Hail, Mighty SPAM!

A Hog-Wild Milestone for the
All-American Mystery Meat

By Buck Wolf

June 18, 2002 --   There will be rapture in Austin, Minn. In less than two weeks, the 6 billionth can of SPAM will roll off the assembly line, and there's nothing snobbish culinary purists can do to stop it.

Sure, to many folks, SPAM is a joke, immortalized in Monty Python routines. But that doesn't mean the all-American mystery meat doesn't taste great, or so some say.

The modern-day obsession with health — the Tofuization of America — has taken much of the fun out of eating. "The land of the sugar-free and the home of the bland" might be an appropriate kicker as the Fourth of July holiday approaches.

But in Austin, better known in some circles as SPAMtown USA, the folks are acutely aware of the awesome, salt-laden, nitrate-packed power of canned pig meat. Pink Pleasures for the Palate

Go to any SPAM party — a SPAMboree, if you will — and you will see America's fat-laden traditions honored in true fashion. What other luncheon meat is immortalized in song, tossed for distance, and sculpted into art, while being eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner? And there will be many such events this summer.

SPAM parties are perhaps the only adult gatherings where guests are expected — even encouraged — to play with their food. You haven't seen it all until you've seen a SPAM rendering of Stonehenge. Modeled to scale. And edible.

For the true believers, the day begins with SPAMbled eggs and launches into a SPAMorama of blackened SPAMfish, Greek SPAMikopita, SPAM etoufée and other dishes to keep the plates — and the palates — pink. You can wash all that down with SPAM wine and top it off with SPAMoni sorbet.

"I must say I've had the SPAM brownies," says Shawn Radford, curator of Austin's SPAM Museum, which celebrated its opening last weekend with a dedication from Tom Brokaw. The NBC anchor wrote about SPAM's unique role as chow for Allied soldiers in World War II in his book The Greatest Generation.

That war generated a huge sales boost for SPAM-maker Hormel Foods, which provided 15 million cans to the military. From 1939 to 1942, the company's overall sales doubled to almost $120 million.