We talked about Spam before and how its very name is still a mystery even to the most passionate fans. Now you might ask are there people whose passion is confined to canned meat? And we won’t even try to answer that since this topic is rather sensitive. If some folks have cleared a space in their hearts for a can of processed pork, who are we to judge So without further ado, we’ll jump right into more delicious, if a bit unhealthy, secrets that lovers of ground pork should know about.
10. South Korea is Passionate about Spam
We know that Spam served our troops in the Great War in which the Nazis were defeated. Not only that, but it even nourished our Russian allies. They were allies at the time and they loved the canned pork so much many of the Russian generals attributed their fortitude during the lengthy battles to this modest lump of processed meat. But after the war, Spam returned to the homeland where it has been serving the nation in peacetime with the same loyalty it showed during the time of strife and conflict. And for some reason, its international ambitions took a back seat as it battled to find room for itself in the changing local market. But the healthy lifestyles that eschewed fast food and frowned upon any meat that changed its shape or texture before it reached your mouth had their impact on Spam sales. So much so that the old marketing plans to invade global markets were revived in a hurry. South Korea was one of the first foreign markets to open their doors and mouths to the canned pork. In fact, their enthusiasm for it almost surpassed that of Hawaii. And rather than treat it like a casual meal that one has in a hurry, Spam is viewed with respect among the South Koreans. They even exchange gifts where the cans are wrapped in quite expensive boxes.
9. The Magic Happens in the Can
Here’s a little known fact that only very few people know about Spam. The pork and all the ingredients are cooked inside the can. Each ingredient is added in the can then the can is sealed and cooked before it’s labeled and packaged. Now you might wonder why to go through all that trouble rather than cook the ingredients in huge vats then drop each portion in the can like other processed food franchises do. When you think of it, the Spam way seems much more hygienic. The cans, after all, are cleaned and sterilized before the ingredients are poured in. Exposing the can to high temperature after it has been sealed makes sure to kill any germs and bacteria. And since the can won’t be opened again before it reaches the customer’s hands, there’s little chance of any contaminants to find their way into the can. Now notice we said hygienic, not healthy. There’s a huge difference between the two. Hygienic means it doesn’t have germs or viruses that could make you ill. And that is true as far as the processing and packaging are concerned. As for it being healthy, that is a tall order that no canned meat can aspire for as well see later.
8. Veterans Embraced it
We saw how Spam did our military men and women a great service in their time of need. And when the war was over, some of those who servicemen and women decided to show their gratitude to the canned meat. In particular, a group of servicewomen formed a band called The Hormel Girls and toured the country singing about Spam and what a great product it was. Now that might not sound strange at all. Companies hire performers all the time to promote their products. So what’s unusual about this one? For one thing, this band was comprised solely of women. And they liked to travel in white Chevrolets. Again the secret behind the choice of vehicles and colors has never been revealed or discussed in public so we’ll never know about it. With time the group got bigger and in 1948, they had about 60 women on tour. They also had a full orchestra. The band even had its own radio show. That was back when the radio was the king of the media and every respectable home had one. Sadly the golden days of the radio came to an end once TV sets started appearing in every house regardless of its respectability. Soon people were tuning in to something new called soap operas. The Hormel Girls disbanded in 1953 and there were never any attempts to bring them back even for one last tour.
7. There’s a Food Truck Tour for Spam
But just because the all-girls band was no match to the new invention called TV, doesn’t mean that the idea of a band touring the country and singing about the Spam will go out of fashion. In 2015, another tour hit the road. This one was a food truck tour. Also focusing on Spam it had the derivative name SPAMERICAN! Food Truck Tour. We can’t say we blame them for coming up with a cheesy name like that. When your flagship product has the same name as unsolicited emails, you’ll do anything to remind your customers about your patriotic roots. As usual, the tour favors the veterans. As they visit one city after another, they offer packages to the servicemen and women of each city. Often the food truck tour will partner with one non-profit organization or another that offers help and support to veterans. That in itself is a noble cause especially since our veterans need all the help and care they can get. But that’s not all. Besides the packages the veterans get, Spam will donate a dollar for each letter that it gets praising the tour. The money goes to the non-profit organization it happens to partner with that year.
6. SPAM and Broadway
The food industry would try anything to increase their sales. And by anything, we mean really anything. From McDonald’s naming a sandwich after Michael Jordan to issuing a special meal to celebrate an ill-fated Batman movie. It’s par for the course to take advantage of anything that is popular at the moment and ride that wave for a quick cash-in. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s marketing after all. So when a Broadway musical called Spamalot hit it big time, Spam decided the name was no coincidence and there was something they could do to sell a few cans of processed meat while people were talking about the musical. Spamalot was loosely based on Monty Python’s Holy Grail and like the movie it was a huge success back in 2004. And since you can see the name right there in the title of the musical, Hormel Foods decided to make a release of their own. It was called Spam Golden Honey Grail. Derivative? Not really. A cheap shot? Wait till you hear about the other special edition. It was called Stinky French Garlic SPAM. It had knights on the label and was supposed to be funny or something. Well, as the name suggested, it tanked. You can now find it on eBay if you’re interested. Nobody else is, anyway.
5. There’s no Mystery in the “Mystery Meat”
Since its inception, Spam has been surrounded by mysteries. From a name which nobody can agree on its true meaning or origins, to what became known as the mystery meat. The mystery meat is one of those urban legends that makes a mountain out of an anthill. The claim is, Spam has mystery meat which explains its popularity and appeal among the masses. But as the company has stated over and over again, there really is no mystery to Spam. People like it because it tastes good, not because there’s a secret recipe or a secret ingredient there. In fact, there are six ingredients in a can of Spam. And as we mentioned each ingredient is plopped into the can separately then the can is sealed and cooked. There are two cuts of pork, ham and pork shoulder. You also have salt, potato starch, water, sugar, and sodium nitrate. The potato starch keeps the meat from drying up and gels the hunk of meat together. So as you can see, it’s all above board when it comes to what’s inside the can. The last thing anyone would want is to eat food without knowing what’s in it.
4. It’s not very Healthy
Ask any food expert or dietitian about processed meat and they’ll frown and probably scold you for bringing it up. As a rule of thumb, if you want to eat healthily, then stick to food that comes from nature. By that we mean the food hasn’t been inside a machine that minced, diced, stirred, and added to it. Because most of these additives are unhealthy. So what makes Spam an unhealthy choice? Well, for starters, you have lots of sodium. It’s never a good thing for your heart to eat so much sodium in one sitting. There’s also the sodium nitrate. Now the food industry uses that magical stuff to preserve food and keep bacteria from multiplying and rotting the food. While that is a good thing, the effects of that preservative itself on humans has not been fully researched. In other words, we’re eating something which we know kills bacteria but whether it will also do something to us, isn’t understood or confirmed. Add to that the amount of saturated fat in a can of processed meat. It’s over the charts and your cardiologist will have a fit if he saw you eating one. Now to be fair, a can of Spam only has six ingredients, which is a whole lot less than the ingredients in a burger or a hot dog. Still, you really need to cut down on all that processed meat if you care about your heart health.
3. The First Can was in 1937
Somewhere in this article or maybe the previous one, we mentioned that the idea for Spam came about in the 1920s. But for many financial and logistical reasons, the production of the Spam got delayed. But once Jay Hormel, got his first can out of the production line and onto the shelves in the stores, their success was almost instantaneous. So much so that many copycats started their one line of processed pork as well. Within a few months, you couldn’t tell one can of processed meat from another. That’s when Hormel decided to stand out from the crowd with a unique name that nobody can copy. But instead of bringing his marketing people into a room and locking them up until they coughed up a name he liked, he decided to make it into a public competition. He offered a reward of $100 for anyone who came up with a good name for his product. One person came up with the name ‘Spam’ and won the reward. Less than 16 years later, Hormel Foods celebrated the sale of the billionth can of its flagship product.
2. For some People, it’s a Delicacy
You can say what you like about this processed pork and I can say what I like about how it’s not very healthy for you, but some people treat Spam with the respect it deserves. People in Hawaii, Phillippines, Japan, and Gaum think the world of this small can of Spam. Soon after WWII, many people tried to forget the hardships of the war by eating healthy meals and staying away from the processed meat that literally saved lives. But not the people in East Asia and Hawaii. They celebrated this meat and started coming up with unique ways to incorporate it into their own cuisine. For them, it’s not a quick meal that you have reluctantly when you have no other option. It’s a meal that they look forward to and always try to improve and create new recipes for. To this day, Spam is part of the people’s food culture and they continue to see it as an inspiration rather than a cheap meal. We mentioned before how Hawaii has turned Spam into an integral part of their indigenous culture and cuisine. But that Spam phenomenon is not specific to Hawaii alone.
1. How to Eat it, is up to you
But it’s not just the people from East Asia who always come up with new recipes to cook the stuff. The internet is abuzz with hundreds of recipes as well. Just Google ‘Spam recipe’ and you’ll get lots of hits. So if you’re bored with the way you eat it straight out of the can or even shallow fried, you can get inspiration from the hundreds of recipes online. If you like to spend hours in the kitchen coming up with new ways to cook old recipes, then this is an opportunity you wouldn’t like to miss. Surprise your partner, significant other, or even the person who sits your cat with a flavored and exotic dish that is based around Spam. The best part about it is, you wouldn’t know how it would turn out. It’s processed pork, but in the hands of an inspired chef, it can become a delicious meal.