Revisiting a Food Classic – Hormel’s SPAM(tm)

Where do I begin this yarn?  Wandering the aisles of WalMart in Vancouver, WA,  at 1AM last night?  Or a childhood memory of a meat packing plant tour in Austin, MN?

I guess we begin………at the beginning.

SPAM ™ Luncheon Meat was officially launched by the George A. Hormel Company of Austin, Minnesota, in 1937.

As a boy, I knew a bit about Hormel – Austin was my mother’s home town, and in some shape or form, every resident of Austin had their life touched by Hormel.

In the case of my mother’s family, her father, a serial entrepreneur a century before the term was conceived, had to find unique ways for his businesses to survive during the depression.   People that needed his goods or services occasionally paid with shares they had received or purchased in Hormel.  My mother was a  proud and very loyal stockholder and consumer of Hormel until her last days.  SPAM(tm) and other Hormel products were regularly served in our household.

That was my initial exposure to the product.  Our annual trips to visit my grandparents, on at least one occasion, included a tour of the massive Hormel plant;  watching cattle get slaughtered to become delicious products, certainly made an indelible impression on me, but obviously not a negative one.

Fast forward a decade and a half or so, and I was in boarding school that was located within a short distance of Austin, and SPAM ™ was on our Sunday breakfast menu, without fail.  This could have taken place for one of two reasons: 1) SPAM(tm) is very economical, or 2) we happen to have a couple of kids at our school that shared the same last name as the food giant.

SPAM(tm) was created for two reasons:  to utilize pork shoulders, which hadn’t been traditionally used in fresh meat production, and to come up with a way to produce a viable canned meat product.  A few years later, ham was added to the mix, and the recipe remains the same to this day, with the exception is there are now many ‘different’ varieties of SPAM(tm).

The product gained great popularity throughout mainstream America in the post WW2 era, as servicemen were exposed to it during the conflict.  It was, and remains, extremely popular in Hawaii due to its wide distribution during the war.

SPAM(tm) is used in a wide variety of preparations. It’s fully-cooked right out of the can, and can be eaten directly, on its own, in a sandwich and so on.  Lightly fried, it make an economical substitute for any choice of breakfast meat.  You can chop or dice it for salads or soups.

Every once and awhile, the public needs to be ‘re-educated’ as to the benefits of using SPAM(tm).  I remember a funny radio campaign from the 70s, which featured radio ad superstars “Dick and Bert” (creators of radio comedy serials “Chickenman” and “The Tooth Fairy”), in which they explained the merits and ingredients of SPAM(tm).  Funny stuff.

So last night I bought a can.  It was on an end cap in the register aisle at Walmart, for less than $2.50.  Impulse.  Fried up this AM for breakfast.

A good impulse.  To check out the many varieties of SPAM(tm) available today, hit your local supermarket or the online shop.

Looking for good, wholesome family fun?  Check out the SPAM(tm) Fest in Austin, MN, each summer around the 4th of July, and take in a visit to the Spam Museum!

( SPAM(tm)  is a registered trademark of Hormel.  The photo above is from the Hormel website).

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