Most people today know the word "Spam" as a computer-term—the mass e-mailings that computer- users hate. Most users would love to unsubscribe themselves, but the spammers just keep sending the e-mails. I get between fifteen and twenty a day. Users call them "spam" because they are worse than useless. In a similar vein, Gary Larson published a "Far Side" cartoon about "Spamalopes," a specie of antelope that lions won't eat, even if they are hungry.
However, the name "Spam" was originally an acronym for Shoulder-Pork-Ham, and was a canned meat-product from the George A. Hormel Meatpacking Company. Hormel observed waste-bins full of discarded pork-shoulder and started working on a way to market it.
Hormel invented the right product at the right time. With the onset of the Great Depression, World War II, and widespread malnutrition, Hormel had all the business it could handle. Dame Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, lived through World War II and described Spam as "a war-time delicacy." The former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev admitted, "Without Spam, we could not have fed our Army."
Not a bad job! The Hormel Company, started by George Hormel, the son of immigrant Germans, first started canning whole hams in 1926. George started work at fifteen as a butcher's apprentice.
George's son Jay took over from him and did as much to expand the reach of American culture as Coca-Cola, TV sit-coms, or McDonalds. He created Spam in 1937, just in time to help alleviate the effects of the Great Depression. Spam also arrived in time to help out during World War II, which caused hunger in every nation it touched.
American soldiers arrived bringing cases of Spam, and the Asians never forgot it. It literally kept them alive until their nations recovered from the effects of the War. The soldiers had wearied of it, much as modern-day computer-users have wearied of e-mail spammers; but in the nations of Asia, Spam has remained an important element of their cuisine.
The arrival in America of so many Asians has increased the sales of Spam at home as much as in the Asian home-countries.
America the beautiful with golden fields of grain may appeal to sentimental Americans. America as a place where a penniless immigrant can start a business and grow rich has a more practical appeal. Place a can of Spam under your Christmas tree next year, just to remind you of it.