Four Food Groups of the Apocalypse

Gonçalo Valverde
Photo credit: Gonçalo Valverde

Frank Rich briefly mentions food in his January 31, 2009 NYT op-ed “Herbert Hoover Lives.” He asks (and answers his own question), “What are Americans still buying [eating]? Big Macs, Campbell’s soup, Hershey’s chocolate and Spam – the four food groups of the apocalypse.”


Interesting way of putting things.

The Spam thing caught my attention, because as with President Obama,  Spam loomed large in my childhood. Pink, rubbery, slightly sweet, a little hammy. Yeah.

Be sure to visit Hormel’s Spam page. Everything you ever wanted to know about SPAM but were too scared to ask. Spam, like it or not, played a huge role in the American diet. If you ate Spam with pineapple when you were a kid, your mother no doubt fell under the charm of Hormel’s advertising.

A little history, thanks to Ed Grabianowski:

Canned ham was a reasonably successful Hormel product, but Jay Hormel wanted to get some use out of an underutilized cut of meat — pork shoulders. At first, Spam was made entirely of shoulder meat. Hormel introduced the ham/shoulder blend later. Actor Kenneth Daigneau coined the Spam name in a naming contest at a New Year’s Eve party. Hormel claims that the word is a blend of the words “spiced ham,” though Spam lovers and haters have suggested many other meanings and acronyms over the decades. On May 11, 1937, Spam was officially born when Hormel registered a trademark for the name.

For more about Spam, take a look at Carolyn Wyman’s Spam: A Biography: The Amazing True Story of America’s “Miracle Meat! (Harvest Books, 1999) and Dan Amstrong and Dustin Black’s The Book of Spam: A Most Glorious and Definitive Compendium of the World’s Favorite Canned Meat (Atria Books, 2007). See also Rachel Laudan’s concise but informative chapter on Spam in her comprehensive book on Hawaiian cuisine, The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage (University of Hawaii Press, 1996).