I don’t post about it much, but SPAM is treated with reverence at inuyaki.com. “SPAM is good food” is still the default tagline for most of my online profiles and my Yelp avatar was a SPAM can before I started using the Inuyaki dog logo. I even wore a SPAM T-shirt to Slow Food Nation in San Francisco earlier this year.
As the economy worsens in the U.S., Hormel looks like it will be one of the few companies that weather the storm as American demand for SPAM increases. SPAM sales are on the rise as Americans look for alternatives to more expensive cuts of meat.
From today’s New York Times:
Spam “seems to do well when hard times hit,” said Dan Bartel, business agent for the union local. “We’ll probably see Spam lines instead of soup lines.”
Even as consumers are cutting back on all sorts of goods, Spam is among a select group of thrifty grocery items that are selling steadily.
If you don’t know the history of SPAM, this passage breaks it down succinctly.
Spam holds a special place in America’s culinary history, both as a source of humor and of cheap protein during hard times.
Invented during the Great Depression by Jay Hormel, the son of the company’s founder, Spam is a combination of ham, pork, sugar, salt, water, potato starch and a “hint” of sodium nitrate “to help Spam keep its gorgeous pink color,” according to Hormel’s SPAM Web site.
Because it is vacuum-sealed in a can and does not require refrigeration, Spam can last for years. Hormel says “it’s like meat with a pause button.”
During World War II, Spam became a staple for Allied troops overseas. They introduced it to local residents, and it remains popular in many parts of the world where the troops were stationed.
Thanks to the U.S. military, Filipinos have a long history of SPAM consumption, as well as canned corned beef and Vienna sausages, all of which I ate regularly as a child. But as I got older and tried to be “healthier” (whatever that means, haha), SPAM faded from my consciousness, although I do remember being introduced to SPAM musubi when I was in college.
About six years ago, SPAM reentered my life when I started working with a bunch of guys from Hawaii, where SPAM consumption is the highest per capita than anywhere else in the world. Then I met my my future wife, who is also from Hawaii, and SPAM became part of my life again.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat SPAM regularly—that would be crazy. But I don’t fear SPAM (like Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern), and there’s a sense of comfort that arises from a bowl of SPAM fried rice or a plate of SPAM and eggs that can’t be duplicated by anything else.
I’m glad that SPAM is experience a renaissance, but it would be nicer if it wasn’t because of such dire circumstances. Maybe the economic downturn will help people truly appreciate SPAM instead of loathing it.
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