Mystery Meats

ENGLISH PASTY When me granddad was a wee lad in the north o' England, his mam used to fabricate into a kinder pie, a crusty thing what he called a Cornish pasty. He admits now that poverty was a constant border in their rooms, and that mam worked into her pasties almost any critter too lame to outrun her. He bragged that at one time or another he ate his own cat (dead of natural causes), a frog, a nestful of baby birds (their bones, he said, "crunchy and tolerably sweet")—all in a simple pastry crust pioneered by the miners of Cornwall, perfected by me utilitarian great-grandmother. I can vouch for the pasties at Pasty Kitchen, where the dish is riddled with mysterious meat and wrapped in a tasty enigma. It's a turnover filled with what you'd reasonably call "paste"—piles of meat, vegetables and whatever else is around chopped together and folded into a delicately sublime crust. A mystery, yes, but a delightful one. 3641 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 431-9747.SPAM At L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in Cypress, you'll eat what Hawaiians really eat: Spam. For reasons still fascinating to anthropologists and gastroenterologists alike, Hawaii has developed an all-consuming taste for the vaguely meat-like cube from the World War II era. Fret not, effete bourgeois gourmand: although it's an acquired taste, it doesn't take too much acquiring to reawaken the doughty American serviceman within. Just don't think about where it probably came from as you tear into a scrumptious Spam musubi (sushi made with Spam, seaweed and a block of rice; it's strangely addictive), a Spam and egg sandwich, or even grilled Spam soup (saimin). 5633 Lincoln Ave., Cypress, (714) 761-9530; also in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra and Long Beach.JACK IN THE BOX TACOS Years ago, when I was a lowly data monkey, the only lunch I could afford was the three-tacos-for-a-dollar deal that the nearby Jack in the Box offered. I gobbled those things despite never being exactly sure what was inside their fried shell—ingredients for the taco posted on Jack in the Box's website include soy and something called "imitation beef extract." Every lunch ended the same: I clenched my stomach for the rest of the afternoon, then rushed home after the five o'clock whistle to emit effluvia too graphic even for Rotten.com. But I write not to derogate Jack in the Box tacos but to praise them—wrenching digestive pains notwithstanding, dem snacks were more addictive than hillbilly heroin. For the key to this fried Pandora's box, visit jackinthebox.com/ourfood/ingredients.php.

 
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