I have long been fascinated with the sponsored links in the spam folder of my gmail account. I wonder about the day that the online equivalent of junk mail was christened spam. What was Hormel Foods’ reaction? After all, the irritation caused by an avalanche of unsolicited email offering snake oil remedies for s*xual satisfaction and instant riches is hardly a response any profit-minded company would want associated with their product. Surely?
The nomination must, however, have been a double-edged sword, especially with the introduction of spam filters and folders which opened the way for a dedicated advertising opportunity via email accounts, many of whose owners might visit them several times in one day. Every now and again, I check the spam folder of my gmail account, just to assure myself that no genuine emails have been caught by its filter, and not once have I seen any product other than SPAM® recipes advertised above the list of unread messages.
I remember eating SPAM® as a child. It was something to be taken on camping trips or to have on those occasions when the budget didn’t stretch to freshly sliced meat from the deli. But I don’t think I’ve eaten it for at least 20 years. Perhaps this is the source of my fascination with the SPAM® recipes; I genuinely didn’t think anyone ate it anymore. Even while I was aware that SPAM® was still on the shelves in all its varieties at my local supermarket, in a society of plenty, I considered it to be a last resort, a half-step up from tinned meat products for animals.
The recipes linked to in the gmail folder don’t necessarily change my view on this. Here’s a brief sample: Savoury Spam Crescents, Spam Imperial Tortilla Sandwiches, Spam Swiss Pie, and Vineyard Spam Salad. The ingredients in all of these recipes put me in mind of an odd combination of those recipe books for cosmopolitan housewives of the sixties and seventies and those so-called salads made from jello and marshmallow that were discussed in the comments somewhere else on this blog (I can’t find where right now). My impression is something to do with the world tour and reinvention of various nationally ascribed cuisines and the use of packaged pastry and, of course, tinned meat. For me, SPAM® is from another era or, perhaps, dimension, where fresh food was or is not readily available.
In the process of finding an image to accompany this post, I soon learned that my perception of SPAM® was not as widespread as I had assumed. No, indeedy. I found the image of the SPAM® Musubi via an article in Flak Magazine, ‘Hawaii: The Spam Archipelago‘. Here my prejudices were confronted: I am one of those who ‘scoff at the possibilities of the pink meat’.
I’m not sure that having read the article I am scoffing any less, rather I am fascinated by the pervasiveness of SPAM® in the cuisine of the Pacific Rim. It seems that SPAM® is as contemporary an ingredient as any fresh oyster and like the oyster is often celebrated through a dedicated festival, known as the SPAM JAM®. More than the humble oyster, however, SPAM® has its very own museum. And just in case you
hoped thought the SPAM® stopped there, it seems there is also an entity known as the SPAMMOBILETM that travels from town to town.
In the face of all this SPAM® I can only conclude that rather than being upset by the advent of email spam, and so the possible dilution of their registered brand name, Hormel Foods followed a course of action taken by many an underdog: ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’. It is to this end that both spam and SPAM® will continue popping up: relentless and tasteless (or at least a bit too salty).