Sunday, November 28, 2010
Okay, I know what it is in both its senses, but I also have a few questions about each. As talking about both kinds at once could get a bit lengthy for all of us, I thought I'd make this post about the one that comes in a can.
So first to what I think I know. I believe I did at one time hear what all those letters meant, and if memory serves (it usually doesn't), SPAM was a wartime protein supplement, perhaps for troops that otherwise would have had little of it.
Another story I've heard and not yet tracked down is that SPAM first turned up on Hawaii and perhaps other Pacific Islands during WWII, and that ever after the native islanders have had a particular fondness for it.
... Well, it seems that some of these rumors were true. SPAM, though, is not really an acronym where every letter corresponds to a word. It is simply Hormel's condensation of Spiced Ham. It was originally called Hormel Spiced Ham, but didn't thrive under this more conventional name. SPAM, then, was perhaps an early instance of 'rebranding'. As SPAM has become a kind of cultural icon in its own right, some amusing 'backronyms' have sprung up, including Something Posing as Meat, and Special Product from Austin Minnesota.
The story about SPAM becoming popular in Hawaii and Southeast Asia seems to be correct. It's origin in 1937 could not have been more timely for its broad dissemination in this part of the world. What's interesting to me is the different status it has come to have in the U.S. and the Pacific in the intervening years. Stateside, it is snubbed as something that poor people eat, while in Hawaii, South Korea and other areas in that region it has been incorporated into the cuisine without ridicule. It seems to me that it is just a different kind of 'cold cut', which formed the basis of many of my childhood sandwiches, at least the ones that weren't peanut butter and jelly.
If you would like to overcome your own internal snob, at least for a day, why not watch the video posted here? At the very least, the host seems like a very nice young man and able demonstrator of cooking a dish that, who knows, might one day save your life...