We’ve chronicled a number of times the love Hawaiians hold for SPAM. It’s a bit of an off-beat story. Now, Hormel is donating more than 265,000 cans of SPAM to the Maui Relief effort. And that’s not as crazy an idea as it may first seem…
Hormel Foods will donate 264,000 cans of its flagship product to Maui Fire Relief.
As odd as the Hawaiian craving for SPAM may seem, it makes perfect sense, if you consider the circumstances.
A little history…
SPAM was ‘invented’ in the 1930s, during the depression, as an affordable meat product that could be prepared and served in a multitude of different ways. Among other positive attributes, SPAM has an almost infinite shelf life, and can withstand rough shipping and handling.
More than 100 million pounds (45.5 million kg) of SPAM was shipped overseas as field rations for U.S. soldiers during the Second World War. That’s how it was introduced to the Pacific islands (particularly Hawaii), Japan and Southeast Asia so quickly. Korea and the Asian mainland followed a few years later when SPAM again went to war with American troops in the Korean conflict.
Asians and polynesians loved it because a.) it was a pork product, friendly to their traditional diets, b.) it was salty and a little spicy, like many of their traditional foods, c.) it was readily available, and d.) it was cheap. SPAM is now considered a staple in Hawaii where unique ‘national’ recipes have been developed featuring it.
Also given to British and Commonwealth troops and civilians as a wartime aid food, it had invaded most of the world by 1950.
The current situation
Hundreds are known dead, thousands are missing, and tens of thousands are homeless following wildfires that raged across the Hawaiian island of Maui two weeks ago. It’s believed that high voltage power transmission lines downed by high winds sparked the original fire in central Maui. Those winds then spread the flames with astonishing speed.
Hormel Foods, the maker of SPAM, has pledged to donate three transport truckloads of the product to Maui Fire Relief. And we expect folks in the effected area will cheer the arrival of the stuff.
As a humanitarian gesture, the donation, which will also include money, ranks among the largest private contributions yet to Maui Fire Relief – at least $1 million .
Weighing the practicalities
When you get down to practicalities, SPAM is an ideal disaster relief food. With its high salt content and rugged steel can, it’s almost imperishable and virtually indestructible. And it’s ready to eat straight from the can, if you want. If you’re a wildfire survivor and have lost everything, you can even even eat it with your bare hands.
As one memorable scene in Band of Brothers (2001) suggests, American soldiers could have conquered the Nazis with nothing more than a can of SPAM and a mess kit-issue spoon.
Maybe not the healthiest
No, it’s not the healthiest food to rely on in chaotic times. It’s full of fat and salt. But it’s also a Hawaiian staple. And it offers not only concentrated protein but comfort to the de-housed masses of Maui.
Some folks applaud Hormel for its generosity, and for recognising the organic connection between Hawaiians and SPAM. But others say it’s a bad choice for health reasons and maybe should be politely declined by the Relief coordinators.
Muse on that..
~ Maggie J.