- Yes 21%
- No 79%
42 total votes.
Spam — the Hormel Co.’s famous meat in a can — has a 71-year shelf life, at least as far as memories go.
More than 122 million cans of Spam are sold worldwide each year, 90 million in the United States alone, according to Jaynee Sherman, Hormel’s associate product manager.
Developed in 1937, Spam saw a spike in sales during World War II, according to www.whatscookingamerica.com. Because it requires no refrigeration, it was found to be the perfect meat for the military and became a standard K-ration for U.S. soldiers.
It was during that time that Chattanoogan Clif Tinkham, now 81, was waiting for his draft number to come up.
“I was working at a local machine shop making parts for the war machine, running a Warner-Swasey No. 4 turret lathe seven days a week on muscle power,” he said.
His mother, always wanting to pack her son a good lunch, would prepare one of his favorite sandwiches, a thick slice of Spam between two lettuce leaves and two pieces of buttered white bread.
“I never tired of it,” Mr. Tinkham said.
Marriage eventually came between Mr. Tinkham and his love of Spam.
“After touring with the U.S. Army for a while, I came home and met a young lady who has been cooking delightful whole meals for me for 57 years,” he said. “It completely seduced me into more varied cuisine.”
Dale Morrow, 79, said his early introduction to Spam had the opposite effect.
“I was a teenager during WWII, and when Spam came into being, that was the solution to my mother’s quest for something to fix for meals. We had broiled Spam for breakfast, broiled Spam for lunch and sometimes Spam sandwiches (at night). To this day, I cannot look at Spam.”
Pat Boone said thinking of Spam makes her mouth water for a sandwich her grandmother used to make.
“She’d grate Spam and mix it with pickle relish, boiled eggs and mayonnaise, just like you’d make ham salad,” Ms. Boone said.
Mrs. Boone said Spam was once a fixture of her meals at home.
“In the summers, we’d live off vegetables and wouldn’t have any meat. We just didn’t need it. But we’d still eat Spam. I used it on my kids when they were young. It was cheaper than buying a ham. ... My kids are in their 40s, and they liked it.”
Per capita, Hawaii, Alaska, Arkansas, Texas and Alabama are the heaviest consumers of Spam in the United States, according to Hormel. Spam is so beloved in the Aloha State that Hormel put out a limited-edition Hawaii can in 2003.
Beth Neuhoff, 48, said when she moved to Hawaii in 1979, she was introduced to Spam in the form of “Hawaiian breakfast” — two fried eggs and two pieces of fried Spam on a bed of white rice topped with a big squeeze of ketchup. She said she quickly became addicted to Spam for breakfast.
“After moving back to the mainland, I was missing Hawaii and my friends and decided to whip up my Hawaiian breakfast. It wasn’t even close to the same taste as I remembered eating and loving for five years. I believe there are some foods that just aren’t the same when eaten outside of their native area.”
Some think it’s not the area but the age level. “I think kids in their 20s and 30s are the ones who have a bad connotation about Spam,” Mrs. Boone said.
Jen Waltermyer, 23, has never had Spam but isn’t totally averse to the idea.
“I think some of my friends may have had Spam sandwiches growing up. I think you can do it like fried baloney. And I did grow up on fried baloney sandwiches.”
Bryan Turner, 24, said he wouldn’t even give it a try.
“I’m kind of scared of it,” he said. “I really try to avoid meat that hasn’t been refrigerated.”