Updating a Classic

When it comes to American icons, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I love the Statue of Liberty, the Corn Palace, bluegrass, and blue jeans. I love cheeseburgers, in Paradise or otherwise, and I’ve always appreciated Norman Rockwell’s illustrations: particularly his portrayal of Rosie the Riveter.

When Rosie appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1943, my parents were living in the Quad Cities. Dad worked at John Deere; my mother spent her days helping the war effort by riveting aircraft. She enjoyed the work, trusted her partner, and regaled us for years with her stories of Hellcats, nose cones, and turrets.

When she was feeling especially nostalgic, she’d pull out her recording of “Rosie the Riveter,” a song composed by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb and released in 1943 by Paramount Music Corporation of New York.

Even after my parents moved back to Iowa, Mom kept a cherished copy of Rockwell’s Post cover in her cedar chest, and a torn-out image of his Rosie tucked between some books in the den. When Hillary Clinton adapted the better-known “We can Do It” poster for her Presidential campaign, Mom wasn’t happy. “That’s not right, for them to call her Rosie,” she’d say. “That’s not the real Rosie. I’ve got Rosie’s picture in my closet.”

As it happened, Mom was both wrong and right. The “We Can Do It!” poster, produced a year earlier than Rockwell’s cover, did become the most iconic of the Rosie images. On the other hand, as Westinghouse historian Ed Reis noted in 2003:

For the past 60 years, the popular image of the World War II-era female worker in the “We Can Do It” poster has evoked strength and empowerment. The American public identified the image as “Rosie the Riveter,” named for the women who were popping rivets on the West Coast, making bombers and fighters for aeronautical companies like Boeing.
But history tells a different story. In 1942, the Westinghouse Corporation, in conjunction with the War Production Coordinating Committee, commissioned J. Howard Miller, a Pittsburgh artist, to create a series of posters for the war effort. He based his “We Can Do It!” poster on a United Press photograph taken of Michigan factory worker Geraldine Hoff Doyle.
It was to be displayed for only two weeks in Westinghouse factories in the Midwest where women were making helmet liners. They made 13 million plastic helmet liners out of a material called Mycarta, the predecessor to Formica (which means “formerly Mycarta”). So, more aptly named, this woman is Molly the Mycarta Molder, or Helen the Helmet Liner Maker.

Historical complexities aside, Rockwell’s Rosie — modeled after Mary Doyle Keefe of Arlington, Vermont — always has been my favorite. Today, I admire her air of insoucience, her obvious competence and strength. As a child, astonished by her brilliant red hair, I envied her freedom to roll up her sleeves and eat with a dirty face, and I hardly could believe that no one made her cut the sandwich she was clutching into lady-like halves.

In my child’s mind, that sandwich became our point of connection. Accustomed to grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly, one of my greatest treats was a “Spamwich” — SPAM® sliced thin and fried crisp, served on white bread with a little mayo. I couldn’t imagine anyone refusing a Spamwich, and and I imagined that Rosie would have preferred a Spamwich, too, even though the role of SPAM® in World War II left many veterans distinctly ambivalent about the product, and I don’t remember anyone saying, “Hey! C’mon over and we’ll fry up some SPAM®!”

Over the years, SPAM® became a bit of a joke — shorthand for all that was low-brow, low-cost, and low-quality. Thanks to its extended shelf life, it continued to be tucked into hurricane supplies, stowed in the galleys of cruising boats, or stacked on the shelves of deer lease cabins, but it rarely was eaten. For all practical purposes, SPAM® disappeared from my life.

Then, I traveled to Minnesota.

In Minnesota, food and folklore mesh. The Jolly Green Giant lives in Blue Earth, a community surrounded by rich farmland and canneries devoted to beans, corn, and peas that bear the Giant’s likeness on their labels.

Just up the road in Bemidji, the Great Blue Ox named Babe still is hanging out with his friend, Paul Bunyan. I first met the pair when I was about ten years old and barely came up to Paul’s knee. The next morning, when I begged my parents to let me order the “Lumberjack Breakfast” at a local diner, a knowing waitress suggested one breakfast might do for us all. It did, although I suspect she added some extra bacon.

After a hearty breakfast, there’s no reason for today’s travelers not to head over to Austin, Minnesota and visit the SPAM® Museum. As their website puts it,

“Few experiences in life are as meaningful and meaty-filled as those you’ll have at the magnificent SPAM® Museum. Referred to by meat historians as The Guggenham, Porkopolis, or M.O.M.A. (Museum Of Meat-Themed Awesomeness), the SPAM® Museum is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of spiced pork artifacts.”

“Spiced pork artifacts” may be one of the most terrifying phrases in the English language, but they have a lovely building, and a nice sculpture out front pays tribute to those who gave their lives for the sake of potted meat.

Inside the museum, galleries of early photographs show the earliest days of the George Hormel “Provision Market.” Hormel entered the business world as a traveling wool and hide buyer. Eggs, wool, poultry, and hides helped to keep his company in business while their trade in meat products was being developed.

As the business grew, product lines expanded and the Hormel name was imprinted on far more than slabs of bacon and salt-cured hams.

Technological advances meant that new forms of processing and packaging soon were being sold along with the food itself.

As the business continued to grow, advertising campaigns became more sophisticated; Hormel was one of the first to seek out celebrities willing to endorse their products.

Over the years, SPAM® permeated Minnesota culture so deeply that even traditional handcrafts were adapted to help promote the product. What could be better than a quilt or wall hanging to remind you of the virtues of SPAM®?

After roaming the museum for an hour, I found myself wishing there had been a little café devoted to all things SPAM®. A sliced and fried spamwich is fine as far as it goes, but what about Chicken-fried SPAM®? SPAM® Flautas? Scalloped SPAM®? or the mysterious but strangely appealing SPAM®-alama-Ding-Dongs?

All these dishes and more were served at SPAMARAMA, a years-long tradition in Austin, Texas. Even The Smithsonian loved SPAMARAMA, sending videographers to catch the action for their series, America: Wild and Wacky.

After a twelve-year hiatus, SPAMARAMA returned to Austin last month as news swirled about the introduction of a new version of the canned meat: Pumpkin Spice SPAM®. Once publicized by Hormel as a joke, it’s no joke today; the product will be introduced on September 23 and, if the rumors are true, the advertising slogan will be, “Pumpkin Spice: If it’s good enough for STARBUCKS®, it’s good enough for SPAM®.”

Since my visit to the Museum, I haven’t begun serving up SPAM® on a regular basis. Still, since 1937 this quintessentially American food has continued to feed soldiers and kids, college students, cruisers and struggling families. I still keep it in my hurricane supplies, and one of these nights I might just fry up some slices, nice and crisp. I’ll use whatever bread I have, and add a dollop of mayo. In honor of Rosie, I might even forego slicing my spamwich in half.

I’m still not sure whether I’ll try Pumpkin Spice SPAM®, but I might. The company’s already given us jalapeno, garlic, chorizo, turkey, teriyaki, and Portuguese sausage varieties; this latest update might be as good as the classic.


Comments always are welcome.
For those who don’t know how SPAM® became ‘spam’, the bane of internet users, this video from Business Insider will help. In 1998, the New Oxford Dictionary of English, which previously defined “spam” only in relation to the trademarked food product, added a second definition to its entry for ‘spam’:  “Irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the internet to a large number of newsgroups or users.”

167 thoughts on “Updating a Classic

  1. Thank you for sharing a trip back in time. I enjoy Norman Rockwell’s illustrations of American life. While I haven’t eaten spam for over 50 years, I can still remember my Mom cooking it. And yes, Bemidji, Minnesota is a worthy travel destination.

    1. I grew up in Iowa, and we often vacationed in Minnesota. Dad enjoyed the fishing, and the rest of us enjoyed just lazing around. We spent some time at Leech Lake, and I wasn’t so fond of the leeches, but every spot has a downside.

      In the process of writing this, I discovered that there are Spam singles. The more I write about Spam, the more I suspect I’ll end up getting one of those individual packets, just because.

  2. Aaah Linda, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Rosie the Riveter and Spam. I remember them- from Norman Rockwall favorites to eating Spam as a youngster and later buying it for my husband who loved eating fried spam.

    It is interesting to know that there is a Spam museum. I would never have thought of a place with all things Spam.

    1. Sometimes I think there’s a museum for everything. There are barbed wire museums, motorcycle museums, doll museums, and cheese museums, so why not a Spam museum? It was quite a place, actually: full of historical information, and far more than just a place meant to persuade you to buy their product.

      I’m really going to be interested to see how people receive their Pumpkin Spice variety. The food editors who’ve already tasted it say it’s quite good. Apparently it has clove, allspice, and such in it, and when you think about it, that’s not much different than the spiced hams we fixed at holidays.

  3. Spam was introduced to us after arrival in Australia. I never knew it was available in Holland before our migration. Perhaps it was. Mind you, post war food was in short supply and only available by handing in vouchers that were given to us by the Government whose job it was to ration food bought by the American Aid known as The Marshall Plan.

    Australia too has large public icons such as large bananas, large prawns, oversized oysters, bushman etc.

    1. I wonder if Spam made it to Australia the same way it reached so many countries in the Pacific: via the U.S. military during WWII. It makes sense. I’ve never seen any reference to it in the European theater, although it may have been part of the rations there, too.

      Bananas, prawns, and oysters I know and love, but what is ‘bushman’? I don’t think you mean ‘bush meat,’ like monkey or fruit bat. Perhaps you mean Bushman’s Pies — that’s a place I’d love to visit. I suspect their pies would be more than equal to Spam.

      1. We sent SPAM to the USSR during the war. When I visited Russia in the 90s, I met a woman who remembered eating it as a child.

        Your post was very entertaining. I enjoyed the images and music in the video (Allen Miller & His Orchestra). Women did factory work during WWI as well, but were expected to return to more traditional roles when the men came back from military service.

        1. It’s interesting how some products take on world-wide significance. There were practical reasons in the case of Spam, but there are places where it’s become even more of a cultural marker than in mainland U.S. — like Hawaii, where the greatest number of varieties can be found. There’s Spam sushi there, too, and a few other dishes that seem to be unique to the islands. I once heard a Houston radio show producer, who’s native Hawaiian, rhapsodize about Spam for a full twenty minutes. Amazing.

          I was delighted to find that video, as much for the images as for the music. As neat and tidy as some of those ladies were, they were tough. On the other hand, even though it’s a little hard to see in the Post cover, that’s a lace hanky tucked into Rosie’s right-hand pocket. I smile every time I see it.

    1. Spam can be enjoyed in a kitchen, but it always tastes especially good outdoors. It’s not as messy as bacon, either, and it’s easier for kids (and probably their Scoutmasters) to deal with. I’m happy to have raised some good memories for you.

  4. A throughly good read (even though some of the content was beyond my Aussie knowledge).

    I well remember eating SPAM with our salad as a child, although I can’t remember whether it was a ‘treat’ or daily inclusion in the Summer. I know we had roast lamb or chicken on Sundays for many years, but remember little meat on weekdays – I suppose we ate it. I think we had meatballs in a rich tomato sauce and curried sausages for a while there.

    Gerard recounts our large Aussie public icons in his comment above.

    I was rather amused at the sight of a country quilt with SPAM spelt across it. When younger I made a couple of quilts and they were all about colours and shapes, not words :) Perhaps more in the Amish style.

    1. I sometimes run into the same difficulty with posts from Australia or New Zealand. It’s not only unfamiliar and quite different things, it’s that different words sometimes are used for items I see here all the time. That’s part of the fun of blogging — getting those peeks into different worlds.

      When I think of Spam, I always remember it as a breakfast dish, or in a sandwich. An uncle preferred it cubed, browned, and added to baked beans. it was versatile, that’s for sure.

      When I saw those textiles, I admired them but didn’t think to ask how they came to be. Now, I’m wondering if they might have been winners in some sort of contest: perhaps at a county fair, or at an exhibition sponsored by the company. That would explain the obvious links to the product and the museum itself. The balloons the four little pigs are holding are a nice touch, suggesting the world-wide distribution of the product.

  5. I will try pumpkin spiced spam, what a lark. We didn’t have a lot of it growing up but I remember all of us complaining about it when we did.

    It’s funny you should write about the helmet liners. My mom bought some of them after the war at the Army Surplus Store that we kids played with along with an Army tent and cots. I just listed my helmet on e-Bay.

    Interesting that your mom was an actual Rosie the Riveter. Mine never worked in a factory during the war but she did child-care for other women who did.

    1. Honestly, I don’t think pumpkin-spice Spam is as odd as pumpkin-spice lattes. I suspect it’s going to taste much like the spiced hams we used to have at holiday dinners. The ingredient spices are the same: allspice, clove, nutmeg. It will be a limited edition, and it’s only going to be available online and at Walmart, but it will be interesting to see how it sells.

      I didn’t know anything about helmet liners, but when I looked them up, I discovered the wonderful world of WWII memorabilia collectors. Here’s to a bidding war for yours.

      One of the funniest stories I heard from mom’s factory days involved the night four of the women decided to socialize while their husbands went out. When the guys came home, they were astonished to find four giggly women at the kitchen table, with an empty vodka bottle in the middle. Mom said it was the only time she ever imbibed so heavily: once was enough.

    1. It seems that Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines are the greatest per capita consumers of Spam on the planet. It was introduced in the Pacific theater by the military in WWII, and after the war Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino migrant workers brought their own Spam dishes to the Hawaiian Islands, where its popularity exploded.

      A producer for a radio show here in Houston is a Hawaiian native, and when he goes home to visit family, he carries Spam in his luggage. He was the first person I heard talking about the pumpkin-spice Spam; he’s already plotting how to get as much of it as he can to use as Christmas presents.

  6. It is amazing what can be found out about things like this. Fascinating.

    Last week we drove through Kingfisher, OK on our way to and from a family visit. We were surprised by a road sign at the edge of town saying Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, was born there. We didn’t look for a museum.

    1. Here’s an interesting tidbit: when the pumpkin spice Spam hits the market, it’s going to be sold only online and at Walmart stores. I doubt there will be lines for it, but I’m certainly going to try and get at least one can.

      When I visited Bentonville, Arkansas, I stopped by Sam Walton’s first store, and the small museum attached to the ice cream parlor, but I confess I was more interested in the ice cream than in the details of Mr. Walton’s life. What I do know is that the Yarnell’s ice cream they serve is some of the best I’ve had. If you’re ever in Arkansas, be sure to try it.

    1. I remember you commented on some Arkansas posts: is that where she was working? There were a lot of women doing important work in those days; I’m sure she had some tales to tell.

  7. What? A Spam Museum. I love the wall hangings. I’m telling you the truth – I used the flashlight today to search my pantry shelves for a can of luncheon meat, Spam or Treat. I prefer Spam. I didn’t find any so I put it on the grocery list and ate my egg sandwich without any meat. Spam? Next week. I will cut it in half. I put too much juicy stuff on it to hold together in one piece. It goes slithering and sliding.

    1. Aren’t those wall hangings fun? I mentioned up above that I wouldn’t be surprised if they might have been winners in some sort of competition: county fair, or perhaps something sponsored by the company.

      Spam is one of those foods that I occasionally get a craving for, like orange sherbet or a really good pimento cheese. The nice thing about Spam is that it does have a shelf life just short of forever. When you get to the store, be sure and pick up a couple of extra cans. The individually wrapped singles are especially convenient.

  8. There is also the Tulip Jamonilla® brand which is widely marketed and headquartered in Denmark. The sandwiches made when I was a kid had the Spam equivalent Tulip ‘jamonilla’ brand mixed with velveeta cheese (or Cheez Whiz also) and red peppers.This was blended into a spread to make little ‘sandwichitos de mezcla’ (colloquial) and was very popular at birthday parties. The Spam was there as well, but I suppose Tulip is the other manufacturer worldwide. It has a high quantity of fat when mixed with the cheese, so I stopped eating it.

      1. The Tulip Jamonilla® brand was marketed widely when I was a child. They even branded it with a Spanish name ‘jamonilla’. However, Spam® was there as as well. What I think happened was that Tulip exported to Latin America and lowered their prices there, overtaking the market. However, Spam® is in the Caribbean and is a product many still prefer. Linda’s post is so educational about the industry’s development in the U.S..

          1. Wasn’t that video well done? When I saw that it was produced by Business Insider I decided to have a look, and I’m glad I did. The song’s funny, but the context helps to make it all understandable.

      2. It’s interesting to trace the development of these products, and their marketing. Now, it’s Fiji water that’s one of the most popular brands here in the U.S. Share and share alike!

    1. Here’s your fun fact about Velveeta. It used to come in balsa wood boxes, with a removable sliding lid. That lid, thin as could be and quite springy, was my mother’s preferred tool for disciplining her wayward child. I remember getting one good smack with it, but I wasn’t in school yet and had run away from home, so it was important to get my attention.

      It’s interesting that the Tulip brand was headquartered in Denmark. When I lived in Liberia, we used to get DAK canned bacon; I think that also was Danish. Eventually, Plumrose bought them out; I couldn’t find an image of the canned bacon online, or much information at all. It probably was discontinued before the internet arrived.

      I did find a post from a Peace Corps volunteer who lived in Liberia at the same time, and he also remembered the DAK bacon.

      I found images of the Tulip brand, and the description sounds very much like Spam. When a good idea comes along, more than one business is going to find a way to adapt it.

      1. There was a huge controversy between the UK and Denmark.The UK banned Danish bacon because of an animal welfare act. The Danish were then pressured to modernize their methods. The UK demanded improved pig welfare conditions. It was considered a huge leap towards animal welfare in general.

        1. The UK set standards for animal welfare in farms, leaving other countries behind in this matter. Now other countries are trying to catch up, at least the large manufacturers. Meat products raised in ‘free roaming farms’ (also known as ‘backyard pig’ (or even ‘backyard chicken rearing’)) were shown to have better sales, as well as increased overall quality. See here. They are no longer the leading bacon manufacturers in the world, but belong to the EU which is second.

          China is now surpassing all other countries in pork produce, and this is a real concern now as quality control issues arise as to their methods used in meat processing as well as how pigs are raised. This is not the first time this issue arises either. It’s recommended that no animal food that is made in China be given to one’s pet, simply because of their mass production model and questionable ingredients, and other scandals as well.

          1. At the farmers’ market I visit, it’s possible to purchase what’s called ‘pastured pork’ — meat from animals that live in the sort of conditions you mentioned. It’s also possible to get beef and chicken from farms where animal welfare is taken seriously. Eggs from free-range chickens probably are the easiest such product to obtain — I get mine from chickens that I visit from time to time — and they are definitely of better quality.

            As for China and its methods, when I first got my dear kitty Dixie Rose, one of the first bits of advice I was given was never, but never, to buy pet food that had any association to China. That would have been nearly twenty years ago, now, so it’s clearly been an issue that people have been aware of for some time.

            One bit of good news for us Spam lovers: from what I can determine, American Spam is made from American pork. I did find this very interesting detail in the Spam Wiki entry:

            “After World War II, Newforge Foods, part of the Fitch Lovell group, was awarded the license to produce the product in the UK at its Gateacre factory, Liverpool, where it stayed until production switched to the Danish Crown Group (owners of the Tulip Food Company) in 1998.” How about that?

            1. It doesn’t surprise me Denmark took the SPAM idea. Canned goods are ‘survival foods’ so they decided to expand.

              I think every country should consume what they themselves produce. I am conscious and aware to buy all that says: ‘made in U.S.’, just as I did when I lived abroad in the Caribbean, I bought ‘made in P.R’.. American made is always good too. I know ‘Green Giant’ makes a good effort too.

              Norman Rockwell is a maestro. We had a portfolio art book of his work in our library always. He’s a master of human character and a joy to get to know. Through his work we get to know the ‘icons’ you speak about in the post!

          2. You found an even greater article than I did! I can’t get over how many issues they’ve had about so many different foods. In 2019, China’s population stands at 1.418 billion, the largest of any country in the world. To even think of this situation as even having the remotest possibility of being ‘self-sustaining’ is so far-fetched.

        2. That’s really interesting. I would have assumed the positions were reversed: that the Danes would have been the ones with more modern and humane ways of raising animals commercially. Maybe it’s my Scandinavian background — all the neat and tidy people I grew up around (Swedes, Danes, Norwegians) in the midwest left me with the impression that those qualities transferred to every aspect of life. Apparently not. Of course, we still have some way to go in this country when it comes to animal welfare.

          1. I thought so too. It also surprised me the Danes were the ones at fault. However, when it comes to being the most commercial for business sake, the least expected can almost always surprise one, unfortunately.

  9. I have not had Spam in years, but on a recent trip through New Jersey I did enjoy Taylor’s Pork Roll for breakfast. As a scientific experiment I must try Spam again again soon and see how it compares. As for Rosie, she can eat a sandwich any way she chooses. She earned it.

    1. I’ve never heard of Taylor’s pork roll. Now that I’ve watched this entertaining video,, I’m somewhat up to speed. The only problem I have is that I want one of those pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwiches. Actually, any of them would do. Yum! (And isn’t it interesting that there’s a difference in nomenclature between north and south Jersey?)

    1. Fried bologna sandwiches were one of my childhood favorites, too. I got hungry for one a few years ago, and it was just as good as I remembered, but they didn’t go back into the regular meal rotation. Once was enough. It’s interesting to see how eating habits change over the years. Even though I’m not a vegetarian, I’ve almost completely eliminated fast food, processed foods, and so on. I’m lucky to live in a place where eating seasonally and locally is almost always possible; it certainly is healthier.

  10. I knew SPAM by its reputation long before I knew it by taste. My father was served SPAM during his time in the Solomons during WW2. He loathed it (as well as another army staple, scrambled eggs made from powdered eggs) and always said it was ‘ b…. awful stuff.’ When I finally got to taste it ( maybe as a teenager) I found it edible. To this day I don’t eat it by choice, but it is in my earthquake supplies. Would I be tempted to try pumpkin spiced SPAM? I might, in honor of your fascinating post. Although we didn’t have SPAM at home, my father (and the rest of the family, except my mother) loved tinned lamb tongues. And, occasionally, we had tinned corned beef or bully beef. Tinned corned beef is a staple in the Pacific and, although we don’t have a museum dedicated to it, we do have a sculpture made from corned beef tins, in our national museum. A Rosie would have had fun putting in the rivets to make this piece. https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/235630

    1. Isn’t it funny how you always can spot those ‘artificial eggs’? Whether it’s a school cafeteria, a hotel buffet, or even a hospital breakfast, there’s always someone willing to try to pass them off as real. Now that I have access to fresh, local eggs, even the ones from the grocery store don’t quite measure up.

      You have your earthquake supplies, and I have my hurricane supplies. Here’s hoping we don’t have to use any of our stash in the foreseeable future — or ever, for that matter. That’s probably unrealistic, but we can hope.

      I know one thing: pumpkin spice Spam sounds ever so much better than tinned lamb tongue. When I read those words, I quivered. It was as though William Blake had written, “Little lamb, who made thee into a dish for dinner?” I don’t remember us ever eating tinned corned beef, but we did often have a tinned corned beef hash. Sliced and fried in butter, it was delicious.

      That sculpture is wonderful! The steer’s rather beefy, and not at all corny!

      1. Because my father was a butcher, for many years, I was brought up with an appetite for any type of meat. I loved lamb’s tongue and ox tongue, tripe, liver, kidneys; you name it, we ate it. In these vegan, vegetarian times, it’s almost embarrassing to admit one is descended from a line of butchers but for my father being a butcher was akin to being an artist or a craftsman. Watching him choose meat and then sharpen his knife and cut the meat into different cuts was fascinating entertainment for me. He also knew how to cook meat beautifully. I was quite surprised when I entered by teenage years to discover that not everyone was enthralled by the idea of eating tongue!

  11. An excellent post. I agree entirely about the posters. I am a fan of Rockwell anyway, for his humanity and humour as well as his draftsmanship. The earlier one has a much more aggressive mood. I hadn’t known about Hillary’s use of it, but somehow that symbolises the whole frightening campaign skirmishes. I do like SPAM and think it is a shame that that is what computer junk is called.

    1. I was lucky enough to see the original Rockwell painting of Rosie at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. I didn’t realize it was part of their holdings, and it was such a surprise to discover it hanging there. You’re certainly right about the man’s humanity and humor. This is one of my all-time favorites.

      I did read some comments from company executives about SPAM becoming spam, and in truth, they weren’t particularly exercised about it. As one said, “At least it keeps our product in the collective unconscious, which isn’t the worst thing in the world.” That made me laugh.

  12. Over time, we have talked about Spam on my site – what website concerning WWII wouldn’t? But I must admit, I never knew this much about the famous product!
    And I must admit, the picture modeled after Mary is my favorite too! You must be very proud of your own “Rosie the Riveter” mom!

    1. It really did become an iconic product, didn’t it? I suppose in some ways it’s as intertwined with WWII as MREs, and it certainly played a large role in post-war rebuilding. An interesting side note that really didn’t fit into the post is that I discovered the SPAM museum on a trip through the midwest after taking my mother’s ashes up for burial in Iowa. At the time, I’d not really connected the product, the war, and her work at that time, but it is a neat kind of secondary connection.

      The more I learned about Mom’s work during the war, the prouder I became. She was proud of her work, too. She clearly exceeded her own expectations about what she could do.

  13. I love the idea of a SPAMARAMA but pumpkin spice Spam? ‘Tis the end of civilization as we know it. Of course I’m not enthusiastic about pumpkin spice lattes, so I might be overreacting… but *blech* is the first word that comes to my mind.

    1. I gave up those fancy coffees long ago, and share your lack of enthusiasm for the pumpkin spice latte. On the other hand, the thought of that kind of dolled-up Spam sounds pretty good. I’m imagining that it will taste like the spiced, glazed hams we used to have at holidays, redolent of allspice and whole clove. If my hunch is right, it will be heavier on the ‘spice,’ with ‘pumpkin’ taking a back seat. That’s what I’m hoping, anyway.

  14. On Rosie the Riveter, you might like to ” compare and contrast” with Gracie Fields’s “Thingummybob”:

    As for Spam, it most certainly made it to the UK during WW2. As it came in tins but in unpredictable supply, it was put on the “points” rationing scheme (like a second currency you could use as you wished across the range of goods covered), or maybe a friendly GI might get you some from their own stores. Spam was particularly prized because it was packed with a protective layer of fat, and since cooking fats were very tightly rationed, this was a bonus on top of the meat itself.

    1. I’ve never heard of Gracie Field, or of the song. It’s delightful; thank you for adding it. I did have a little trouble with ‘thingummybob,’ since I grew up with what must have been our American version of the word: ‘thingamabob.’ I smiled to see that even slang is a bit different in British and American English — though the meaning is the same.

      Now that you mention it, I remember that coating of fat on Spam, and remembering that reminded me of my mother and grandmother’s practice of saving cooking fat. I still have my grandmother’s “range set” — large salt and pepper shakers, and a fat keeper. She always kept matches in the fat keeper, though, preferring lidded coffee cans: one for bacon grease, and another for other fats. The fat keeper was designed more for appearance than function, I think — or for someone who did far less cooking than Grandma.

  15. I saw a piece on TV that Spam is very popular in Hawaii. They had flavors I never heard of. I ate Spam as a child, I’ve had the singles and it is in my emergency supplies. The museum that I want to visit, is the The Museum of Jello.

    1. Hawaii has the greatest per capita consumption of Spam on the planet. There are several reasons, including the influence of servicemen during and after WWII, and the influx of people already fond of Spam after the war, especially from Guam and the Philippines. You might be interested in these Hawaiian recipes that use Spam — who knew?

      As for Jello, years ago I was behind a father and son at Cleburne cafeteria. The father told the boy he could pick anything he wanted for supper. At the end of the line, the boy’s tray held a dish of Jello in each color, and that was it. I think that boy would like to go to the Jello Museum with you.

  16. Every Saturday morning, my dad cooked breakfast so that my mother could sleep in. Usually, as in almost always, we had french toast. I believe it was the only thing he could cook, but one Saturday, he fried up a skillet of SPAM.

    “What’s this?” we asked.
    “It’s what I ate every day in New Guinea,” he said.
    “It’s kinda good,” my brother said.
    “Have some more.”
    “No thanks.”

    Three slices of SPAM landed on his plate.

    “Eat it,” Dad said, “all of it.”

    1. Humorous, but with hints of hard memory around the edges: kind of like the crispiness of properly fried Spam. There’s comfort food, and then there are those other foods: served up occasionally, just because.

  17. From women’s empowerment to Spam. I think WWII was the camel’s nose in the tent as far as the women’s liberation movement is concerned. it showed us that we could do the jobs that were traditionally considered ‘men’s work’, that we could make a living, support ourselves without having to depend on a man. and then the men came home from the war and wanted their jobs back. Lots of women were happy to give them up and return to the home but many were not and they chafed at the restrictions placed on them after years of freedom. and here we are today with the government and culture still trying to shoehorn us into roles we have outgrown.

    Ah, but Spam. I don’t think I have ever eaten it. back when I was a river guide though we used to tease our clients on the way to put in about the food they would be getting for the three days we were on the river. spam! spam for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

    1. Those experiences you had as a river guide must have been wonderful. Every time you mention another detail, it seems to be with the pleasure that comes with good memories. I love that you teased your clients that way. They probably were experiencing enough excitement and anxiety to be uncertain what to believe.

      It’s interesting now to look back on those post-war years and see how a longing for normalcy and comfortable routine suddenly came up against the impulses and desires of people — both men and women — who’d been thrust into completely different roles and worlds, and had developed a taste for them. No one wanted war, but a lot of “rules” get set aside during times like that, and I suspect resistance to their reimposition was inevitable.

    1. Thanks, Sherry. Plenty of people have criticized Rockwell for romanticizing American life, but I think in the case of Rosie, his portrayal was perfect. With a lace handkerchief in her pocket and her foot resting on a copy of Mein Kampf, she clearly wasn’t to be trifled with.

  18. A Spam museum? Who would have thought! But then there’s a museum for everything. Growing up we had Spam often and my mother could serve it up many ways – easy and always on hand. I confess I still like Spam and always have a can or two around during hurricane season. Pumpkin Spice? Not so sure but you are right, it might be like ham with a sweet glaze. And Spam is versatile! I didn’t know it was available in slices.

    1. That was the great advantage of Spam; a little creativity could incorporate it into a variety of dishes, and stretch the meat in the process. I think it’s actually improved over the years. For one thing, it’s generally less salty, and they’ve brought out low salt and turkey versions for people who might prefer them. The slices are especially nice for a hurricane prep kit, as there’s no need to worry about refrigeration after the tin is opened.

      Little museums serve so many functions. They not only open up hidden aspects of history, they serve as points of community pride. Every place has something to be proud of, or something interesting to show off. Have you ever been to the Danish Museum in Danevang, Texas? It’s such a surprise to be driving along and suddenly see the Danish flag flying in the breeze!

  19. Haha, Linda – your post made me laugh out loud (but not lol as lolling just makes me look drunk) – I’d never heard of such a thing a spam museum, though I knew a little of the background. I take it then you’re not a fan of the sketch that Monty Python did? I loved the spam when I was a child but when I tried it as an adult I found it far too salty. Never had it fried, though.

    1. I confess I’ve never been as much of a Monty Python fan as many of my friends, although there are individual skits that are wonderfully amusing. I actually enjoy the Spam skit, and the song, for that matter. With the 50th Anniversary celebrations beginning in September, there should be ample opportunity for new fans and old to get a full dose of all things Phythonesque.

      Just so you know, there’s a low-salt version of Spam available now for people whose tastes have been changing, and who now prefer less salt. And fried is best, at least for me. I like it done in just a little butter until it begins to crisp up a bit.

  20. How interesting to parallel “Rosie” and “Spam,” especially in light of the way in which the latter has adapted and adopted different “flavours” over the years. Perhaps we can say the same of Rosie and her company; always adapting with the change in days and adopting the tools appropriate to the important – no essential! – work she does along with her sisters.

    1. If Hormel hadn’t been willing to adapt over the years, they wouldn’t still be in business: or, at the very least, Spam would have been sent to the great composter in the sky.

      One of the things that intrigues me about the company is their willingness to look past a one-size-fits-all approach. At the museum, I saw varieties of Spam that never have graced a Texas store shelf; they were designed to appeal to people in Hawaii, Korea, the Philippines, and so on. One reason for the introduction of their turkey version was having a product acceptable to Muslim customers. And now? Pumpkin spice, for the latté-sippers among us!

      If more of us could be as attentive to the needs and desires of others, and as responsive as Hormel has been to its customers, the world might be a more enjoyable place.

    1. What an interesting article. All those Vikings roaming around reminded me of this fellow. I met him years ago at a gas pump in the midwest. There’s no date or time on the photo, so I must have been carrying my first camera; I never changed the settings on it, and shot only in auto.

      The added information about the history of ‘spam’ intrigued me, especially the development of the generally accepted meaning of SPAM as “special processed American meat.” That one makes so much sense it’s understandable how it caught on.

      I learned some other things about the internet as I kept reading the article. During the weeks following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, I joined an IRC chat room filled with experts from the oil and gas industry, underwater recovery experts, and engineers of various sorts. It was fascinating to follow the repair efforts in real time, along with those experts’ real-time commentary. Now I understand more about how that chat room operated, and what made it so much more useful than today’s social media.

  21. Wow! Linda, I haven’t before thought about trying Spam, but you are helping me to have an open mind. In my family growing up we didn’t have it in the cupboard, but we did have tins of corned beef, which I eventually came to think of similarly. This was an engaging read; thank you! (I have a few people I plan to tell about the Pumpkin Spice.)

    1. We’ll have to trade experiences. I don’t remember ever eating corned beef. I’m sure I’ve had it around St. Patrick’s day — somewhere, sometime — but I don’t really remember that, either. You can try the Spam, and I’ll try the corned beef, and we can compare notes.

      Spam really is quite adaptable. If there happens to be leftover rice, potatoes, or quinoa, you can cube the Spam, add onion, peppers — whatever you like — and have a quick meal. And there’s always Spam as an ingredient in sushi!

  22. Pumpkin spice Spam? . . . I’m going to pass. I may be missing a wonderful taste treat, but somehow pumpkin spice and Spam just don’t seem like they belong together.

    1. I laughed at the combination at first. Then, I decided the flavor probably is going to be more ‘spiced ham’ than ‘pumpkin ham.’ It’s a great marketing gimmick, actually. It’s going to be a limited edition for the fall/holiday season, but it certainly has people talking: especially the food writers than a company would want to have highlighting their product.

  23. I remember Spam from my childhood, but honestly, wouldn’t touch the stuff now. What a fun post! I knew that Spamarama was revised and happened just a couple of weekends ago, but nah, I didn’t go!

    1. Well, context may not be everything, but it can be a lot. A few cans of Spam and a few cans of beans are part of nearly every hurricane prep kit I’ve met. Do I come to Sunday night and say, “Oh, I just have to have some Spam?” Nope. But it can meet a need from time to time, whether after a storm or when I’m just in the mood for some of those childhood comfort foods.

      As for Spamarama, I’m with you. I might have a Spamwich one of these days, but I’ll pass on the festival!

    1. That’s a natural association, Laurie — and one that even people like me, who aren’t passionately fond of Monty Python, have come across and enjoyed. It’s great that Spam the food has endured; now, if only we could find a way to make spam the bane of the internet disappear!

  24. Having spent nearly my whole life in California I never did catch on to the fact that Rosie, my heroine, was there riveting her her way into Norman Rockwell’s famous painting and history. Surprise!

    As for SPAM, well, I do remember my mother in the late 50s and early 60s trying to pass the stuff off on us as “good food” and then demanding we “eat it or starve!” We would always rather starve. She eventually stopped buying the evil tasting, canned food product because it was wasteful to throw it out and was not, in fact, helping her food budget.

    And now tell us there is Pumpkin Spiced SPAM? I won’t even touch the Pumpkin Spiced coffee so you can be assured that canned pumpkin spiced SPAM will never pass my lips. I’ll put that right on the top of the list of foods I won’t eat, just under “Grandma Strong’s fried cornmeal mush with maple syrup”. I can still see her standing there at the stove with a smile on her face telling us, “It’s really good; eat it”.

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane this morning, Linda. I mean this truly! I’ve been sitting here typing with this big silly grin on my face while remembering Mom’s admonishments and Grandma smiling as she ate fried mush in the kitchen all those years ago. She did admit after watching us wretch, that “Perhaps it was an acquired taste”. (OK, now I’m out and out laughing!)

    1. Any time someone tells me, “It’s an acquired taste,” I grow cautious. There are several things I can’t tolerate, despite being told that if I just keep trying, I’ll grow to love them: Brussels sprouts. Scotch. Argyle socks. Anchovies. Hominy. Artificially-scented air “fresheners.”

      I’ll always give something a try, though, so if I can get my hands on a can of pumpkin spice Spam, I’ll try that, too. My suspicion is that it will be more like the usual spiced hams we served up at holidays, and that “pumpkin” got added in as a marketing ploy. We’ll see.

      As for that fried mush, I don’t think I’ve ever had it. I looked up some traditional recipes from sites like Taste of Home, and… I think I might be with you. Now, corn cakes? I can do corn cakes, especially with maple syrup!

      1. Weirdly, the solution to Brussels sprouts is to char them in olive oil in the pan or under the broiler. It actually removes that bitter taste. Hominy I have always loved. :) The rest I could gladly live without!

        (Earlier today I was typing the above and my computer crashed!!! I just came back and lo and behold it was saved here! The WP has actually improved something instead of making it worse.) :)

  25. In a perverse way, the world wars did more for women’s rights than any of the “suffragette” movements by “proving beyond a doubt” that women could fill roles traditionally reserved for men. Women in Britain made earlier gains than women in America because they lost a whole generation of men in WWI, and their society had no choice but to accept women in men’s roles because there was simply not enough men available to fill them. In America, we had the tradition of the pioneer woman, so it was easier for America to let that genie out of the lamp, but both nations found it much more difficult to put the genie back in the lamp once the war was over.

    My dad was in the Marines and fought in the Pacific during WWII, and I’m sure mom found out really quick that he hated it because she never served it.

    1. That’s a good point about the different situations of women in England and America post WWI and WWII. The 1918 pandemic would have exacerbated the effects in both countries, but I’m sure you’re right that England’s employment patterns were more affected by the wars. On the other hand, the participation of women in the movement westward in this country was significant. From the homesteaders in the midwest to the ranch managers and cowgirls in Texas and the west, there were some inspiring women. Still are.

      I suspect there were a lot of families where Spam wasn’t served up. Having to face it day after day in bad conditions would be reason enough to say, “No, thank you.”

  26. Oh, I enjoyed your post so very much. As a child, I ate many spam sandwiches and can even remember having fried spam as our meat for dinner. I never knew about the spam museum in Minnesota – just might have to visit that one for kicks. Pumpkin Spice spam? Well, I would be leaving that one on the shelf.

    1. I’m so glad the post stirred some memories for you, and that you enjoyed reading it. Products come and products go, but it looks like Spam will endure for a century, which is quite a testament to its appeal. I know you’d love the museum. It was one of the nicest small museums I’ve been to. Part of that’s no doubt due to the corporate money behind it, but money’s not always well spent. At the Spam museum, there had been a lot of thought given to the displays.

  27. A Spam museum, who would have thought it! But then it was only through blogging in 2019 that I discovered there is a museum of barbed wire in the USA… Fried Spam, scout camp fodder!

    1. Barbed wire is almost as iconic as Spam; both played a huge role in our country’s history. And while there’s only one Spam museum that I know about, there are a lot of barbed wire museums. I couldn’t find a convenient list, but I found about twenty in a quick search.

      You’re right to associate Spam with scouting. Among its other virtues, it’s a perfect dish for eight-year-old boys to cook up.

  28. I’m always amazed at the things I miss when I don’t turn on my computer for a solid weekend!! Thanks for a lovely trek back into time, Linda. I never could get into Spam though. My mom served it once, I recall, and we thought she’d lost her mind and we were heading for the poorhouse! Give me good ole PB&J any day. Still, I love how you wind us around so many topics, connecting them gracefully with thin cords of memory!

    1. What’s interesting about Spam is that it has managed to cross a lot of social and cultural boundaries. In places like Hawaii, it’s beloved by everyone: incorporated into traditional dishes, and added even to the menus of fancy restaurants. The good news is that not everyone has to like it, or eat it, and you can stick with your PB&J without guilt.

      Spam won’t ever have a regular place at my table, either, although I do keep some in my hurricane supplies. And now that I’ve written this, and have spent more time thinking about Spam than in all my previous life, I am going to have to have one of those fried Spamwiches, just to see how well my memory and reality fit together.

  29. Rockwell’s Rosie is a wonder – what a powerful woman. “We can do it” is nice, but it doesn’t have the same impact. And it’s amazing how museums start as a cottage industry, from a personal collection to something more, and how they are all over the US. A national passion.
    Spam? I remember delighting in Vienna fingers and canned bacon as a Boy Scout, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever eaten Spam.

    1. Rockwell’s painting is even more impressive in person. I’m so glad I got to see it at the Crystal Bridges Museum. I didn’t even know it was part of their holdings; I went around a corner, and there it was.

      That’s true, about the genesis of so many museums. Someone starts with the toy trains, or dolls, or vintage tools, or candlesticks, and eventually thinks, “You know, there must be people out there who’d like to see this…” And most of the time, there is someone, If there are enough someones, the collector may even start charging a couple of bucks, and there we are.

      If you can’t remember eating Spam, I suspect you haven’t. It’s possible someone may have slipped it past you as chopped ham, but I doubt it. If you decide to give it a try, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, just don’t eat it without cooking it. It’s precooked, so that’s theoretically possible, but fried up nice and crisp in a bit of butter makes for a nice sandwich.

  30. I agree with you about Rockwell’s Rosie. I like the muscular arms and the puckish expression – much more human than the later Rosie, who looks like a character from a Soviet propaganda poster.

  31. I always admired “Rosie”. Where would we have been without all the strong and skilled women who aided the war effort? Indeed, where would we be today without the efforts and contributions of women as they have taken a greater role in all aspects of American life?

    Spam, I am not to sure about Spam. Who knows exactly what’s in that stuff? Years ago I worked with my father resurfacing concrete floors and one place we worked was the Chicopee (MA) Provision Co. Some of what I saw there definitely made my appetite for processed meats turn a bit. I still won’t eat hot dog relish.
    I think you might like this bit of silliness.

    1. >> this bit of silliness<<

      It occurs to me that the background assumptions of the Monty Python team might not have translated across the Atlantic. The joke here is that by the 50s Spam had become the cheap and ubiquitous standby for a certain sort of down-market and unimaginative catering, particularly in schools and other institutions (Spam fritters appeared at least once a week at my school). So it wasn't too much of a fantasy that Spam might all that was on the menu. Or was that the same in the US?

      1. You are right that the subtleties of British humor go over my head at times, but my reference to silliness had more to do with the scene than the topic. To be honest I don’t remember my folks taking us out to dinner all that much back then so I can’t speak directly to what many restaurants were serving. But it is not out of the question that breakfast and lunch menus had repetitive ingredient combinations with the routine being only slightly exaggerated. As far as Spam goes, not only was it widely used by both eateries and home meal preparers but there were other similar such as “American” cheese which, for someone who enjoys good cheeses, is the dairy equivalent to Spam.

        1. It’s interesting that you encountered Spam in restaurants. I can’t remember ever seeing it on a menu. Of course, we didn’t go out for breakfast very often, and I presume that’s where it would have shown up most often. I laughed at your comment about American cheese. I suppose you’re right, but it still made a darned good grilled cheese sandwich.

      2. Actually, Spam never made it into our school lunches, or onto any restaurant menu that I encountered. It was strictly an at-home dish, however it was prepared. I will say that Spam fritters is a new one; clearly, there’s no limit to what can be done with the product. I found some sites that provided up to a hundred recipes for Spam: enough for a three-month Spamathon. The thought’s not very appealing, but it is an indication that people have been creative when approaching it.

    2. Women always have played a role in war efforts, but in many cases, those efforts haven’t been as publicized as they were during WWI and WWII. Part of that’s due to changes in technology. There’s a lot of information about women in the Civil War, for example, but you have to dig a little more deeply to find it; there weren’t any newsreels or television then. In the same way, there were a lot of pioneer women keeping journals, but they weren’t being published, and it took new generations to unearth them and appreciate them for what they were.

      In truth, Spam is pretty straightforward as far as ingredients are concerned. When I think about the dish my grandmother used to make at holidays, a pressed meat dish called sylta, there’s not much difference. She used pork shoulder and veal, while Spam has only six ingredients: pre-cooked pork shoulder and ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrite as a preservative. I’ll take Spam over most hot dogs or luncheon meats any day.

      Love that clip. I’m not the biggest Monty Python fan, but that’s a good one.

      1. Women have been getting short-changed on their accomplishments for years, centuries more the case. One of the things Facebook is good for is the occasional post highlighting injustices and often there will be one describing a discovery or similar accomplishment credited to a male colleague when the woman was the one doing the hard work. We men can have such fragile egos.

        Spam was an inexpensive way to feed a family. Spaghetti too. We had both although my mother was a good cook. Eventually times required her to work and my brother and I learned to prepare meals. I never used Spam. That last ingredient keeps me from most processed pork products. Well, that and Mary Beth’s preference for other than pork.

        I used to watch the Pythons religiously on PBS for a while. My humor has changed over the years, but there are occasions when I still watch them.

        1. Speaking of watching Monty Python religously, I have friends who always watch “The Life of Brian” at Easter. When I finally took a look at it myself, I wasn’t sure I’d want to make it a yearly tradition, but there was some good satire. My favorite still is the 1972 argument clinic sketch. They were ahead of their time with that one: it seems the very essence of so much social media these days.

    1. As far as I’m concerned, Spam is several cuts above a fast food hamburger. As for Rosie, her obvious competence is a good part of her charm. Incompetence, both male and female, is an increasing problem in our society, particularly when it comes to even the most basic physical tasks, like changing a tire. I try very hard not to fall into the “ain’t it awful” frame of mind, but sometimes I do look around and wonder how some of the young’uns are going to survive when they’re finally forced into the real world.

  32. What an interesting and entertaining post. I’ve always admired Rockwell’s Rosie, never admired HC.
    Spam was served at our house often enough to make me remember it. Thanks to my grandpa my emergency rations have always contained corned beef hash instead.

    1. Funny — corned beef hash was served at our house often enough that I remember it, but it’s never been a part of my emergency rations. It’s a little strange, since I always liked it. I think I’m going to have to remedy that. Peanut butter’s fine, as far as it goes, but there’s nothing like a little meat and potatoes to make a crisis seem more bearable.

      There’s a lot to admire about Rockwell’s Rosie. I once read a description of his painting as a rendering of “firm femininity.” That’s not bad.

  33. What a delightful post. I have seen both the Jolly Green Giant and Paul Bunyan and Old Blue when in Minnesota. I love the thrust of this post–lighthearted and historical. Sadly, I have no memories of eating SPAM although I know some of the tins were in our pantry in the 50’s. Your blog posts are so lovely. Thank you for the effort that goes into creating them.

    1. Sometimes, light-hearted and historical can fit together in a pleasing way. For a variety of reasons, ‘history’ often seems heavy-hearted; it’s one reason personal ways into history can be more approachable and enjoyable. I’m glad you enjoyed this one, and I’m especially glad you had the chance to meet those Minnesota icons. They certain are memorable!

  34. I’ve always loved Rockwell’s painting, and I like it that Rosie has become the emblem of the movement to resist the current administration’s attack on women and the environment. Spam, not so much. That was a favorite of my mother’s and I grew to hate the stuff. I recently learned that people from the Philippines LOVE Spam. I wonder how they’ll feel about pumpkin-spiced Spam. Hm. I’m thinking I need to head on over to Starbuck’s now…

    1. Well, you don’t like Spam, and I don’t like Starbucks, and haven’t been in one of their stores in some time. Different strokes for different folks, and all that. I do wonder if your mother’s affection for Spam might have led her to serve it a little too often. For us, it was a very occasional treat, and I think that makes a difference. There are a lot of us who’ve been known to moan, “Oh, no! Not that again!” For me, it was a certain macaroni/hamburger dish.

      To me, Rockwell’s Rosie seems nearly perfect. The other ‘Rosie’ doesn’t appeal in the same way; it reminds me of Soviet propaganda posters.

  35. Wonderful post, Linda, once again…very entertaining. The song is great! I love when it gives the rat-a-tat-tat sound of the riveting. Enjoyed your historical information and factualizing on what lies behind Rosie the Riveter and Molly the Mycarta Molder. Your writing is a joy, with information, interesting thoughts, and subtle humor. There is a Rosie the Riveter museum in the Bay Area, in Richmond. It is set where the WWII shipyards cranked out ship after ship. But there are no ships there now, and I must admit, the museum was a bit of a disappointment. Seemed a little light on memorabilia and information and the role of women in the war. Enjoyed your Spam deliberations too, and some of the crazy tourist attractions in this wonderful country. Excellent post, thank you.

    1. How interesting, that a Rosie museum in your area is related to the ship-building industry. I confess I’d never thought about that possibility, as I’ve always associated Rosie the Riveter with airplane construction. The Trust associated with the historical site seems to be doing very good work, and I was interested to see this on their site: “Richmond contains more intact WWII Home Front sites than any other place in the U.S.” Depending on how long it’s been since you visited the museum, it may be that it’s expanded its holdings and its activities.

      I love that song, too. Like you, I thought the sound of the riveting was a perfect addition. Thanks for stopping by, reading, and telling me about your west coast Rosies!

  36. Ooh – I LOVE spam. We grew up eating a really fabulous spam dish made with Pork n Beans, ketchup, mustard, spam, and topped with Jiffy Cornbread. Oh man – I’m going to have to track that recipe down & make some for us SOON. I think I actually posted the recipe on my blog – I’ll go see if I can track it down.

    I’ve tried the teriyaki spam & it was just ok, but we mostly eat turkey spam these days – it’s a lot more healthy. I just don’t know about pumpkin spice – on the other hand it might not be that different than clove spiced ham. Hmmm…

    1. I hope you can track down that recipe, because I’d forgotten that my mother made a dish very much like it. I remember how good it was: so good that my dad enjoyed it, and he could be a little fussy.

      I like turkey Spam, and the low salt is a good idea. As for the pumpkin spice, I’ve decided that it probably is heavier on the spice than on the pumpkin, and that it will taste like the glazed hams we used to make with those cloves stuck in them. I loved those, so the pumpkin spice might do it for me. It certainly makes more sense than pumpkin spice lattes!

  37. My son, the Eagle Scout who lives in the Twin Cities, when it was his unit’s turn to plan Scout outings, always made “SPAM McMuffins” for breakfast, earning him the nickname SPAM. He even wore that on his letter jacket until his senior year of HS.

    1. I’ll confess that Spam McMuffins hadn’t crossed my mind, but now that you’ve mentioned it, they sound like a great idea, particularly for that kind of Scouting event. Easy, and familiar enough to be acceptable. I love that he had SPAM as a nickname, and wore that on his jacket for a time. Clearly, he would have worn it with pride — as he should have!

  38. I had no idea there were other Rosie’s. Didn’t even know her name was Rosie. I only know her from the We Can Do It poster. Such an informative post. Thanks for sharing

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and learned something. History’s full of such interesting little tidbits — there’s always something new to learn about past events, just as there’s much to learn about other people and cultures. Thank you for visiting, and for your comment.

      By the way — I noticed your photo of one of Louise Bourgeois’s spiders on your Etsy site. I was lucky enough to see one at the Crystal Bridges Museum. I’d always meant to post about it, but things slip away. I’m glad you brought it back to mind!

  39. I am fascinated that your mom was a riveter. I’ve been reading a history of America from 1932 to 1972 by William Manchester. I’m up to 1945 shortly after Truman took office. Rosie was obviously mentioned during the history of World War II, but I don’t remember a mention of Spam.
    A few days ago we were camping with friends, and a discussion of Spam ensued. Our friends still take it on rafting trips. I have to admit, however, that I’ve never eaten it. Not a bite. From this post, it’s clear that I have missed out.

    1. The nice thing about Spam is that the company’s done some adjusting for contemporary health concerns. They have a turkey spam now, and a low-salt version. In fact, the individual packets of Spam are available in the low-salt, which is nice. It’s part of my hurricane prep kit — it can be a good change from peanut butter and jelly. I finally found the ingredient list for the new pumpkin spice Spam, and sure enough: it’s got the same cloves, allspice, and nutmeg that we used for our spiced hams at home. I suspect the spice is for the product, and the pumpkin’s for the marketing.

      Mom clearly enjoyed her work as a riveter, although she wasn’t ready to carry on with an outside the home job after the war. Of course, I’d come along by that time, and expectations were different. In truth, her roles at my school and in my various activities were a full-time job, and I’m glad she was there to participate.

    1. Every country has their specialties, and some of them can seem a little off-putting to those who haven’t grown up with them. When I ran into lutefisk for the first time, it wasn’t long before I realized it would be the only time. I tried it with butter, and I tried it with cream sauce, and then I headed for the lefse and the dessert table!

  40. What a very fun post, Linda! Well, of course when I think of SPAM, I think of Monty Python! But I digress! Lots of wonderful things here, loads of icons. Rosie is indeed a classic and one doesn’t mess with the classics. Love the Giant and Babe, too.

    I wonder if they have the Python song there… (And pumpkin? No, I don’t think so!)

    1. Of course you thought of Monty Python! You probably didn’t read all the comments, but I did mention to someone that I had friends who watch Monty Python’s Life of Brian on a regular basis! Honestly, where would we be without humor, and a little fun now and then? Utterly serious people who can’t laugh and don’t want anyone else to laugh either do as much damage to our culture as those who can’t take anything seriously.

      I can’t remember if the museum has the Monty Python song, but I’m going to send them an email and ask. I hope they do!

    1. It sounds as though they had quite a celebration for Rosie last year. I see that they even included an artist who works with paper — that would have been fun for you. I know there are plenty of people who consider Rockwell sentimental at best and idealizing at at worst, but I’ve always loved his work. Many miss the humor that suffuses it, and his deep affection for the country. If you do make a visit, I hope you’ll not just ask “What is it?” but give us a peek, too! (That line just popped into consciousness and made me laugh. Amazing how years of reading your blog have embedded your tagline in mind!)

  41. Gee, I am really the oddball here – I have never had SPAM in my life! I grew up on a farm and we raised and butchered our own meats, and we had a huge garden and fruit trees. My folks drove to western Nebraska each autumn to get the potatoes we’d need to get us through the winter months – 600 lbs worth! We did not buy store-bought canned goods.

    I’ve never been tempted to try SPAM, especially now that I’m mostly a Paleo lifestyle person. But I suppose if the opportunity came up and I was offered to try it, I would.

    1. Even though we were city folk, we purchased halves (or sometimes quarters) of beef, had it hung at the locker for a time, and then cut and wrapped for the freezer. Beef was the meat of choice, but chicken, pork, and the occasional Spam meal were nice changes. We didn’t have a garden, either, but my grandparents were relatively close, and Grandma was a gardening fool. She put up fruits and veggies enough to keep the whole family through the winter, and believe me — we loved it. Oddly, the one thing I remember her buying every year were the spiced crabapples that went on the holiday tables.

      I don’t have any Spam in my hurricane supplies just now, and it’s probably a good thing. If I did, I would have eaten it, with all this talk about the stuff. One of these days, I’ll pick up a single serve package of it, make my sandwich, and that will take care of the craving. And I probably will try the pumpkin spice, if I can get my hands on it. I imagine it will taste like our old fashioned glazed hams: more spice than pumpkin.

    1. I was born and raised in Newton. My dad worked for Maytag (of course) and I graduated from high school in 1964. I had one grandfather who lived in Waterloo, and I attended both the University of Northern Iowa (back in its State University of Iowa days) and the University of Iowa. My folks are buried in Newton, with the rest of the family scattered around Marion and Lucas counties. My gr-gr-grandfather was panning gold in Colorado when the Civil War broke out. He came back to Iowa and help to form the 34th Iowa regiment. Somewhat ironically, he spent most of his war years in Texas — and even lived here for a while post-war. Then, it was back to Iowa.

      That’s probably more than you wanted to know, but I had to add the military history for you. I’ve written about it some, and eventually will write some more.

      1. That’s amazing!! I loved reading every bit of that, thanks so much for including the military history! I graduated from the University of Iowa, so we have some common stomping grounds there. Go Hawks. :) That’s so cool about your gr-gr-grandfather too! I have a very antique book that I found that is a collection of civil war testimonials from all Iowa vets. I will have to comb through it and see if I can find some from the 34th

        1. A fellow I know who’s a Civil War expert living in Louisiana, Ray Sibley, publishedThe Confederate Order of Battle: Army of Northern Virginia. He was good enough to send me the complete itinerary of the 34th — that’s how I found out so much about my grandfather. I’ve got his application for a pension, some tributes from his funeral, and an assortment of other things, including some correspondence between my gr-gr-grandmother and a friend she knew from Texas. The friend and her husband finally moved to Kansas, while my family moved to Iowa.

          The one of their kids I love is my great-aunt Inazel, who graduated from Iowa Normal in 1906. She’s got quite a story, too, including ending up on a pineapple plantation in Hawaii married to her stepson. Ha!

          1. How cool to have all that information! I must confess I know very little about my family and their involvement in the civil war. I know I’ve got some blue and gray both on my mom’s side, but I have no clue about my dad’s side. And wow… that does sound like quite the story haha!

  42. So interesting to read about your mom having been a riveter!

    I don’t remember my first introduction to Spam, but my reintroduction was through a Taiwanese coworker whose mom packed her a plate of Spam musubi for one of our department potlucks (sliced Spam fried in teriyaki sauce, stacked onto sushi rice, wrapped with a piece of nori).

    Like you, I’ve got a can or two in my emergency kit, too.

    1. I’ve always thought the history of the product was especially interesting. It still amazes me that the highest per capita consumption of Spam is in Hawaii, thanks to the influx of soldiers during and after WWII, and immigrants from other South Pacific islands. I’m learning to appreciate sushi, and your co-worker’s contribution sounds good!

      Mom enjoyed her work at the factory, and took great pride in her reputation as a riveter. She and her partner worked together throughout the war, and apparently became very efficient.

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