SPAM® made its debut in 1937, created by Hormel Foods, and the military found it to be a valuable staple to feed our troops during WWII. (The troops had several favorite names for this new product, which are not printable, but they still welcomed meat in any form.) On the home front, it stocked the shelves of homemakers, was versatile and provided a quick meal for kids. While many speculate that the name stands for “spiced ham,” executives at Hormel are not talking. Of course back in the 30s, who could predict that the same word (in lower case) would label unwanted emails.
Following WWII, the territory of Hawaii embraced the canned meat which GI’s had been eating and made it a part of their cuisine. Fried Spam and rice became a popular dish which was eaten any time of day, and what better combination than the plentiful pineapple to top this newfound craze. To this day, more Spam is eaten in our 50th state than anywhere else, and they make no apologies. A record 7 million cans of Spam products are purchased per year. Even some popular fast food restaurants feature it on their menu.
Although an American original, this unique canned meat has expanded its popularity worldwide, and fans everywhere have put their own ethnic stamp on it. In the Philippines, several well-known restaurants feature it exclusively, offering a multitude of dishes for the gourmet. For the Brits, Spam ‘n chips is a favorite variation of their national staple fish ‘n chips. (With lots of vinegar). On the island of Guam, the consumption tops 16 cans per person per year. While you won’t find this product anywhere in Africa, most of South America or Western Europe, Spam is enjoyed in over 40 countries around the world. And a staggering 12.8 cans are consumed every second. Back in the U.S. this product boasts its own museum in Austin, Minnesota.
Recipe contests are held annually at 26 of our country’s largest state and county fairs, where cooks take this competition very seriously. Unique and exotic dishes are entered which incorporate Spam into just about every ethnic cuisine one can imagine: Tex-Mex tacos, Italian pasta, Asian bowls, American grilled sandwiches, sushi, breakfast combinations, hash, the list is endless.
Among the famous who have professed their love of Spam are Dwight Eisenhower, Margaret Thatcher, Gracie Allen, and Monty Python. Some celebrity chefs have created unique recipes and cookbooks to feature its unlimited uses. There’s no denying its popularity and sustainability in the U.S. and worldwide, counting millions of loyal fans.
Okay, so maybe you don’t eat pork products. Or maybe you feel canned meats are not healthy. Take heart. The Hormel Company also produces a turkey version. Bon appetit.