How the US conquered the world with Spam

Most people can probably remember the moment when they first realised the seductive power and global pervasiveness of American culture.

I had bought a bootleg CD of The Beach Boys’ surfing songs in the remote north-eastern Russian republic of Sakha and had my photograph taken with a goat herder in Djibouti who was wearing a Six Million Dollar Man T-shirt…

After all, even when you’re watching a Chinese flat-screen TV and driving an Indian car powered with Brazilian biofuels you almost certainly won’t be wearing Indian-style clothing or humming Chinese pop songs as you go. Or watching Brazilian movies either.

Next time you see television pictures of an anti-American demonstration anywhere on earth look closely at the crowd. Among the flag-burners you’ll almost certainly see someone wearing an LA Lakers shirt or a Yankees baseball cap.

My first exposure to American culture came back in the Doris Days of the early 1960s, growing up in a Britain that was still shaking off the lingering effects of rationing and the costs of post-war reconstruction.

We had Elvis, of course, and Hollywood but the world was a lot less global then. It was still possible, for example, for British recording artists to have hit records by simply recording their own versions of songs that were already hits for American stars on the far side of the Atlantic.

But the flagship of American influence in my own life was Spam, the bright-pink pork luncheon meat that was a staple of the British working-class diet for several decades.

It’s still going strong in many markets around the world – including the United States – and although the odd concession has been made to changing times (it’s less fatty and salty than it used to be) it’s still essentially the same as it always was.

I came to know it in the early 1960s, in the days before the invention of obesity. In common with millions of other British families we used to slice it, coat it in batter and then deep-fry it, thus producing that miracle of British culinary ingenuity known as the spam fritter.

RTFA. At least as funny as Monty Python. And I should be the last to complain having spent a certain portion of my misspent youth lunching on sandwiches of fried Spam with melted Velveeta “cheese” on top. 🙂

3 thoughts on “How the US conquered the world with Spam

  1. promajaneck says:

    Interesting. Hawaii has an obsession with SPAM to the point that there are restaraunts that only serve the meaty franken-food. This love afair is a remnant of WWII since it was served to the GI’s and the only meat that they could get in quantity and seemingly never goes bad.

  2. Aloha says:

    “Spam heists in Hawaii prompt retailers to put the wildly popular ‘mystery meat’ in locked cases” (Washington Post 10/19/17) “…These Spam snatchers are not hungry people desperate for Spam, said Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. They are most likely part of a Spam black market that’s taking off in a state where the demand for Spam knows no bounds. Yamaki thinks Spam has become a form of currency, particularly for drug addicts in need of quick cash. With Spam selling for roughly $2.50 per 12-ounce can (depending on where in Hawaii you look), a thief who paid nothing for an 8-pack or a case of 12 can turn a decent profit underselling the retailers from whom they stole.”
    Reportedly Hawaii residents consume more per capita than any other state, some five million pounds a year, “six cans for every man, woman and child”
    Richard Decker, New Yorker (1943) https://d2ydh70d4b5xgv.cloudfront.net/images/1/5/1943-wwii-china-relief-food-spam-richard-decker-art-ww-ii-new-yorker-cartoon-366aa7e3e251eceae1b7a06ee08b54b7.jpg

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