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The History of Spam

Spam was introduced in 1937 as a 12-ounce convenient, long-lasting protein source — something sorely needed during the Great Depression. It originally cost just 25 cents and was made with pork shoulder, chopped ham, water, sugar, and sodium. It was created by George and Jay Hormel, who then offered a $100 prize for the best name. The brother of a corporate executive came up with the name Spam, a combination of “spice” and “ham.” When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Spam was given to American and Allied troops, particularly those stationed at Pacific outposts, where access to refrigeration was severely limited and local sources of meat were scarce. Citizens of conflict-wracked countries in the Pacific quickly embraced Spam, which was absorbed into many local cuisines after American troops departed. (Spam was introduced to Korea a little later, during the Korean War in the early 1950s.) Many returning soldiers swore off Spam after eating large amounts of it in their ration meals, but in Hawaii, where the US military has long maintained a major presence, Spam caught on and became part of the local cuisine, much like it did anywhere that American troops had a presence during the war. It is now part of Hawaiian and Asian culinary traditions. In recent years, Spam has also experienced a resurgence of popularity throughout America, in part due to creative and multicultural preparation techniques.

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