Austin, Minnesota: Spam and SPAM Are Here to Stay

Posted on October 21, 2016

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spam_can“Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!” Monty Python’s lyrics from his 1970 sketch, in which two customers in a café try to order something for breakfast that doesn’t include SPAM, was oddly prophetic in more ways than one.

Spam, all lower-case, is a term everyone with an email address understands to be ubiquitous and unavoidable – the exact qualities the Python skit attributed to the other spam, SPAM.

However, SPAM, introduced by the Hormel company in 1937, truly IS ubiquitous and unavoidable if you are in Austin, Minnesota.

Austin is the home of the Hormel Company’s production facility producing SPAM for its markets in North America, South America, and Australia.

Austin, known as “SPAM Town USA”, is also home to the Spam Museum (surprise!), established in 1991.

Though often portrayed elsewhere in unflattering terms, and sometimes regarded as downright dangerous thanks to its high fat and sodium content, volunteer guides at the museum work hard to change those preconceived notions.

They are quick to inform you that today’s SPAM offers choices for everyone – 13 in fact, including classic, less sodium, lite, hot & spicy, black pepper, jalapeño, spread, singles, singles lite, hickory smoke, bacon, cheese, and roasted turkey. (What could possibly be wrong with roasted turkey SPAM?)

And if you hang around the museum long enough, you probably will get to taste most of them. ‘SPAMbassadors’ parade around with trays loaded down with ‘SPAMples’, cubes skewered with toothpicks or pretzels. Buy something in the gift shop, and you will be urged to “have a SPAMtastic day!”

austin-1Actually, for all the ridicule often associated with the canned pork product, it has an interesting history including a vital role in World War II.

According to the exhibits, 1942 saw the introduction of the first military K-Rations, the much maligned battlefield meal. Hormel Foods provided the ingredients for these rations – pork with apple flakes and carrots; veal loaf; chopped pork with egg yolks and ham and eggs.

As war raged across Europe, the U. S. sent supplies to countries that would become its allies. More than 100 million pounds of SPAM luncheon meat was shipped overseas, as well as other Hormel products. In fact, the company had to double its production to keep up with the demand.

And it did its job. SPAM nourished both American and Soviet soldiers, as well as millions of civilians who faced starvation in war-torn Great Britain, France and Russia.

Perhaps its importance is best understood from a quote taken from a women after the bombing of London:

“Only those who have eaten SPAM at dawn, toasted on the end of a knitting needle in a bomb shelter …. can really know how good it is.”

Contrary to the Python skit, Austin is the only place we’ve ever seen SPAM on a restaurant menu, so of course we indulged.

Paired with a couple eggs – pretty darn good!

Hope you have a SPAMtastic day!

austin-8

Hmmm….must have shrunk. Used to be 21 cans tall.

 

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