Sep 20, 2016

The Spam Museum: Revealing the Fun Facts

Before you say "eww Spam" or "they have a museum for this stuff?" Please hear me out on this one. 

Yes, Spam's history is so significant it has its own museum. The canned meat goes all the way back to 1937 and is a true slice of Americana. It's made a place in history, pop culture and culinary cuisine. 

I neither love it nor hate it, but Spam does hold a soft spot in my heart because it all began at the Hormel Foods Corporation based in Austin, MN, which just happens to be my hometown. 

I grew up seeing the iconic blue and yellow can in our cupboard and my favorite way to eat it is when my mom would chop it or shred it up fine then mix it with hard boiled eggs; like a Spam and egg salad spread on bread. 

Surprisingly, there's a huge variety of recipes that include Spam and besides, Austin, nowhere is it more popular than in Hawaii. It's an everyday staple on the islands. Spam comes in a variety of flavors: Bacon, JalapeƱo, Cheese, Hickory Smoke, Hot & Spicy, Teriyaki and these are just some of the 15 varieties they sell. 

The Spam Museum has many exhibits of Spam related facts, but being a food enthusiast, I was most intrigued by the giant touch screen display listing interesting recipe ideas.

Most unusual was a Spam Cheesecake. Now that's thinking outside the "can." It must have been a crazy moment in the Spam test kitchen that day!

Hormel Foods has been making Spam since 1937 and it became better known when it was used in the military to feed the WWII troops. Easily transported and non-perishable it was a regular part of the soldier’s daily meals. I'm sure many servicemen, after coming home, never wanted to lay eyes on Spam again! 

However, it didn't end there! What a legacy this little can of meat has had. The Spam Museum has seen more than one million visitors and counting. It's ranked the third most popular free tourist attraction in the state by Explore Minnesota. There is more information on its legacy and the museum here.

I'm grateful to have grown up in a town rich in history. It's a smaller town built from hard working entrepreneurial individuals with Hormel being the main industry employing the largest amount of residents. If you weren't employed with Hormel, then you knew someone or had a family member that did.  

In fact, the company is so deeply weaved within its community, that generally the people born and raised in Austin even pronounce "Hormel" differently than outsiders. Homegrown townies pronounce it Hor-mul. The "mul" sounds the same has "gull" in seagull. Tomato...tomahto, right?

Hormel just recently celebrated their 125th anniversary and besides their many well-known products of Spam, Hormel Bacon and Little Sizzlers they've also acquired familiar brands like Jenni-O, Chi-Chi's, El Torito, Wholly Guacamole, Skippy peanut butter and Applegate Farms. All of the Hormel brands are listed here. 

Like any company that's been around this long, it's had some ups and downs. This was most prevalent in 1985 when the Local P-9 Union went on strike over wage cuts and safety concerns. The strike was so contentious that the National Guard had to be called in to control riots. The lengthy strike made national news, caused strained relations among businesses, between friends and even tore families apart. 

After the strike ended 10 months later, some were hired back to their jobs and over 700 never returned. After 31 years since this event, the community has been restored, but not without some lasting scars for many and changes to the town's demographics. 

One thing that hasn't changed is Spam! In case you're wondering what it's made of...let’s open the lid and reveal its six simple ingredients: pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrate.  

Spam products are sold in 44 different countries around the world. Hawaii eats 7 million cans every year and in Southeast Asia Spam products are given as a luxury gift.  So, grab a bag and load up! More fun facts here

Love it or hate it, there's no question Spam is such an iconic product and has worldwide admiration. Featured below is a report from the CBS Sunday Morning show covering its story and the huge following in Hawaii.

Truly a fun news story over a simple can of meat!  

So, whenever someone asks me where I'm from, I say I'm from Austin and they'll quickly respond, "Austin, Texas?" 

"Oh no, not that Austin, I'm from Austin, Minnesota - you know Spam Town USA!"

Put your smile on and unwrap
   A Square of Chocolate,
Laurie O

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  1. Replies
    1. Out of Spam cans? I hope it was the cans and not the meat! Or, was it a food Christmas tree? You've got my imagination whirling. Haha

  2. Oh my gosh I found this fascinating.
    And again found myself wondering if spam really is as not fantastic as they say and thinking :-) again I need to give it a try. I'll put it on my bucket list :-)

    And I'm from the other Austin :-)

    1. You're the Austin of the south and I'm the Austin of the North! Hehe I'll be honest it's not my favorite "go to" meat, but for breakfast, a thin slice pan fried to go with your eggs in the morning is a good way.


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