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It's Boom Time for Spammers


Some aspects of the American economy are in free fall, but these are great times for those who make SPAM.

Not computer spam, the unwanted, repetitious mass mailings that clog people's computer in-boxes. That kind of spam got its name from a television sketch by Britain's Monty Python troupe, in which a fellow goes into a restaurant to order lunch, and just about everything on the menu is made of the cheap luncheon meat SPAM.

"SPAM, SPAM, glorious SPAM," sang the Monty Python chorus, as the fry cook shoved one SPAM dish after another through the window from the kitchen.

Soon thereafter, the onslaught of unwanted e-mail messages online was referred to as spam as well.

These days, the SPAM meat product is selling briskly. And according to the New York Times, workers at the Hormel Foods Corporation plant in Austin, Minnesota, where the luncheon meat in a can is produced, can't make it fast enough. Not only are their jobs secure at a time when thousands of corporations are announcing layoffs, but they can earn all the overtime they want and get the extra pay that comes with it.

SPAM is a gelatinous hunk of spiced ham and pork - not the prime cuts, either - squished tightly into a can. Some people eat it cold. Others slice and fry it like bacon or mix chunks of it into their scrambled eggs.

When SPAM was introduced 72 years ago, in 1937, it was touted as the miracle meat in a can - always fresh and never needing refrigeration. (Others who were less fond of SPAM called it Mystery Meat.)

"Tastes fine, saves time," said an early commercial jingle for the product. Gourmets turned up their noses at SPAM, but sales boomed during World War II, when many other meat products were rationed. "Cold or hot, SPAM hits the spot," its ads proclaimed.

Sales soon moderated, but the product survived as a low-cost alternative to fresh cuts of meat. Now it and other inexpensive food products - including beans, rice and pancake mixes, and macaroni products - are thriving.

So far, though, we've not seen a return from its glory years of SPAM's advertising mascot: Spammy the Pig.

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.


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