As a child, it was not unusual for me to carry my lunch to school in a small paper sack or a little tin box with a handle on its side. I’m not sure, but I do believe I was fortunate enough to own a lunch box with Gene Autry on it. Gene Autry was “America’s Favorite Cowboy” and my greatest hero.
Descended on both sides of my family from hardworking immigrant stock, those who really built America, not the robber barons who owned it then and still do, carrying my lunch to school was a kind of status symbol. The sandwich or two that made up the main course was peanut butter and jelly, bologna, or that marvelous canned mystery meat known by its brand name, SPAM®.
Each region of our great nation is noted for some particular cuisine, for example, fried chicken in the south. But, if there is one dish that more than any other can be described as truly American, it is SPAM.
For those of you raised on fast food, the contents of which remain a closely guarded secret that baffles the brightest of today’s scientists, the ingredients of SPAM are simple and not unhealthy. Well, perhaps I should qualify that just a little. Whether the original or the lite variety, SPAM is rather high in salt and fat.
Jay C. Hormel, President of Geo. A. Hormel & Co. developed SPAM to make use of pork shoulders, a largely wasted part of the pig at that time. At first it was called Hormel Spiced Ham®. The name, “SPAM” resulted from a contest to name the new canned meat during a party on New Year’s Day, 1937. The winner was the actor Kenneth Daigneau, who received $100 for dreaming up one of the most readily, recognized brand names in history.
The meaning of “SPAM” is not known for sure, but usually assumed to mean “spiced ham” or “special processed American meat.” Hormel officially registered the name on May 11, 1937, thus giving the product an official birthday, so to speak.
It was World War II that assured SPAM would never disappear from store shelves in America or around the world. One-hundred million pounds of SPAM were consumed by American and Allied troops who claim that they had it for breakfast, dinner, and supper. Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev attributed the Russian victory on the Eastern Front in part to SPAM. “Without SPAM,” he said, “we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”
SPAM has been on the menu for American troops in every war since World War II except the Gulf War. Saudi Arabia would not allow it, since pork is a forbidden food that country.
By 1959, Hormel sold one billion cans of SPAM Classic. That figure rose to two billion in 1970, three billion in 1980, five billion in 1994, and seven billion in 2007. If the cans of SPAM were placed in a row end to end, they would circle the earth twelve and a half times. More cans of SPAM have been sold around the globe than there are people living on the planet.
There are twenty-one varieties of SPAM today, but the connoisseur’s favorite remains the original, the Classic. There is a SPM fan club, a SPAM museum, and T-shirts, mugs, and even underwear with the SPAM image on them. The really dedicated SPAM will want make at least one pilgrimage to the SPAM museum, located on Spam Blvd. in Spamtown, U.S.A., also called Austin, Minnesota, its birthplace. Not only is it the subject of uncounted jokes, but also eulogized in songs.
I often look at the cans of SPAM on the grocery store shelf, but have not purchased or eaten any for many, many years. Formerly it was because I can still taste those sandwiches I had to carry in my school lunches. These days, I look at the amount of salt and fat in a serving and decide to pass it by. I convince myself that it is simply not a healthy choice for senior citizen. That may just be a convenient excuse, because the late Senator Harry Byrd of West Virginia was known to eat three SPAM sandwiches with mayonnaise per week until his death at ninety-two.
Now that I think about it, maybe I will buy a can of SPAM Classic and give it go, just for old times’ sake.
I will close by referring you the song, “Pam Don’t Take My SPAM”: https://soundcloud.com/spam-brand/pam-spam
Until next time, be good to all God’s creatures and always live under the mercy.
- In Defense of SPAM (psmag.com)
- Spammity SPAM (beedoo747.wordpress.com)
- Hormel’s biggest year ever: Profit of $526 million, $8.75 billion in sales (hispanicbusiness.com)
- A tasty victual (tedatoka.wordpress.com)
- REPOST: Hawaii’s Dubious Food Distinction (urbainechild.wordpress.com)
- Tried, tested, rejected and officially no need for a Spamtervention (hazmeister21.wordpress.com)
When it was my dad’s night to cook (like when my mom was at the hospital having a baby 🙂 ), one of his specialties was macaroni and cheese with Spam and ketchup. It was surprisingly not bad!