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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Recipepapa Proclaims Spam is King in Hawaii

For many Spam is a gross mystery food or something to do with computers but in Hawaii Spam is king. Spam is eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and is the key ingredient in one of Hawaii’s most famous snack foods, Spam Musubi. Spam musubi is to locals in Hawaii what the vegemite sandwich would be for Australians.

Spam was first introduced in 1937 by Hormel as Hormel Spiced Ham. The product was not doing well so the company had a naming contest and that is how the name Spam came about. Nobody knows for sure what Spam really stands for and even the people at Hormel aren’t really sure. Below are some possible meanings behind the Spam name:

1) Shoulder pork & ham
2) Spiced ham
3) Specially processed American Meats
4) Something posing as meat
5) Specially processing animal meat
6) Stuff, pork and ham
7) Spare parts animal meat
8) Special product of Austin Minnesota

So why did Spam become such a big hit in Hawaii? Many believe World War II, geography, and Hawaii’s early plantation culture had a lot to do with the popularity of Spam. During the war, food and many essential items were in scarce supply due to the strict rationing. People used old news papers for toilet paper and rice water as a substitute for milk. Eating a salty fatty canned meat was actually considered a luxury at that time and was something that came natural for locals here in Hawaii. Going back even further you will see that the bulk of Hawaii’s population is descended from peasant farmers. Peasant farms we all know are poor are will eat just about anything so eating Spam quickly became a popular staple. Lastly is geography. Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific and thousands of miles from anywhere else. Importing in fresh meat is expensive and the relatively limited number of beef and pork producers in the islands makes fresh meat cost prohibitive for locals to eat on a regular basis. Spam proved to be a cheap and consistent way for the locals of Hawaii to get their taste for meat satisfied without putting a huge dent in their wallets.

Hopefully after reading this post you will have a new appreciation and understanding about Spam and its place in Hawaii cuisine. Spam may have been born in Austin, Minnesota but it has found a permanent home in the Hawaiian Islands.

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