Every little kid who has been to a factory wants to ride the conveyor. Wombies are no different. Well, maybe a little, but let’s go with it.
One of the features in the SPAM Museum was a conveyor which wound through the entire building with cans of SPAM. Did you know Wombies are great climbers? I caught Bruno as he conveyed over a display, which until that moment had me rapt.
I really did not think he would get into too much trouble and knew he would be back overhead momentarily, so I finished watching the Monty Python rendition of SPAM.
While I was watching, Val caught me.
When I rounded the corner past those clouds, I saw he had a partner in mischief.
Once I got Bruno off the conveyor, I told them they could go to the gift shop and shop whilst they waited for me to visit the parts of the museum I found interesting. Like KSPM, the miniature radio station where SPAM advertisements played from The Burns & Allen Show. In the mock cinema, the Hormel Girls sang in USO shows. In the amphitheatre (shrunken to museum size), recipes from around the world took center stage, surrounded by menus from six countries where five-star restaurants serve dishes with SPAM.
I loved wandering through the WWII displays. 1,745 Hormel employees fought in WWII. 1,695 of their names are etched on a glass display.
The remaining 50 were added to a plaque which hangs beside the memorial. During the war, Jay Hormel, George’s son, signed a letter to each of them and sent them $5 (nearly a day’s wage) for Christmas. By 1944, there were so many letters he apologized for not signing them individually and included a can of SPAM with the $5.
Despite rumors to the contrary, SPAM was not a C ration. It was a B ration. If you are unfamiliar with armed forces feeding classifications, C (combat) rations were canned, individual field units. B rations were unprepared foods used in military mess halls to prepare warm food for soldiers. (From the cartoon, only SPAM and peanuts were not in WWII C rations.)
Hormel did its part stateside by hiring the wives, mothers and sisters of its fighting men. It was forced by rationing to stop canning anything except hams and SPAM to save tin for the munitions and aviation efforts. The concentration of product would carry SPAM to the dinner table over the course of the next 20 years.
Canning went through many changes during this time. During the war, the label was introduced; prior to the war, the label was stenciled onto the cans. The state key was dropped in favor of a pull tab.
Today, 44,000 cans of SPAM roll off of factory lines per hour. More than seven billion (7,000,000,000) cans have sold (as of 2007), and sales are up 20% over 2007, making SPAM recession-proof.
There is no mystery to this meat. All six ingredients are listed on the label:
- Pork with ham meat
- Modified Potato Starch
- Sodium Nitrite
The final two ingredients are respectively a congealing agent and a color preservative. The pork is shoulder cut: not lips and snouts… those are pickled and sent to Asia. The name SPAM was a portmanteau of spiced ham, but to clear the misleading air created by the naming contest winner in 1937, Hormel purports SPAM is an acronym for shoulder pork and ham.
Although classic SPAM delivers the majority (57%) of the recommended daily allowance of sodium at 1,389 mg, a serving is 310 calories, 27 g of fat (10 g of saturated fat- 49% DV), 13 g of protein and 3 g of carbohydrates.
There are 18 different flavors of SPAM to accommodate varied recipes. 40 US state fairs compete for the best recipe of the year. Although Hormel does have a SPAM cookbook (and recipe section of their website), Hawai’i has its own illustrated SPAM cookbook, in two volumes. Hawai’ians may love it (to the jam of 7,000,000 cans per year), but residents of Guam consume more SPAM than any other country: 16 cans per person per year.
I found a ton of historical cooking and meat packing implements of interest, but my rendition of them would have to wait. When I was photographing a scale I found fascinating, I overheard the following conversation:
Is it any wonder they tried to bribe me with Sir Can-A-Lot?
Was there a myth dispelled in this post? What do you think would be in a winning SPAM recipe? Can you name any of the 18 flavors?
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© Red Dwyer 2013
Wombies & Wombania © Peter Maranacci
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