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Before 'Spam' went bad

June 20, 2004|Christine N. Ziemba

Spam -- the canned meat and not Internet junk mail -- has inspired much devotion and derision since its creation in 1937. Google "Spam" and "meat," and there are hundreds of websites discussing the blend of spiced pork shoulder and ham. The official site www.spam.com (operated by Hormel Foods) is a fascinating amalgam of history, pure kitsch and trivia.

The "family tree" area introduces newbies to the canned Spam world, including Original, Smoke Flavored and an Oven Roasted Turkey Spam for non-pork fans. Recipes for delicacies such as Spam musubi (a strip of cooked Spam sitting on a bed of rice held together with a seaweed strap), and bits of Spam history abound (it played a big role in feeding World War II troops and civilians worldwide).

The site also recounts how the Internet spam moniker developed from a Monty Python sketch that featured the luncheon meat. Notes www.spam.com: "In this skit, a group of Vikings sang a chorus of 'spam, spam, spam ...' in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation."

Oft maligned but strangely compelling, the mysterious meat in the blue and gold can has reached an upper echelon of pop culture, inspiring art, poetry and fan clubs.

To capitalize on its "uncool is cool" factor, the site's store sells everything from Spam Fossil Watches to mouse pads to "I think, therefore I SPAM" T-shirts.

Spam even holds a spot in the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History archives. Don't laugh too hard, though. A new can is sold in the U.S. every three seconds. After all these years, Spam may still be en vogue -- it is Atkins friendly.

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