Recently this site was attacked by that most dreadful of foes, an army of relentless and tireless robots; robots with only one goal, to deliver their package of evil and horror. A payload so unpleasant we of the civilized world could only have one name for it … spam.
It clogs our email and our arteries. It is the butt of jokes and the butt of … well, what is spam anyway? And why exactly do we call that glut of electronic penis enhancement and over-the-counter drug messages that we receive every day the name of a canned meat product? And how do people make money from junk mail? And does anyone eat Spam anymore? Basically, what’s the deal with spam (both in its physical and its virtual form)?
Let’s start with the physical form, the “meat” version.
To be fair, Spam is actually meat; a special kind of meat, but meat nonetheless. (Note: In the previous sentence the word spam was spelled with a capitol ‘S’ and in the sentences before that a lowercase one. That is because a capitol signifies the product and lowercase signifies the nuisance. It’s a copyright/branding issue that I will attempt to adhere to but will inevitably forget about and eventually be sued by a bevy of corporate lawyers with nothing better to do than harass silly bloggers attempting to be entertaining. Also note: This is the longest parenthetical I have ever written)
Spam is a canned, pre-cooked meat product of the Hormel Foods Corporation. The product was first introduced in 1937. Spam is (according to the ingredients label) “chopped pork shoulder meat, with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar, and sodium nitrite as a preservative”. Spam’s gelatinous glaze, or aspic, forms from the cooling of meat stock.
So like I said, it is actually meat; although a pressed a combination of meats that are probably not the best cuts, if you know what I mean.
Spam became popular (albeit by default) during World War II when there was meat rationing and the non-spoiling, canned nature of this product allowed it to be sold in abundance during the war; especially in England. For many people in the UK and the US Spam was the only meat they could get on a regular basis. As a consequence there a lot of people who grew to despise Spam and the growth of the “mystery meat” joke/meme emerged.
This is epitomized in the classic and gloriously wonderful skit by Monty Python seen below.