SPAM luncheon meat was first produced in the Depression era in the United States (1937), by the Hormel Foods Corporation. It was named by Ken Daigneau who had won a contest (and $100). Ken was the brother of a Hormel Vice-President, but that may be entirely coincidental.
Hormel insist that the name is capitalised (SPAM) and this has generated many theories (probably too many) about what it stands for.
In the early days of SPAM, Hormel has stated that it stands for “Shoulder of Pork And Ham” (S.P.A.M.), but the current official explanation is that it stands for “Spiced Ham”.
Not everyone is convinced and there are other popular explanations:
- Spare Meat
- Special Army Meat
- Specially Processed American Meat
- Specially Processed Army Meat
- Something Posing As Meat
- Special Parts After Mutilation
According to Hormel’s SPAM website the ingredients are:
- Pork with Ham
- Potato Starch
- Sodium Nitrite
Whatever the derivation of the name, budget-friendly, long-lasting SPAM became and important food in the US during the depression and became a primary foodstuff for many during World World II due to rationing, particularly Russia and the UK.
Russian President Nikita Khrushchev said “Without Spam we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army”.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, in the 1980s, that it was “…a war-time delicacy”.
American GIs were given SPAM during the Pacific campaign in WWII, and many refused to eat SPAM on returning to the US after the War. However, there was considerable impact on the local populations who incorporated SPAM into their particular cuisine.
One popular dish, that is still prepared, is SPAM Musabi:
The recipe from the Hormel website is as follows:
- 2 slices SPAM® Classic – sliced 3/8″ thick
- 3 ounces cooked white rice, seasoned with furikake and toasted sesame seeds, if desired
- 1 tablespoon House of Tsang® Hibatchi Grill Sweet Ginger Sesame Sauce or House of Tsang® General Tso Sauce
- 1 whole sheet nori
- In large skillet, cook SPAM® Classic until lightly browned and crisp. Drizzle cooked SPAM® Classic with grill sauce or cooking sauce.
- Place rice into musubi press or line inside of empty SPAM® can with plastic wrap and place rice in can. Press rice down firmly.
- Sprinkle with seasoned furikake and toasted sesame seeds, if desired.
- Place SPAM® Classic on rice in press or in can. Press down firmly.
- Remove SPAM® and rice from musubi press or can.
- On work surface, cut nori to desired width.
- Lay nori shiny-side-down; top with pressed SPAM® Classic & rice. Wrap nori around pressed SPAM® Classic & rice. Serve immediately.
Due to it’s low cost SPAM continued to be popular in Post-War Britain and was often used in school meals, SPAM fritters being a “favourite” for decades afterwards (I remember them being served in school in the 1970s).
In 1970, the BBC television comedy group Monty Python’s Flying Circus produced a sketch reflecting on the ubiquity of SPAM. A restaurant customer desperately trying to find something on the menu that doesn’t contain SPAM.
The menu was:
- Egg and bacon
- Egg, sausage and bacon
- Egg and SPAM
- Egg, bacon and SPAM
- Egg, bacon, sausage and SPAM
- SPAM, bacon, sausage and SPAM
- SPAM, egg, SPAM, SPAM, bacon and SPAM
- SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, egg, and SPAM
- SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, baked beans, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM and SPAM
- Lobster thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce served in the Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines, garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and SPAM
The Vikings break out into the receptive song:
“SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, lovely SPAM! Wonderful SPAM!”
In the 1980s and 1990s, early multiplayer games (Multi-User Dungeons) and Usenet Groups connected the repetitive song with unwanted repetitive emails, posts or flooding of chat rooms.
Early spam consisted of mass party invitations, anti-war messages or postings requesting college tuition.
In 1994, Clarence L Thomas IV posted the following to every Usenet newsgroup:
Global Alert For All: Jesus is Coming Soon
The earthquake in Los Angeles, California, the flood in Europe, the seemingly unstoppable war in the former Yugoslavia, the devastating fires in Australia,
the flood in th Midwest of the United States of America, the devastating fires
near Los Angeles, California, the rapid and appalling increase in violence in
cities, towns, villages all over the world, the famines, the diseases, the
rapid decline of the family unit, and the destructive earthquake in India (in 1993)
are signs that this world’s history is coming to a climax. The human race
has trampled on God’s Constitution, as given in Exodus 20:1-17 (King James
Version Bible), and Jesus is coming to set things right. These rapidly
accelerating signs are an indication that Jesus is coming soon (Matthew 24).
God’s Holy Spirit is gradually withdrawing its protection from the earth
and the devastating events you see are demonstrations of Satan’s power. All
those who are not guarded by God are in danger of forever losing eternal life.
If you want to know what’s about to happen, please study the books of Daniel
and Revelation which are located in God’s Word, the Bible. They are not
sealed or closed books. They can and must be understood by all. Every word
in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is true. The Bible and the Bible only
must be your guide.
When God’s Law (the Constitution for the Universe) is consistently ignored,
disregarded, changed, and questioned, He permits certain events to occur to
wake us up. I would urge all, wherever you are and regardless of the
circumstances, to directly call on Jesus and ask Him to intervene in your life.
Jesus who created this planet and every living creature in it and on it, died
on the cross, was raised from the dead by God the Father, and is now in Heaven
interceding for you. Jesus is the only One who can rescue us from the slavery,
misery, and death Satan is causing us.
For reference I’m including God’s Constitution as given in the King James
Version Bible. Please note that when God says the seventh day, he means Sabbath
(the 7th day of the week) not Sunday (1st day of the week).
He goes on to list multiple commandments. The full post can be found here.
Others, most notably exiled Nigerian Princes and purveyors of blue pills and similar products have followed his example and spam (as annoying email) is now more ubiquitous than the still popular SPAM.
The “Nigerian Prince” type of scam email, requesting a fee and/or bank account details for a large amount of money to released is known as a 419 scam. The number “419” refers to the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud, the charges and penalties for offenders.
There is a (probably sound theory) that the 419 email scammers deliberately use bad english as it will be obvious to most who know about such things and they are left with those who are likely to fall for such a scam,
Image: By Qwertyxp2000 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons