Spam is a preserved, canned meat product that was originally created in 1937 but became most common after its wide usage during the Second World War as a rationed food.
Since the Second World War, Spam has remained a family favorite that is often enjoyed for its nostalgia rather than its nutrition or taste.
Considering how high the fat content was, in addition to the serotonin kick that the large amounts of sodium and fat would undoubtedly supply, Spam was adored both on the frontline by soldiers and on the home front as a rationed product, yet these reasons are also why the product is still loved to this day.
The historic influence of Spam is unarguable, even Nikita Khrushchev recognized that “Without Spam we [the Russian military] wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”
Most of the troops, on nearly all sides, were fed Spam and it is recognized as fuelling most of the war efforts both at home and on the front lines.
Even though we don’t need to ration our supplies out anymore, Spam has remained a nostalgic favorite with the older communities of the world, while cuisines such as Asian use Spam for its practicality and nostalgia not necessarily related to war.
Spam remains one of the most divisive yet recognizable food brands across the world and has been described as “the world’s favorite processed food”.
Yet, you may have wondered ‘can you eat Spam raw’ or ‘is Spam even cooked’? We cover these questions and more in our guide to Spam.
What Is Spam?
Spam is made from pork and beef trimmings, which are then mixed with salt, spices, sugar, water, sodium nitrite (a preservative), and other ingredients to form a paste.
The paste is then injected into cans of pork fat or beef tallow.
The sodium nitrate, which sounds questionable, is actually the preserving chemical with Spam. This allows Spam to remain ‘fresh’ for a much longer time than pork would be able to do normally.
Moreover, you can actually leave Spam out of the fridge and it will remain fresh much longer than meat normally would.
It is these qualities that made Spam such a good food to ration and use within war time as it was nutrient dense, fatty, and can last a long time.
Can You Eat Spam Raw?
The concept of ‘raw’ Spam is actually a false one. To understand why Spam can’t be raw you have to understand how Spam is made and packaged.
The process of canning, as Spam is, requires some level of cooking.
In many cases canned goods are heated to a certain point in order to kill any microorganisms or harmful bacteria within the can itself.
This guarantees safe canned goods across the board so no one gets any funky surprises when they get back from the grocery store.
So, as Spam is a canned food, any of the potentially harmful microorganisms or bacteria that uncooked or raw pork may have been most likely killed in the canning process.
Yet, when people ask ‘Can you eat Spam raw’ what they are referring to is consuming it straight from the can without frying or boiling it as is often done in culinary usage.
Again, the answer remains ‘it is safe’, and this again has to do with how the product is made.
The meat content of Spam is mainly formed by off cuts of cooked ham, particularly cooked pork shoulder and meat from the hind legs and buttock of the pig.
Regardless of cuts, the meat is already cooked before it is turned into what we recognize as ‘Spam’.
So, Spam, by nature, cannot be raw at all. The canning process ensures that all canned goods, including Spam, are heated and cooked to ward off harmful organisms and bacteria.
More importantly, the pork meat that is used within Spam was already cooked before it entered the can.
So you can take our word that Spam is pretty safe to eat insofar that it isn’t raw by any means.
During the Second World War when the preserved meat was eaten regularly it was often consumed raw, having cooked versions were a luxury in themselves.
More modern culinary uses of Spam do often fry the spam in slices. Cooking and frying the Spam can ensure a much firmer and more pleasant texture as the product in its original state can be somewhat ‘mushy’.
Spam remains a seriously popular food that is still sold in supermarkets to this day. There are 15 completely different flavors in addition to the original that range from Teriyaki to Garlic.
There are also Spam products out there such as Spam Fritters and other new forms to eat the preserved meat, including a Spam Cookbook.
By the nature of its preservation and constituent ingredients, Spam can never really be ‘raw’.
While the fried versions of Spam are much more palatable for modern eaters, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat Spam straight from the can if you fancy it.
In Asian cultures and cuisine Spam remains a seriously popular ingredient in many dishes as well as street food. Again, nostalgia and practicality are the two main factors that led to Spam’s uptake in Asian countries.
Spam was brought to much of Asia from soldiers stationed in the East during the Second World War which led to it permeating Asian eating cultures.
As a result many current generation Asians have an added nostalgia of eating Spam as children in the 80s and 90s, upholding the tradition of this preserved good.
What modern eating habits as well as historic eating habits show us, is that no matter what the food actually is, practicality as well as nostalgia can be powerful motivators when it comes to eating and often trump both nutrition and normal eating habits.
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