Spam, possibly a contraction of "spiced ham", was named by actor Kenneth Daigneau, the brother of R. H. Daigneau, a former Hormel Foods vice president. When other meatpackers started introducing similar products, Jay C. Hormel decided to create a catchy brand name to give his spiced ham an unforgettable identity, offering a $100 prize to the person who came up with a new name. At a New Year's Eve Party in 1936, Daigneau suggested the name Spam.
Jay C. Hormel, son of the company's founder, was determined to find a use for several thousand pounds of surplus pork shoulder. He developed a distinctive canned blend of chopped pork and ham known as Hormel spiced ham that didn't require refrigeration.
Spam luncheon meat was hailed as the "miracle meat," and its shelf-stable attributes attracted the attention of the United States military during World War II. By 1940, 70 percent of Americans had tried it, and Hormel hired George Burns and Gracie Allen to advertise Spam on their radio show.
On March 22, 1994, Hormel Foods Corporation celebrated the production of its five billionth can of Spam.
If laid end to end, five billion cans of Spam would circle the earth 12.5 times.
Five billion cans of Spam would feed a family of four, three meals a day for 4,566,210 years.
100 million pounds of Spam were issued as a Lend-Lease staple in the rations to American, Russian, and European troops during World War II, fueling the Normandy Invasion. GIs called Spam "ham that failed the physical." General Dwight D. Eisenhower confessed to "a few unkind words about it—uttered during the strain of battle."
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as a young woman of 18 working in her family's grocery store, remembers Spam as a "wartime delicacy."
In Khrushchev Remembers, Nikita Khrushchev credited Spam for keeping the Soviet Army alive during World War II. "We had lost our most fertile, food-bearing lands, the Ukraine and the Northern Caucasians. Without Spam, we wouldn't have been able to feed our army."
In the 1980s, David Letterman suggested Spam-On-A-Rope for his Late Night audience "in case you get hungry in the shower."
When Vernon Tejas made his solo winter ascent of Mount McKinley in 1988, he took a picture of himself with a can of Spam at the summit.
Hormel Foods Board Chairman R. L. Knowlton presented with a can of Spam to Mikhail Gorbachev in June 1990 and another can of Spam to Boris Yeltsin in June 1992.
The Pentagon sent approximately $2 million worth of Spam to United States troops during the Gulf War.
South Koreans consider Spam an upscale food. The Wall Street Journal reported that a Seoul executive in search of the perfect present bought Spam, explaining, "It is an impressive gift."
Anthropologist Jane Goodall and her mother once made 2,000 Spam sandwiches for Belgian troops fleeing from their African colony.
Spam can be grilled, pan-fried, broiled, sauteed, and baked, or added to ethnic dishes, sandwiches, pasta salads, pizzas, casseroles, stir-fry dishes, appetizers, and soups.
The Ala Moana Poi Bow in Honolulu serves Spam musubi and Spam, eggs, and rice.
The Green Midget Cafe, created by Monty Python's Flying Circus, serves "egg and Spam; egg, bacon and Spam; egg, bacon, sausage and Spam; Spam, bacon, sausage and Spam; Spam, egg, Spam, Spam, bacon and Spam; Spam, Spam, Spam, egg and Spam; Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam, and Spam; or lobster thermidor aux crevettes with a mornay sauce garnished with truffle paté, brandy and a fried egg on top and Spam."
Mr. Whitekeys' Fly By Night Club in Spenard, Alaska, offers Cajun Spam, Spam nachos, and pasta with Spam and sun-dried tomatoes in cream sauce.
The winning recipes from the 1992 State Fair Best of Spam Recipe Competition included Spam Mousse, Spam Golden Harvest Clam Chowder, and Spam Cheesecake.
A Spamburger, "the only hamburger actually made with ham," can be made by grilling, pan frying, or broiling a slice of Spam, and then layering the slice with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and cheese on a hamburger bun.
Hormel Foods' cookbook, "The Great Taste of Spam," includes recipes for Spam Stew with Buttermilk Topping, Spam Fajitas, and Spam Strudels with Mustard Sauce.
68 state and regional fairs hold Hormel Foods-sanctioned Spam recipe contests each year.
In Hawaii, Maui Mall hosts an annual Spam cookoff.
Austin, Texas, has been home to the Spamorama barbecue and cooking contest since 1974.
Seattle, Washington, hosts a yearly Spam luncheon meat celebration.
The Spam Jamboree, held every Fourth of July weekend in Austin, Minnesota, is the only Spam event Hormel officially sponsors.
At the 1983 Spamposium, 33 self-proclaimed Spamophiles gathered from across the nation to deliver scholarly papers and demonstrations,including making explosives from Spam.
Americans consume 113 million cans of Spam a year.
The average Hawaiian eats twelve cans of Spam a year, followed by the average Alaskan with six cans, and Texans, Alabamians, and Arkansans with three cans a piece.