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SPAM, the delicately flavored canned meat product, stands today as the butt of many jokes. For one thing, its trademarked name became associated with all sorts of nasty internet activities (for example, sending people emails trying to sell penis enlargement chemicals); secondly, the food itself is lampooned as a sort of unhealthy non-food, enjoyed only by persons of low character and Norwegians. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course - Spam is a perfectly delicious food that is enjoyed of persons whose characters are beyond reproach. As well as Norwegians.

Spam was introduced in 1937 as the first canned meat product marketed in the United States. As such, it immediately enjoyed success with those who wanted to store meats for some time without benefit of refrigeration, or to tote it with them on trips and such where carrying ordinary cooked meat was inadvisable or downright messy. Actually, Hormel - the proud makers of Spam - had introduced canned meat a decade earlier, but soon found themselves being eclipsed by rivals who stole the idea and introduced their own (no doubt inferior) such products. It was soon realized that Hormel needed to come up with a short, easy-to-remember name for their own canned meat, something which would fall easily from the tongues of homemakers no matter the language.

The name Spam was introduced rather quickly, and this was decided upon as the real winner. First of all, it's similar to the word 'ham,' and such an association could only be beneficial; in fact, SPAM is usually thought of as a combination of the words spiced ham, but Hormel denies that this is quite the case. Instead, reputedly, the acronym correctly refers to the 'shoulder of pork and ham.' But if that were true, wouldn't it more correctly be 'shpam?' (That sounds like a keen sound effect: SHPAM!) One writer has noted that it was actually the brother of a Hormel vice president who came up with the name - and won a $100 prize for it.

SPAM Spam really came into its own during World War II. Capable of being slogged around in any climate for months without spoiling, tasting delicious right out of the can in any clime, Spam was a godsend to Our Boys on the front lines, fighting for American industry across Europe and the Pacific. Camp mess halls and ship's cooks introduced the dish to probably millions of fighting men, instilling in them a taste for the tangy pink stuff. Not only American soldiers, but our allies as well: Hormel packed up and shipped out several millions of cans to the Russians fighting Hitler's forces as well, to the extent of Khruschev stating that Spam had been principal in the survival of the Red Army during the war. And of course, when the boys came home, they wanted more of it on their dinner tables.

Spam enjoyed several popular ad campaigns. At first it was referred to as the 'Miracle Meat,' (which sounds like a fabulous porn name). Starting in 1940, Hormel started using what is considered the first advertising jingle, which was sung to the tune of "My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean." 'Spammy the Pig' made an occasional appearance on the Burns & Allen radio show, which Hormel of course sponsored. After the War, a group of traveling performers called the Hormel Girls toured the country, promoting the canned meat all across the land.

As time has passed, our country has gone through many changes, and so too has Spam evolved. Although most widely available in the 12- ounce cans, in 1960 Hormel introduced the more economical 7-ounce cans, for bachelors or those who just don't quite want that extra five ounces right now. Other flavors have also, naturally, been introduced into the Spam family, including: Smoke-Flavored Spam came first, followed by Honey Spam, Bacon Flavored Spam, Hot And Spicy Spam, and even - shudder - Garlic Spam (though not all of these may be available in your area). Of course, there are also the health-conscious varieties: Low-Sodium Spam and Spam Lite, which somehow has fewer calories packed in (and, i venture to guess, less flavor - though I don't care to try that variation to find out).

SPAM The most Spam is consumed in our own United States (well, if one counts Guam, a U.S. 'Protectorate,' as being part of the States - those crazy folks eat as much as 16 cans a year, per person!). The UK and South Korea also enjoy their Spam, as do those pesky Norwegians. In England, it's been a food staple for years - it even pops up in a famous Monty Python sketch when an aging couple go for a bite to eat in a diner and are stunned to find Spam a part of every item on the menu.

From Pop-Cult to you, our advice for enjoying Spam: whether having it in a sandwich, or on a plate containing other sidedishes and such, Spam is best when it's sliced a little thicker and slightly undercooked. After all, you want as much of that rich meaty flavor as you can get. Don't be one of those elitist fools who look down their noses at processed can meat products: this was, after all, the food that whipped Hitler's ass. It's made in America, and has been enjoyed by generations.

It's not just good for our country, people: it tastes good, too.


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