A Brief History of Spam, an American Meat Icon

TowerCanTemplateFor a six-ingredient food product, it’s taken on a life of its own. Spam — the square-shaped mash-up of pork, water, salt, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrate — recently celebrated its 77th anniversary of being alternately maligned, celebrated, musicalized, or the subject of urban legend (one particularly pervasive myth insists that its name is actually an acronym for “Scientifically Processed Animal Matter”). And despite today’s more locavore approach to food and some unkind memories from soldiers who were served Spam during WWII, Spam has entered its third quarter-century on the rise. More than eight billion cans have been sold since the Hormel Corporation unleashed the product in 1937; it’s currently available in 44 countries throughout the world.

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Spam’s ability to straddle highbrow and lowbrow is apparently in its DNA: Since its early days, even Jay Hormel, the man who Spam made rich, had a vexed relationship with the lunchmeat. In a 1945 “Talk of the Town” profile published in The New Yorker, Hormel met writer Brendan Gill over noontime drinks, during which Gill “got the distinct 000_spam_04impression that being responsible for Spam might be too great a burden on any one man.” The piece sees Hormel waffling on his brand’s association with Spam, spending equal time distancing himself from it (“Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t have…”) and defending it (“Damn it, we eat it in our own home”).

The budget-friendly meat has enjoyed a recent upswing on the American mainland in part thanks to rising meat costs and a floundering economy: When the recession hit in early 2008, Spam saw its sales jump 10 percent compared to the previous year. A CBS News report noted that the increased numbers were seemingly accompanied by a cultural shift: Even consumers who continued to purchase expensive organic vegetables were adding cans of Spam to their pantries. The meat, once relegated as a quirk of Hawaiian or Asian cuisine, started 000_spam_02appearing on haute restaurant menus as a nod to that highbrow/lowbrow mash-up, or perhaps to the chef’s feelings of nostalgia for the ingredient. (A quick search of Spam recipes from the ’60s reveals dishes like Spam upside-down pie; and Spam sandwiches topped with baked beans.)

Today, its sometimes-kitsch factor is a point of pride, for both Hormel and Spam fans: You can show your affection for Spam with everything from Hormel-authorized T-shirts (reading “I think, therefore I Spam”) to crocheted, cat-shaped Spam musu000_spam_06bi (available for purchase, naturally, on Etsy). Here’s a look back at how Spam first got canned, why it’s currently beloved in Hawaii and South Korea, and why Spam remains on many restaurant menus today.

That recipe, using pork shoulder (once considered an undesirable byproduct of hog butchery), water, salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate (for coloring) remained unchanged until 2009, when Hormel began adding potato starch to sop up the infamous gelatin “layer” that naturally forms when meat is cooked. According to Behne, the recipe change was purely an aesthetic choice: “It looks a lot better now when you open the can.” The rest, Hormel insists, has remained the same.

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Although lore behind the name Spam varies, Hormel himself claimed the product was named for a combination of the words “spice” and “ham,” despite the fact that neither ingredient appears in Spam. The confusion has led some to speculate that Spam is an acronym for “Shoulder of Pork And Ham,” but company line gives Kenneth Daigneau, the brother of a Hormel VP, credit for naming the product. As Hormel tells it, he launched a naming contest for the new product during a New Year’s Eve party, when Daigneau spit out “Spam” as if “it were nothing at all,” Hormel told Gill. “I knew then and there that the name was perfect.”

Text from eater.com

Soft Drink and Soda Saturday – Royal Crown Cola

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RC Cola (or Royal Crown Cola) is a soft drink developed in 1905 by Claude A. Hatcher, a pharmacist in Columbus, Georgia.

History

The first product in the Royal Crown line was Chero-Cola in 1904, followed by Royal Crown Ginger Ale, Royal Crown Strawberry and Royal Crown Root Beer. The company was renamed Chero-Cola, and in 1925 called Nehi Corporation after its collared and flavoured drinks. In 1934, Chero-Cola was reformulated by Rufus Kamm, a chemist, and re-released as Royal Crown Cola.

4466308855_64fc8bdcdd_bIn the 1950s, the combination of Royal Crown Cola and Moonpies became popular as the “working man’s lunch” in the American South. In 1954, Royal Crown was the first to sell a soft drink in an aluminum can.

In 1958, the company introduced the first diet cola, Diet Rite, and in 1980, a caffeine-free cola, RC 100. In the mid-1990s, RC released Royal Crown Draft Cola, billed as a “premium” cola and using pure cane sugar as a sweetener, rather than the high fructose corn syrup more commonly used in the United States. Offered only in 12-ounce bottles, the cola’s sales were disappointing due largely to the inability of the RC bottling network to get distribution for the product in single-drink channels and it was quickly discontinued with the exceptions of Australia, New Zealand and France. It is now only available in New Zealand. The company has also released Cherry RC — a cherry flavoured version of the RC soft drink — to compete with Coca-Cola Cherry and Pepsi Wild Cherry.

In October 2000, Royal Crown was acquired by Cadbury Schweppes plc through its acquisition of Snapple. Royal Crown operations were folded into Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., a former subsidiary of Cadbury Schweppes. In 2001, all international RC-branded business were sold to Cott Beverages of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and is operated as Royal Crown Cola International which handles RC Cola products outside the United States. In the U.S., distribution is still handled by Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

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Advertising campaigns

4132767207_2051d1f4bf_oThe RC Cola brand has been marketed through many campaigns. In the 1930s, Alex Osborn, with BBDO, made them an ad campaign, in which was included the following slogan: “The season’s best.” The 1940s featured a magazine advertising campaign with actress Lizabeth Scott as the face, next to the slogan “RC tastes best, says Lizabeth Scott”. In the 1960s, Royal Crown Cola did an ad campaign featuring two birds, made by Jim Henson. Nancy Sinatra was featured in two Royal Crown Cola commercials in her one hour special called “Movin’ with Nancy” featuring various singers in November 1967. She sang, “It’s a mad, mad, mad Cola… RC the one with the mad, mad taste!…RC! ” The company was the official sponsor of New York Mets off and on at times during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. A television commercial in the New York area featured Tom Seaver, New York Mets 4727306463_2c7db02e0e_bpitcher, and his wife, Nancy, dancing on top of a dugout at Shea Stadium and singing the same tune from the Sinatra campaign. In the mid 1970s, Royal Crown ran the “Me & My RC” advertisements, the most famous commercial of which featured actress Sharon Stone delivering pizza on a skateboard. Others featured people in a variety of scenic outdoor locations. The jingle, sung by Louise Mandrell, which went, “Me and my RC / Me and my RC /’Cause what’s good enough / For other folks / Ain’t good enough for me.” RC was introduced to Israel in 1995 with the slogan “RC: Just like in America!”

Text from Wikipedia

Marmalade – Facts and History

Marmalade Facts and History_aboutfoodThe name Marmalade comes from the Portuguese word Marmelos, a quince paste similar in texture to an orange spread popular long before the commercialisation of marmalade in the late 18th century.

Despite the belief that marmalade was ‘invented’ in Scotland by James Keiller and his wife it was not – though due thanks must go to the Keiller who are generally credited with making the delicious breakfast preserve commercially available. The romantic notion of James Keiller discovering a cargo of bitter oranges being sold cheaply which his wife then turned into jam has long been outed considering the existence of recipes for similar ‘jams’ dating back to the 1500s.

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According to food historian Ivan Day, one of the earliest known recipe for for a Marmelet of Oranges (close to what we know as marmalade today) comes from the recipe book of Eliza Cholmondeley around 1677.

Types of Orange Marmalade

Marmalade Facts and History3_aboutfoodThere are endless varieties of Marmalade and arguments abound at the breakfast table to personal preferences. Amongst the most popular are:

Thick Cut – the orange peel in the jelly is cut into thick chunks creating a tangy bitter flavor.
Thin Cut – the orange peel is shredded finely resulting in a softer flavor and texture.
Flavored – endless varieties with added flavors; whisky, Grand Marnier, ginger, or a mixture of citrus fruits.
Vintage – marmalade left to mature for a denser, richer flavor.
Black – made by the adding of brown sugar or black molasses.

Making Marmalade

The bitter oranges needed for making true marmalade are only available in late-winter to early spring. Seville orange pulp is also available year-round in cans which it does make a good marmalade, though frowned on by purists.

Text from about.com/food

 Read more here: A Comprehensive History of Marmalade from the World Marmalade Awards.

The History Of Picnics

What is a picnic?

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Food historians tell us picnics evolved from the elaborate traditions of moveable outdoor feasts enjoyed by the wealthy. Medieval hunting feasts, Renaissance-era country banquets, and Victorian garden parties lay the foundation for today’s leisurely repast. Picnics, as the Americans know them today, date to the middle of the 19th century. Although the “grand picnic” is generally considered a European concept, culinary evidence confirms people from other parts of the world engage in similar practices.

The earliest picnics in England were medieval hunting feasts. Hunting conventions were established in the 14th century, and the feast before the chase assumed a special importance. Gaston de Foiz, in a work entitled Le Livre de chasse (1387), gives a detailed description of such an event in France. As social habits in 14th century England were similar to those in medieval France, it is safe to assume that picnics were more or less the same. Foods consumed would have been pastries, hams, baked meats, and so on…Picnicking really come into its own during the Victorian era, and enters into the literature of that period. Dickens, Trollope, Jane Austen all found pleasure in introducing this form of social event into their fiction. One can see why: a rustic idyll furnished an ideal way of presenting characters in a relaxed environment, and also provided an opportunity to describe a particularly pleasant rural spot. Painters have also been drawn to the subject…Monet, Renoir, Cezanne.

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Manet – Luncheon on the grass

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Tissot – The Picnic

The first usage of the word is traced to the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Origines de la Langue Française, which mentions pique-nique as being of recent origin; it marks the first appearance of the word in print. The term was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something. Whether picnic is actually based on the verb piquer which means ‘pick’ or ‘peck’ with the rhyming nique meaning “thing of little importance” is doubted; the Oxford English Dictionary says it is of unknown provenance.

Etymology

The word picnic first appeared in English in a letter of the Gallicized Lord Chesterfield in 1748 (OED), who associates it with card-playing, drinking and conversation, and may have entered the English language from this French word. The practice of an elegant meal eaten out-of-doors, rather than a harvester worker’s dinner in the harvest field, was connected with respite from hunting from the Middle Ages; the excuse for the pleasurable outing of 1723 in François Lemoyne‘s painting is still offered in the context of a hunt.

François_lemoyne_-_piquenique_duranteThe oldest print evidence of the word picnic in the English language can be traced back to 1748, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The word picnic was known in France, Germany, and Sweden before it became part of the English society. According to Wikipedia, a free online encylopedia, “the first usage of the word picnic was traced to a 16th century French text, describing a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. A theory has it that the word picnic is based on the verb piquer which means ‘pick’ or ‘peck’ with the rhyming nique perhaps meaning trifle. The 1692 edition of Origines de la Langue Franqoise de Ménage, which mentions ‘piquenique’ as being of recent origin, marks the first appearance of the word picnic in print. The word picnic first appeared in English texts in the mid-1700s, and may have entered the English language from this French word or from the German Picknick.”

Related historical events

After the French Revolution in 1789, royal parks became open to the public for the first time. Picnicking in the parks became a popular activity amongst the newly enfranchised citizens.

Early in the 19th century, a fashionable group of Londoners (including Edwin Young) formed the ‘Picnic Society‘. Members met in the Pantheon on Oxford Street. Each member was expected to provide a share of the entertainment and of the refreshments with no one particular host. Interest in the society waned in the 1850s as the founders died.

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Thomas Cole‘s – The Pic-Nic 1846

From the 1830s, Romantic American landscape painting of spectacular scenery often included a group of picnickers in the foreground. An early American illustration of the picnic is Thomas Cole‘s The Pic-Nic of 1846 (Brooklyn Museum of Art). In it, a guitarist serenades the genteel social group in the Hudson River Valley with the Catskills visible in the distance. Cole’s well-dressed young picnickers having finished their repast, served from splint baskets on blue-and-white china, stroll about in the woodland and boat on the lake.

The image of picnics as a peaceful social activity can be utilised for political protest, too. In this context, a picnic functions as a temporary occupation of significant public territory. A famous example of this is the Pan-European Picnic held on both sides of the Hungarian/Austrian border on the 19 August 1989 as part of the struggle towards German reunification.

In 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. In the United States, likewise, the 4 July celebration of American independence is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy, the favorite picnic day is Easter Monday.

Essentials around 1900

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Be careful to dress for the entertainment, after consulting the barometer and the thermometer, and after learning the geography of the objective point of the day. A woolen dress that is not too heavy nor yet too new, or a cotton one that is not too think, with short, trim skirts, solid, easy shoes, that have a friendliness for the feet because of prolonged intimacy with them; pretty, but not too fine or thin stockings; a hat that has a broad brim; a large sun-shade or a sun-umbrella; at least two fresh handkerchiefs; some rings, and needle and thread stowed away in ones portemonnaie or chatelaine-pocket; easy gloves, with ample wrists; a jacket to wear when returning home; and a rug or traveling-shawl to spread upon the ground at dinner time, are among the requisites of personal comfort and prettiness.

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George Goodwin Kilburne – The Picnic ca 1900

For the feast, forget not the napkins, forks, spoons and the luncheon-cloth. Also carry tumblers, plates, salt, pepper, sugar and a bottle of cream or can of condensed milk. Cups with handles, but no saucers, are desirable for tea and coffee…The following bill of are may be selected from, with such changes as suit the locality or general surroundings. Bill of fare for a spring picnic. Cold Roast Chicken. Sandwiches of Potted Rabbit. Bewitched Veal. Small Rolls with Salad Filling. Cold Baked Ham. Egg Salad. Buttered Rolls. Hard Boiled Eggs. Crackers. Chow Chow. Bombay Toast. Pickles. Orange Marmalade. Quince Jelly. Sugared Strawberries. White Cake. Almond Cake. Cocoanut Jumbles. Lemonade. Tea Cakes. Raspberry Vinegar. Bill of fare for a summer picnic. Cold Boiled Chicken. Tongue Sandwiches. Spiced Beef. Sardines. Jellied Chicken. Pickled Salmon. Spanish Pickles. Sweet Peach Pickles. Boston Brown Bread. Beans. Fresh Fruits. Imperial Cake. Neapolitan Cake. Small Fancy Cakes.

From “Queen of the Household” by Mrs. M. W. Ellsworth published  in 1900

Outdoor meals 1924

From time immemorial the outdoor meal has been a real fete; probably because in the earlier days there were not so many large buildings as now, so when groups were to get together it was necessarily to occupy the out-of-doors. It was undoubtedly because of this that barbecues became so popular, and because a real outdoor fete is nowadays a rarity, that they are so popular…

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There is no reason why the outdoor meal should not become a habit with everyone except in very stormy weather; children should be encouraged to take their luncheons outdoors on Saturdays. There is nothing so wonderful as the adventures of playing “camping out” in the spring, summer, or late fall…During the warm weather the family can frequently eat outdoors, on the piazza, roof, in the backyards, or in a near-by park. A delightful way for a city woman to entertain her city friends in the summer is by means of a picnic lunch in the park, because it is a novelty, and because, after all, everyone loves the out-of-doors.

From “Mrs. Allen on Cooking, Menus, Service” by Ida C. Bailey Allen published in 1924

Picnic Suggestions 1943

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If the purity of the picnic water supply is in doubt, carry a gallon jug of water from home. Prepare a basket with the necessary knives, forks and spoons, paper cups, plates and napkins, as well as pepper, salt and any desired condiments. To keep liquids hot or cold, use a thermos bottle of jug. To keep food hot, carry it in a portable electric roaster or casserole, or in a sealed jar, wrapped in many thicknesses of paper. Foods may be kept cold by wrapping first in cold, wet towels, then in many thicknesses of paper. Sandwiches should be made with fillings that will not soak into the bread or wilt, and would not be ready for serving wrapped in waxed paper.

Cold Picnic Lunches
No. 1: Sandwiches…filled with sliced meat, eggs, cheese, jam or nut butters, Deviled Eggs, Cottage Cheese, Fruit, Cookies, Coffee or Lemonade.
No. 2: Chicken Salad…or Meatloaf
Potato Chips or Shoe String Potatoes, Bread and Butter Sandwiches, Radishes, Onions, Raw Carrot Sticks, Whole Tomatoes
Cup Cakes, Picnic Lemonade

Picnics 1965

picnic-caseThe English are the greatest of picnickers and have led the field for hundreds of years. They have hampers for the races, outdoor teas for the amusement of children, and all sorts of occasions for sitting and eating in the countryside. In France along the roads one sees families seated in collapsible chairs around a collapsible table eating and drinking with gusto. In Japan elaborate picnic boxes may be purchased to be take to the football field or to a spot beside a placid pool. In America there are picnic tables along the roadside where one may set up a simple meal or sandwiches or do a barbecue. In Scandinavia you can find picnic tables both along the roadside and in public parks.

Wherever it is done, picnicing can be one of the supreme pleasures of outdoor life. At its most elegant, it calls for the accompaniment of the best linens and crystal and china; at its simplest it needs only a bottle of wine and items purchased from the local delicatessen as one passes through town…

The colour and charm of the countryside can make the most modest meal taste superb. Have a picnic at the slightest excues. It is even fun to have a box lunch and a hot drink in the car on a wintry day, while you look out at a dazzling stretch of landscape…

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A Festive Country or Beach Picnic–Without Sandwiches: Stuffed Tomatoes, Veal or Pork Terrine, Beef a la Mode ed Gelee, Potato Salad or Green Salad, French Bread, Butter, Cheese, Fruit, Angel Food Cake…

A Champagne Picnic for 4 or 6: Macadamia Nuts, Potage Germinty, Roast Fillet of Beef, Potato and Hearts of Palm Salad, Cherry Tomatoes, French or Italian Bread, Sweet Butter, Fresh Fruit, Cream Cheese or Roquefort, Petits Fours Squares…

A Beer Picnic for a Large Gathering: Sausage Board, Westphalian Ham, Boiled or Baked Ham, Cold Meat Loaf, Deviled Eggs, Caviar Eggs, Pungent Eggs, Cole Slaw, Senfgurken, Dill Pickles, Emmenthal Cheese, Rye, Pumpernickel and Butter, Apple Kuchen…

An Antipasto Picnic: This is eminently easy to prepare. In fact, the whole picnic may be assembled by shopping at the Italian delicatessens and the vegetable market.

From “James Beard’s Menus for Entertaining” by James Beard, published in 1965

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Read more here:

Picnic at Wikipedia
Food Timeline – Picnics
picnic-basket.com – The history of picnicing
History in a Basket: It’s Picnic Time!
Picnicking Through The Ages
Powerhouse Museum – History Week: Picnics
”The Picnic” by Walter Levy on Google Books
“Picnic: 125 Recipes with 29 Seasonal Menu” by DeeDee Stovel on Google books
Craftsy: The History of the Picnic + Your Perfect Picnic Menu!