SPAM is celebrating its birthday today! On May 11th, 1937, Hormel officially registered the trademark. And Guess what, JRR Tolkien published the Hobbit in September of that same year. That means both are celebrating their 80th birthday! If only Tolkien had the foresight, he could have come up with something like this:
“They distributed the packages as fairly as they could, though Bilbo thought his lot was wearisomely heavy, and did not at all like the idea of trudging for miles and miles with all that on his back. “Don’t you worry,” said Thorin. “It will get lighter all too soon. Before long I expect we shall all wish our packs heavier when the SPAM runs short.”
Or what about this quote from Thorin:
“If people valued SPAM above gold, the world would be a merrier place”
Really, the Hobbits would have done well to have a few cans in their backpacks. After all, it came in pretty handy during World War II, and Tolkien himself probably ate his fair share. Portable and convenient, SPAM became the unbridled champion of war-torn dining, coming to the rescue of both Great Britain and the Soviet Union in 1941. Margaret Thatcher recalled fond memories of her World War II SPAM eating days, and Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his autobiography “Without SPAM we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”
Our own troops consumed about 15 million cans of the product each week. SPAM was such a dominating product that military food supply points were nicknamed SPAM Canyons. Even back here on the home front it was a popular food item. And why not? Think of all the things you can do with it: SPAM and eggs, SPAM and macaroni and cheese, baked SPAM, pasta and SPAM, and the piece de resistance SPAM and mushrooms a´ la Hobbit. Wipe that drool off your face Bilbo, will ya.
So what about that name? Sexy isn’t it?
Yah, you’re right. It sounds stupid. That little gem came about at Jay Hormel’s New Years Eve party in 1936. What with everyone feeling oh so festive, Mr. H decided to play a game. He would flip the bill for the drinks, but when a person went the bar “You shall not pass!” He said. “Until you suggest a name for my pinky product.” Well, those might not have been his exact words but drinks were given only in exchange for names. Hormel is quoted to have said, “Along about the third or fourth drink they began showing some imagination.”
Just imagine the possibilities if Tolkien were among the guests. They could have named the one ham product to rule them all lickety- split. As it was, they had to wait for a whole lotta gin to flow before they got crazy enough to come up with SPAM.
But what does it stand for? Well the British figured it meant Specially Processed American Meats, or Supply Pressed American Meat. I’m not even sure I know what that last one means.
According to the Hormel website lots of people think it’s a mix of the words spiced and ham. The company, however, refuses to confirm or deny the rumor. Their official position is that the name “Is known only by a small circle of former Hormel Foods executives. And probably Nostradamus.”
Au Contraire, baby. Ok maybe not Tolkien, but others have found it possible to pontificate on the porcine product. As a matter of fact there’s a whole book of Haikus on nothing but SPAM. How about a Sponnet, a sonnet written for SPAM? Sponnets are certainly enjoyable, but I think you’ll agree, this poem really sets the bar.
Although SPAM’s worldwide heyday ended after the war, may places continue the love affair. Hawaiians, for example, are still licking their chops over the pork shoulder and ham mixture. They even serve it in the island’s Mc Donald’s and Burger kings. SPAM Musubi, basically a SPAM sushi, is one of the most popular items on the island, and there’s a whole festival dedicated to it every April in Waikiki. Yes, you missed it, but there’s no need to fear. You can take a trip to the SPAM museum at the company’s headquarters in Austin Minnesota, or visit the annual SPAM Jam held there in July. Best of all the SPAM website has plenty of recipes, so you’ll never run out of ideas for second breakfast again.