July 5, 1937 ~You’ve Got Spam!
Today we want to wish a very Happy Birthday to a quintessentially American invention: Spam! No not the annoying emails we get in our inboxes: though that is likely an American invention too; I’m referring to everybody’s favorite canned meat that was first introduced on July 5, 1937.
It’s seems appropriate that only a day after we celebrate the birthday of the United States, we pay homage to a tin of meat.
But let’s be frank, Spam is up there with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Levi’s, and Kentucky Fried Chicken as one of the most distinctive American brands of all time.
Spam is the brainchild of Jay Hormel and the Hormel Company of Austin, Minnesota. It was originally developed to increase the sale of pork shoulder which was not a very popular cut.
Some creative marketing types quickly made this lump of meat into a popular lunch and breakfast meat. It was cheap, filling, has a long shelf life and addressed the needs of Depression era America.
The outbreak of World War II would forever solidify this oddly named culinary backwater to the forefront of the American psyche.
The difficulty of delivering fresh meat to the front during the war saw Spam become a ubiquitous part of the U.S. soldier’s diet.
It became variously referred to as “ham that didn’t pass its physical”, “meatloaf without basic training”, and “Special Army Meat.”
Wherever the soldiers went, there was Spam and they introduced it to the locals.
Over 150 million pounds of Spam were purchased by the military before the war’s end.
After the war, Americas love affair with Spam continued., the Hormel Girls – a musical troupe of female World War II veterans – traveled the country performing songs and promoting the product. The group even starred in a top-rated radio show on three national networks.
More than 8 Billion tons of Spam have been sold since the War and the fascination with this gelatinous meat continues.
Though, since its rise to popularity, Spam has come a long way.
From Spam Chorizo to Spam Oven Roasted Turkey and from Spam Spread to Spam covered Macadamia Nuts, the many varieties of Spam have multiplied to keep up with consumer cravings.
In Hawaii – where seven million cans are sold each year – McDonald’s franchises will offer Spam-based products, like Spam, eggs and rice. The Spam Musubi – Spam on rice wrapped in seaweed – is also a popular snack and lunch food. They even have the SpamJam in Waikiki, their annual tribute to everything Spam.
Today the methods of preparing Spam are to numerous to count. From rice bowls to grilled spam burgers, the possibilities are endless.
People either love Spam or hate it. But likely those who aren’t fans haven’t even tried it. Perhaps they just dislike meat being served from the can.
In reality Spam’s really not that bad. It’s actually quite delicious, like a saltier, fattier version of ham—with the discouraging nutritional values to go along with it.
So Happy Birthday Spam. May your shelf life continue in perpetuity and may your varieties forever multiply.