Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Happy Birthday to SPAM

We had a wonderful visit yesterday with our local grandchildren (positive), in the course of which I had a rather depressing political discussion with my daughter (negative). She has a very downbeat view of the country's future for many reasons - all of which I share - and while I enjoyed the discussion, it did put a bit of a damper on an otherwise great day and left me poised to write an equally downbeat post today.

But I've gotten over it, at least temporarily, because I've been distracted by the intellectual equivalent of a bright and shiny object ...

Today is the birthday of SPAM.

Yes, dear Readers, it was on this date in 1937 that Hormel Foods introduced its low-cost meat product that came in a can, jiggled unpleasantly when removed from the can because of its coating of aspic, and was a staple of wartime (World War II, that is) military dining. We ate quite a bit of SPAM while I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, because it was cheap and we hadn't yet developed the epicurean tendencies that would let us recognize that it was edible, but not especially of gourmet caliber. No one quite knows what "SPAM" means, although some suggestions over the years have included "Something Posing As Meat" and "Spare Parts Animal Menu."

Hormel originally called it "Hormel Spiced Ham," but the search for a more catchy name led to a contest won by a fellow who received a prize of $100 for suggesting "SPAM." And yes, Hormel Foods does want it spelled in all capital letters. You can read an interactive history of SPAM here.

Over time, SPAM came to be associated with things of low quality and extreme ubiquity ... like the unwanted bulk e-mail that clogs our electronic in-boxes. How a low-cost meat product came to be associated with junk e-mail is a matter of some debate, although the famous Monty Python sketch in which a diner is relentlessly bombarded with the fact that SPAM is just about the only thing on the menu has been blamed for it.

Unwanted, or spam e-mail, is such a problem that Congress - back when Congress actually did things - passed the "Controlling the Assault of Non-solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM)" Act of 2003 in an attempt to exert some control over the flood of annoying and often pornographic junk e-mail. It may have helped a little bit, but not all that much (at least as reflected by a glance at my in-box on a daily basis). The Federal Trade Commission (at least, until the Republicans manage to dismantle it as a useless and unconstitutional restriction on business activity) has published a Compliance Guide for Businesses to help them comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

And at the risk of being accused of spamming you with useless information, I'll just drop the subject for the time being.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

I know its bad for you and looks a little gross but I love having SPAM in my fried rice. In Malaysia, we have something called 'Economy Rice' and I also can never resist it if they have deep fried SPAM there.

Anonymous said...

Fried SPAM with scrambled eggs and waffles is one of the family's favorite breakfasts. It's probably better for you than bacon... or scrapple... two other favorites.

My great-grandmother recently summed up the political situation of the country... "At least I'll be dead before it gets very much worse."

But I won't be dead, and that's a worry.

Did anyone read the latest National Geographic? All about the current and approaching food crisis in the world. They seemed to talk about everything except the one solution which would prevent it... controlling non-European population growth. I guess that was too politically incorrect.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Mmmm spam and eggs. Tasty

KKTSews said...

Ah-ha! Seems like there are many who love SPAM, but it's not something politically- or epicurially- correct to admit!

We ate SPAM growing up because my Dad had fond memories of it from WWII. He made big points with the British family he roomed with in the run-up to D-day when he came "home" with SPAM for them.

In college I found that sliced thin and fried it worked on a SPAM-L-T sandwich pretty well.

John said...

The fact that SPAM has endured says that there must be a few closet SPAM eaters out there. However, I chose to celebrate the July 5, 1946 introduction of the bikini over the introduction of SPAM.

Something to brighten your day a little bit more.


Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

My mother in law lived in Taiwan for 5 yrs and learned to make fried rice from her help while there. She taught me to make fried rice with spam too. So while it may look gross to some fried rice without it never seems quite right.

when I lived in Seattle we went to a little town west where Northern Exposure was filmed and we attended a SPAM festival. Now that was a hoot!

Bilbo said...

Everyone: Despite the impression I may have given, I don't think SPAM is all that bad...it's just that we ate quite a bit of it when I was young, and it got a bit tiresome.

John: I wrote about the birth of the bikini in my blog last year at this time...and had pictures!

M (P or P, T): SPAM festival? I'll pass, thanks.

chrissy said...

I'm sort of amazed that there IS an interactive history of spam. Their marketing department is better than some of the fortune 500 engineering companies I have worked for. This is odd and funny all at once

KathyA said...

Spam is not that bad. At least not as bad as the future of our beloved country if things don't change soon....

Mike said...

I don't think I've ever eaten spam.