A Brief History of Spam

Does spam demonstrate ‘social mobility’?

(Some excerpts from a presentation)

An interesting question I’m sure you’ll agree!

Along with two colleagues I attempted to answer this question, or to at least investigate it.

Spam is quite an iconic brand and surprisingly tasty when cooked.

Disclaimer: Other mechanically produced pork stuffs are probably also tasty when cooked. The opinion of the taste of the spam is a personal one and not representative of the blog. 

Buying Spam

Iceland - Inexpensive supermarket

Iceland – Inexpensive supermarket

I didn't feel embarrassed when I bought the Spam.

I didn’t feel embarrassed when I bought the Spam.

Waitrose - Expensive supermarket

Waitrose – Expensive supermarket

I felt kind of embarrassed, like I should give an explanation for why I was buying two cans of Spam. I almost said, ‘Its not for me, its for a project or its for a friend.’

I felt kind of embarrassed, like I should give an explanation for why I was buying two cans of Spam. I almost said, ‘Its not for me, its for a project, its for a friend!’

The blurb below is the notes to my presentation and should fill in any gaps in your ‘Spam knowledge’.

A brief history of Spam

Spam first burst onto the culinary scene in 1937! (Applause)

  • Hormel Foods (sole producer)
  • Shoulder of pork and ham (parts of pig used)
  • Spiced ham
  • “Ham that didn’t pass its physical”
  • “Meatloaf without basic training” (names for spam used by US troops)

It washed up on Britain’s shores (not literally) during World War II and became a staple of rationing.

  • GIs (introduced spam)
  • Via Guam, Hawaii, Okinawa, the Philippines, and other islands in the Pacific. (These countries and dependencies also succumbed to the delights of spam).

Margaret Thatcher referred to the product as a “wartime delicacy”.

Spam is imbued with issues of class: it’s a low cost meat

  • Spam Valley – Scottish colloquial term to describe people who live in affluent housing and appear rich but aren’t.
  • Food semiotics: organic, air cured, extra-lean, lardons, speck, prosciutto, Serrano ham vs…
  • Spam, Spam fritters, Spam sandwiches, Spam n eggs

British cultural reference points:

  • School dinners
  • 1970s
  • Fanny Cradock – Forerunner of British celebrity chefs and often cooked in a ball-gown
Fanny and Johnnie Cradock

Fanny and Johnnie Cradock

Present day:

  • Who eats Spam? Unanswered
  • Heston Blumenthal’s posh Spam fritter: http://youtu.be/01dlDlDo4n0 shows Heston Blumenthal recreating a British ‘school meal’ circa 1970s/80s and uses the following ingredients. The ingredients per plate cost £100 so imagine the price on the menu!
  • Seasoned pork shoulder
  • Pata negra Iberico ham
  • Black truffles
  • Tempura batter
  • Panko breadcrumbs

“give a crunch a million miles away from the soggy 70s” (Heston Blumenthal)

  • Served as a retro school dinner with oversized knife and fork (visual pun)
  • He said, “This course has been an almighty challenge. To try and keep the essence of the Spam fritter from my guests, but make something that’s delicious.”

I hope that this has helped to fill in any gaps in your Spam knowledge.

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