How SPAM won the war, and 4 other things to know as it turns 80 - Bring Me The News

How SPAM won the war, and 4 other things to know as it turns 80

Poetry. War. Comedy. Hawaii. SPAM is 80 years of Americana in a can.

Birthdays come and go, but when you're turning the big 8-0, that calls for a celebration.

And Austin, Minnesota, has an 80th birthday party lined up for its best-known product on Friday afternoon, although SPAM's actual anniversary is Wednesday, July 5.

The milestone occasion makes this a good time to look back at some things you may not know about the world's most beloved – and maligned – canned meat, which Hormel Foods says is now sold in 15 varieties in 44 countries.

1) It has six ingredients

There are lots of myths about what goes into a can of SPAM, but Hormel says it's actually just pork, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrates.

2) It gets some of the credit for winning World War II

In 1937 SPAM was a hit because it fit the budget of Depression-era shoppers and had a much longer shelf life than other meat. But the National World War II Museum notes that being cheap, long-lasting, and portable also made SPAM an ideal meat for soldiers fighting overseas.

And not just the American ones. The Soviet Union's army was fighting the Nazis after most of Russia's farm fields had been wiped out or taken by the Germans. Time magazine says Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev later wrote in his memoir: "Without Spam, we wouldn't have been able to feed our army."

3) It's hugely popular in Hawaii

While lots of GIs got pretty sick of eating SPAM during the war, something different happened on the Hawaiian islands: it was adopted into the local culture.

Fried SPAM and rice became a popular meal. Then Hawaiians became more creative with the canned meat, leading to SPAM fried wontons and SPAM Musubi. Today, Hormel says, SPAM dishes are found everywhere from convenience stores to restaurants in Hawaii, creating a demand for the cans that is unmatched around the world.

4) It's mentioned 132 times in the Monty Python skit

SPAM has always been an easy target to make fun of, and the British comedy troupe Monty Python showed us how back in 1970 with a sketch that became legendary.

We didn't actually count the number of "SPAM"s but National Public Radio says it totals 132.

5) SPAM haiku is a thing

There's a whole book of it, called Spam-ku: Tranquil Reflections of Luncheon Loaf.

This web page has an archive of more than 19,000 SPAM-inspired haiku with an index by topic.

We'll leave you with these entries from the pun and love categories, respectively:

Hormel buys Seuss' rights.
Revised children's book hits stores:
"Eat Green Eggs and SPAM."

Supermarket aisle.
We reached for the same SPAM can.
We exchanged numbers.

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