the size of a Miata. For his victory speech, Bell explained simply, "I'm a retired farmer, I had to do something. It's a hobby."

Maybe we could send Fred and his hefty pig on an international goodwill tour. When not discussing swine-breeding, he could make those tasty omelette pizzas all Americans enjoy.

Fred Bell and 'Lotto'

Albion Monitor August 19, 1995 (

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