Spam……Makes your mouth water right? If you’re a local Hawaiian it probably does. That’s because Hawaiians consume nearly 7 million cans of Spam each year; the most per capita in the world. But why? This “mystery meat” was introduced by Hormel Foods Corporation in 1937 during World War II as a way to feed soldiers on the front lines. It was cheap and had a long shelf life, and so it became a mainstay throughout the war. As a consequence of its introduction to the Pacific region, including Hawaii, Spam also became common among the natives and they have been enjoying it ever since.
Apparently the meaning of the name remains a secret among former Hormel executives, but many people have speculated that it is either an abbreviation for ‘Spiced Ham’ or ‘Shoulders of Pork and Ham,’ or is an acronym for ‘Specially Processed American Meat.”
Unlike on much of the Mainland, Hawaiians truly do like Spam and have come up with clever ways to prepare it that bring out the pre-cooked meat’s flavor. One of the most popular is Spam Musubi; a sushi-style item of rice with Spam on top, wrapped with a strip of seaweed. You can find Spam Musubi at convenience stores all across the islands and is the perfect beach time snack. Other restaurants serve Spam with rice or fried with eggs for breakfast. Spam menu items can also be found at fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King in Hawaii.
Hawaiians love Spam so much, they made a festival out of it! Spam Jam takes place every spring on the island of Oahu to celebrate this cultural food staple. There are a wide variety of foods featuring Spam throughout the festival from Spam cupcakes to Spam nachos and everything in between. The event also serves as a donation center for the Hawaii Food Bank to collect canned goods, such as Spam.
So, when in Rome Hawaii, eat like the Hawaiians do and give it a try! You just might like it!