It’s annoying and it’s everywhere. So what can you do about SPAM? 253



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It’s annoying and it’s everywhere. So what can you do about it?

Recently, I got an unsolicited email asking me if I wanted a ten inch penis. I immediately knew that it had an American origin as it didn’t ask me if I wanted a 25.4 cm penis. Offended, I wrote back something which I will not repeat!

I haven’t heard from them since.

And I keep getting emails from very busty young ladies with names like Svetlana from Vladivostok who are just dying to meet me and who, even without the benefit of meeting me, know that I am the man of their dreams. Naturally, I admire their perception and their persistence but I still have niggling doubts that they are actually for real.

As Abraham Lincoln once sagely observed, “The problem with claims on the internet is that you can never be sure of their authenticity”.

When Bill Gates complains that about 85% of the emails he gets are invitations to get out of debt or get rich quickly, then you know that there is a problem. Back in the 1990s, some enterprising person decided to call unwanted emails SPAM but we of a certain age know that there was – and still is – another form of SPAM which is just as all-pervasive.

SPAM is a product manufactured by an American company, Hormel Foods Corporation, and it has been with us since 1937. It is a tinned meat concoction and, according to its label, its basic ingredients are pork shoulder meat and ham with added salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar and sodium nitrate as a preservative. Its fat content is almost double its claimed protein content.

Doesn’t that sound nourishing?

It’s in a tin which bears an eerie resemblance to small sarcophagus which, I think, is quite appropriate since its claimed shelf life rivals that of a mummified Egyptian pharaoh.

According to the Hormel folks, the origin of the name SPAM, “is only known by a small number of former Hormel Foods executives”. Even if Hormel had very young executives nearly eighty years ago, the diminishing number still with us who know the secret must be well over 100 which suggests to me that they didn’t live on “SPAM” to get to that age.

They can die with their secret as far as I am concerned.

SPAM came into its own in World War II when it was exported to the UK, as if being pounded regularly by Hitler’s Luftwaffe wasn’t enough to try the British stiff upper lip. There, the beleaguered locals joked that SPAM was actually an acronym for “Specially Processed American Meat”.

Over the years, it has been variously referred to as “Stuff, Pork and Ham”, “Spare Parts Animal Meat” and other even less flattering names.

The US Army bought SPAM in vast quantities for the American military during the war and the bemused troops used to refer to it as “Ham that didn’t pass its physical” and “Meatloaf without basic training”. Vast quantities were also sent to the USSR for their troops.

Frankly, you have to wonder how the Allies won the war.

Margaret Thatcher who was 19 when the war ended and the ever loyal daughter of a grocer, referred to SPAM when she was Prime Minister as a “wartime delicacy” which only goes to prove her very lower middle class background.

In an early sign of American Imperialism, SPAM followed victorious US troops through Asia where it became a part of traditional diets. Today, there are 13 different varieties which cater specifically, for example, for Asian and Latin American tastes which proves their cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Worldwide, more than 50 thousand tins are produced every hour, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week.

However since it allegedly has ham and pork as ingredients, I doubt it has much market penetration in Muslim countries although I bet the Hormel scientists are looking for a solution for that.

Don’t go away thinking that Hormel is some sort of irresponsible profit-driven conglomerate. They have a very high-minded Corporate Responsibility Statement on their website and I was pleased to read that, “… we have shared our food products to support the fight against hunger. We produce high-quality, differentiated products for our consumers and we use our expertise in food manufacturing, distribution and protein as a resource to help hunger relief…”

Doesn’t that put Food Bank in the shade?

And, joy of joys, their website has a lovely range of gifts you can purchase – clothing, hats and caps, coffee mugs and more. You can even buy gift certificates to present to grateful family and friends so they can buy from the gift store.

I’m thinking of buying a young chum of mine who does something in the computer game, the tasteful cap emblazoned with “I think, therefore I love SPAM” as a Christmas gift. As Hormel advises, it truly is a “classic”.

Do you think his work colleagues will notice?

Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. I can’t stand the stuff. My mum used to buy stuff called Camp Pie about the same stuff, until I read the label one day, may contain lung and stuff, that was it for me.

  2. Anything especially meat that comes in a can is very questionable.

    7 REPLY
    • What about the old camp pie. Ever smelled a can of dog food just opened. Thats what it smells like. It’s making me feel sick thinking about it.

    • You were grateful for what you could get back in the 40’s to 60’s. Camp Pie, Fray Bentos, Spam etc. Tripe (blah) , kidneys (double blah), Lambs Fry and bacon (yum), Lambs Brains (don’t even wanna look at them let alone eat them) Nearly dry wretched when my Mum told me I used to eat brains when I was a baby….yetch!

    • Kerry Patterson My mum told me the same thing – maybe they thought it would increase our intelligence. Mum said I loved it.

    • Don’t you just hate being told that you did or liked something as a child when you just hate it now or couldn’t imagine that you did that.

  3. My mum used to buy it, dip it in batter and fry it if we were struggling with housekeeping. Other times Fray Bentos mashed up with left over veges for a bubble and squeak. Have never eaten since I left home though.

    5 REPLY
    • Still love Spam Fritters, with buttery mashed spuds & peas which haven’t had for a long time! Also the Fray Bentos Corned Beef mashed with vegies for bubble & squeak! Thanks for reminding me Linda! I collect post war British recipes, so if you can remember more of your Mum’s would love to hear from you. BTW I normally cook gourmet meals, but have an interest in simple meals from whatever country.

  4. WE were very thankful for Spam, when food was in short supply.

    2 REPLY
    • To everybody who have replied to the above short note, it is evident you experienced rationing, as I did makes you think very seriously how things have changed, it was an experience never to forget, those who do not like it have never been hungry, an God forbid they ever do.

    • I was a baby at the time but my mother has told me about rationing. I was born in England and it was a few years before some things became easily available again. I would have to be VERY hungry to enjoy eating Spam and no way could I eat tinned corned beef. I do remember both from my childhood.

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