In recent times, we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in retro foods, with the iconic canned meat, Spam, making a comeback. Regardless of whether you’re a fan, a critic, or have never tasted it, there’s no denying that Spam boasts a rich history dating back to the 1930s. Since its introduction, the Spam website reveals that a staggering 8 billion cans have been sold across the globe.
Spam first made its appearance in 1937, during the Great Depression. As fresh pork was too costly and scarce for the majority of people, this canned meat alternative rapidly gained popularity due to its affordability and convenience. World War II saw an increased demand for Spam, with the military purchasing 150 million pounds of the product by the end of the conflict.
The Spam website highlights that the ingredients of this canned meat are quite simple, with only six components: pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.
The origins of the name “Spam” remain somewhat of a mystery. It was coined by the brother of a Hormel Foods vice president, but the true meaning behind the term has never been confirmed. Some speculate it stands for “shoulder of pork and ham” or “spiced ham.” Mental Floss attributes the name to Kenneth Daigneau, an actor who won a $100 prize in a Hormel-sponsored contest. Daigneau also happened to be the sibling of a Hormel executive.
Spam enjoys a massive fan base in Hawaii, which ranks as the product’s largest consumer. Among various dishes, Spam Musubi, a fried rice and seaweed pocket, is a local favorite. The Spam website states that Hawaiians consume a whopping 7 million cans of Spam products annually.
South Korea follows as the second-largest consumer of Spam, where it is often incorporated as an ingredient in kimbap, a type of sushi roll.
Did you know that Spam comes in a variety of flavors? Besides the original version, you can find Spam Lite, Spam Bacon, Spam Turkey, Spam Teriyaki, Spam Cheese, Spam Garlic, Spam Black Pepper, Spam Hickory Smoke, and Spam Portuguese Sausage.
The Spam Museum, located in Austin, Minnesota, pays homage to the brand’s history and global impact. Austin is, in fact, the birthplace of the Spam brand. The Smithsonian even received a donation of Spam product packaging in 1998, further cementing its cultural significance.
If you’ve yet to sample Spam, the product’s website describes its taste as “magic.” But for those who have never experienced “magic,” the taste can be likened to a combination of ham and pork roast. Spam can be grilled, baked, or fried, which alters its taste and texture.
The manufacturing process for Spam involves mixing the ingredients with pre-ground pork and ham. The blend is then canned, vacuum-sealed, cooked, and cooled for three hours. Afterward, labels are applied, the cans are packed into cases, and the product is distributed. This classic food item, with its deep-rooted history and an array of flavors, continues to fascinate and attract consumers worldwide.
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