So, what does SPAM actually stand for? I always thought it stood for “spice ham”. Other theories abound, like “specially processed American meat” and “shoulders of pork and ham.” In reality a Hormel VP’s brother suggested the name back in 1937 when the product was formulated. Now wouldn’t that be an original title, “The Father of Spam”? His name was Ken Daigneau, and he won $100 for the winning name in a contest.
Would you believe that I actually had Spam on my recent trip to Russia? I was in total amazement when my scrambled eggs had Spam mixed into it. The menu said eggs with meat. And though Spam was popular with American GI’s in WW2, the Russians consumed over 100 million pounds of it during the war. It turned out to be a vital part of the Russian troops survival, according to then Russian premier, Nikita Khrushchev.
Spam even had a mascot at one time, an angry pig named “Slammin’ Sammy”, I hope not for the famed golfer who had the same nickname, Sam Snead. It was meant to be a patriotic gesture to help support our troops. And he appeared on many items, ranging from clothing to bombers.
The Hormel plant produces 44,000 cans of Spam an hour world wide. That equates to 33,000 pounds of Spam in over 40 countries. And it is really made from pork shoulder and ham, along with water, salt, sugar, potato starch, and the ubiquitous nitrites as preservative. That would make it nearly identical to hot dogs.
Spam became popular during both World War 2 and the Korean War since fresh meat was a very scarce commodity. Hawaiians, in particular, serving in the army, including those in the famous 442 Regiment, took a strong liking to Spam.
In a strange twist, South Koreans eat more Spam per capita than any country but ours. The people in the Philippines also love Spam. Hormel actually donated 30,000 pounds after the 2009 typhoon there. Each person in Guam eats 16 cans annually! I imagine the land fill there is dominated by empty Spam cans. And as I said earlier, Hawaiians eat the most Spam per capita of any U.S. state.
I have seen both Spam Lite and turkey Spam on the shelves of our grocery store. Hormel actually made a kosher variety around 2000, called Loof. It was meant as field rations for the Israeli army, and made from chicken and beef. I imagine many rabbis taking issue with this product.
In recent times, Spam played a big role in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. A couple attempts to order food in a restaurant, in which almost every item on the menu contains Spam. The Vikings at the tablet next to them cannot stop singing about it. The couple name is Mr. and Mrs. Bun, and the restaurant is the Green Midget Café. The sketch was written by Michael Palin (hopefully no relation to Sarah Palin) and Terry Jones. And remarkably, the song turns out to be the origin of the nickname for junk mail, spam, due to its repetitive nature.
The entire tin of Spam contains 100 grams of fat and more than 1,000 calories, terribly unhealthy. Add to that 240 mg of cholesterol, and a whopping 4,696 mg. of salt (sodium), nearly double the recommended DAILY allowance. Remember when I told you that people in Minnesota are large? Well, Austin, Minnesota is home to the Spam Museum, a 16,5000 square foot monument to all things Spam. The Spam Museum should really be in Honolulu!!!
Not to be outdone, there is a “Spam Jam” held each year (April) on the beach in Waikiki. Most years, they try to break the Guinness World Record for largest spam musubi. Shady Grove, Oregon, surprisingly, is home to an annual Spam Parade and Festival. And there is actually a real place named Spam Valley in England, though populated by very poor people. Spamarama is held each year in Austin, Texas on April Fool’s Day.
I did not know Spam came in these flavors or varieties:
- Spam Classic – original flavor
- Spam Hot & Spicy – with Tabasco flavor
- Spam Jalapeño
- Spam Black Pepper
- Spam Less Sodium – “25% less sodium”
- Spam Lite – “33% fewer calories, 25% less sodium, and 50% less fat” – made from pork shoulder meat, ham, and mechanically separated chicken
- Spam Oven Roasted Turkey
- Spam Hickory Smoke flavor
- Spam Spread – “if you’re a spreader, not a slicer … just like Spam Classic, but in a spreadable form”
- Spam with Bacon
- Spam with Cheese
- Spam Garlic (see photos below)
- Spam Teriyaki
- Spam Chorizo
- Spam Tocino (Philippines)
In 2007, the seven billionth can of Spam was sold. So, I doubt it is going away soon, despite its totally unhealthy nature. It is commonly served at any meal of the day. It is even called “Hawaiian Steak” in the aloha state. The Spam we eat in the U.S. is made in either Austin, MN, or Fremont, Nebraska. The Austin location has a restaurant, dedicated to Spam, called Johnny’s SPAMarama!!! I must go there someday.
This is the only way to eat Spam. It is a great treat on the golf course. I figure it takes the place of a salt tablet in extremely warm weather! The resulting increase in thirst helps increase beer consumption. So, it is not ALL bad, just mostly bad. I plan to buy four of them for the golf course today. It will be my own version of Happy Spamarama.