Maybe we're too polite during the holidays. And that's why this time of the year we push our taste buds to point of breaking, along with our gag reflex.

It is after all the season of peace, love, and harmony. So maybe that's why we're afraid to use the forceful "no thanks", multiple times when our senses are assaulted by Questionable Holiday Food Choices for Montana meals.

This isn't a new point to ponder for me. But it came to the forefront again with the news Hormel Foods had decided to take SPAM® into a wholly unexpected direction this Christmas.

Yes, SPAM®

Hormel went for the home run this year by announcing a "Limited Edition" SPAM® Figgy Pudding. Described as a "blend of warm spices and seasonal ingredients" with "notes of cinnamon and nutmeg with fig and orange flavors" it's not exactly full-on Charles Dickens. Setting aside whether it really needed "Limited Edition" added to the can, the most unexpected thing here is the word it's already sold out. Can we look over Amazon's shoulder and see if this all went to Hawaii, where SPAM® is a revered cultural cuisine? 

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Dennis Bragg photo
Dennis Bragg photo

But that's not the only mystery meat on the holiday menu

The success of the SPAM® campaign got me recalling other Montana pantry pitfalls which pop up faster this time of the year than the weird Reindeer Cake Pops some hosts insist are at every holiday party. 

And speaking of deer, or elk, or antelope, or even bear. Is there anything more uncomfortable than the holiday dinner when someone surprises you by serving up game meat with questionable heritage? I love elk steak as much as anyone, and antelope done right is great. Yet it seems game meat is one of those very personal things which shouldn't be a "Santa surprise". Even worse? If you make a polite comment on how good it is and they send some home with you. 

Photo courtesy; Savannah Lee
Photo courtesy; Savannah Lee

Grandma's pickles

As I said on Daybreak with Dennis the other morning, another awkward holiday food is when Grandma decides to bring out her "prize pickles" from her garden plot in the 'Root, only for you to discover she canned them in '94. And what's the deal with that creepy dill weed anyway?

Homemade candy mysteries

Some of the most awkward moments are when your host brings out the homemade candy. There are times when that can be a real treat. Other times it's just odd when you bite into a "brownie" only to discover the careless placement of caramel, or the nut shrapnel left behind. Homemade hard candy is from another planet. Marzipan is even stranger (with apologies to my old neighbor Mrs. Eisenbarger, who was a professional baker from Germany and knew how to make that custom stuff ROCK). The rest of you should just take the time and finish the shopping. Thanks.

Easter fruitcake on the stone background
credit: wideonet, Getty Images

Fruitcake "fun"

It almost seems lazy to include some of these last items on the list they take so much abuse. Fruitcake has really fallen out of favor in recent years, although if done well it can be tasty. The problem is, very few people know when to stop jamming stuff in there. 

Egg nog 

Another leftover from the days when Dickens was making current news headlines. My only suggestion here is, to find a store brand that's consistent if you like it, and branch out from there. 

Cranberries shouldn't get a second chance at Christmas

With all due respect to the people in Westport, Washington, who are lovely and grow wonderful cranberries, "berry bullies" like myself shouldn't have to stand our ground twice in one year. Leave the cranberry controversy for Thanksgiving and give us peace for Christmas. Please. 

Actually, it looks like SPAM® might be the least of our problems. 

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