Updated: Jan 7, 2019
Welcome back for the second post of our Spamalot blog series. In this post we discuss the show’s namesake -- SPAM®. But before we delve into this canned meat cultural icon, we want to remind you that tonight is the last night for Little Women at The Empress. With all the holiday hustle and bustle this weekend don’t let yourself miss out on your last opportunity to see this heartwarming show.
SPAM® -- The Perfect Christmas Gift
Speaking of the holidays, did you know that SPAM® is considered a holiday delicacy in South Korea? Family and friends celebrate Christmas by exchanging expensive SPAM® gift boxes. So, just how did this industrialized meat product become a cultural icon, an East Asian gift tradition, and a Broadway Musical? Read on to find out!
The Origins of SPAM®
Containing only six ingredients (pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite), SPAM® was introduced by Hormel Foods in 1937 as a way to sell more pork shoulder. Electric crock-pots and backyard smokers weren't commercially available, so pork shoulder wasn’t a very popular cut of meat back then. World War II created an enormous demand for mass produced and shelf stable meats. During the course of the war Hormel Foods shipped more than 100 million pounds of SPAM® abroad to feed allied troops.
SPAM® Travels the World
This massive worldwide feeding of our troops led to SPAM® being absorbed into native cuisines around the world, particularly in East Asia and the Pacific Islands. (If you’ve ever been to Hawaii and wondered why they have so much SPAM® there, this is why.) In addition to feeding troops, the United States sent SPAM® abroad as food aid to our allies during WWII, particularly to the United Kingdom. Which is how SPAM® became so ubiquitous in England, giving Monty Python fodder for one of their most iconic comedy sketches.
Our previous blog post discussed Monty Python’s role in making SPAM® a cultural icon. (Here’s a link if you hadn’t had a chance to read it yet.) The infamous “Spam Sketch” takes place in a diner where everything in the menu is laden with varying quantities of spam, and vikings sing an ode to their beloved canned meat product (“spam spam spam spam glorious spaaaaam!”). The word “spam” eventually dominates the language of the sketch, the rest of the show, and even the closing credits. (Here’s a link to the sketch if you haven’t seen it yet. Seriously, take 3-½ minutes out of your day to watch this. It’s not only funny, but also an important part of our cultural heritage!)
SPAM® goes to Broadway
SPAM® also made a cameo appearance in Monty Python and the Holy Grail during the “Knights of the Round Table” song. According to the song, the knights at Camelot “eat ham and jam and spam a lot.” Which is where Spamalot the broadway musical’s name comes from. As we discussed in our previous blog post, Spamalot is the musical retooling of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It includes the “Knights of the Round Table” song along with a cameo appearance of the viking’s “Glorious Spam” song from the “Spam Sketch.”
Hormel Foods has fully embraced Monty Python’s lampooning of their canned meat product. They have adopted a viking-esque knight in full armor named Sir Can-A-Lot as their official spokescharacter, and given him “Glorious SPAM®” as his official slogan (a nod to Monty Python’s “spam” singing vikings and knights of the round table.). Hormel even created a special edition SPAM® can for the opening of Spamalot on Broadway.
SPAM® Makes it's Way to The Empress
From industrially repackaging an unpopular cut of meat to starring in a Tony award winning Broadway musical, SPAM® has come along way. And, we at the Empress will be paying homage to this international canned meat icon in our production of Spamalot January 18-February 2, 2019. How, exactly? With choreography of course! To see our SPAM®-can dancers (and the rest of show) buy your tickets online today!
We at The Empress would also like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! Whether your holiday includes elaborate gift boxes filled with SPAM®, or any SPAM® at all, we hope it is filled with warm memories. As a special holiday treat, the cast and crew of Spamalot would like to share with you some of their favorite SPAM® recipes and memories. Have some of your own? Please share back with us. We’d love to learn more ways to enjoy “Glorious SPAM®”!
Cast Favorite SPAM® Recipes and Memories
Emily Jameson I think I have only eaten Spam about twice in my life. And I remember traveling to Hawaii and thinking how strange it was that Spam would be such a dominant part of the local cuisine. So, really, the only recipe I can think of is Spam fried rice.
Melanie Turner I know I ate SPAM as a child. But I can only remember having it in a sandwich... nothing special.
Michelle Gardner Spam fried rice! It is my Dads “famous “ dish. Cut spam in cubes. Brown in a pan with chopped onions. Cook sticky rice in another pan. Add peas and rice to spam pan and cook a bit more, add one to two eggs, scramble in pan. Add soy sauce to taste and serve!
Celeste Porter My mom died when I was young. I remember spam being something my dad would go to that didn't require a lot of skill in the kitchen. I remember the distinct smell of it frying in the pan. He was doing his best.
Scott Ricks I served an LDS mission in Hawaii, and SPAM is a pretty big deal there. I kinda got hooked on it and so I bought a spam cookbook. Probably my favorite spam related food is the SPAM Musubi! It is kind of a Japanese American mish mash of awesomeness! They taste delicious! Here is a link to the recipe: http://www.thehawaiiplan.com/5-delicious-spam-recipes/
Rod Hansen My favorite spam recipe is spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, and spam, but without the baked beans. Actually, the only time I eat spam is while camping. Food always tastes better when camping.
Tyler Nelson I only remember eating spam once. In Georgia just got back from a day of water skiing which makes you pretty ravenous for food. We had spamburgers that night. Even in that state can’t say that I've ever thought about having a second go at them.
Alyssa Powers Sadly, I have no knowledge of ever having eaten spam, other than the amazing casserole that was brought to our first morning rehearsal. Time to bust out a can!
Amy Banta I remember my family sitting at our kitchen counter on Saturday afternoons while my mom made us cooked spam sandwiches. They were soooooooo much better than the cold spam sandwiches she put in our school lunches!