A vacation isn’t a vacation without a big dose of SPAM
A road trip just isn’t a road trip without a visit to the SPAM museum in Austin, Minn., located southwest of A Big Lake and Canada, Eh? and southeast of the World’s Largest Stack of Empty Oil Cans.
At least that was our logic when we pulled away from the sweltering heat on the interstate and into the parking lot of the Hormel packing plant.
The truth of the matter was, my glasses had broken and we thought the exit sign read “Philadelphia,” which was our true destination. If nothing else, we figured on free food and air conditioning.
We must have hit a good day. The humid air smelled like cooking bacon. The parking lot guard told us to park in any space painted with the SPAM motif. We forced our ever-reluctant and suspicious daughter to pose with the two bronze pigs outside.
Then we entered what would either turn out to be 16,500 square feet of Nirvana or hell.
We must have been the first people they’d seen in the museum in a long time, because the minute we cracked the door, we were greeted by two exuberant women with trays of sliced SPAM.
I don’t know why we thought the menu would be more varied – say, a few Vienna sausages or a veggie tray for our vegetarian daughter who was more than revolted by the entire journey.
After we escaped the two women, we entered the realm of SPAM in all its glory. We learned why World War II veterans hate the stuff so much. We found out that people carve giant sculptures out of the meat in contests in Hawaii.
We learned about the SPAM Jam, where thousands of people gather to celebrate the canned meat, share recipes and dress up like pigs.
Let me tell you, there are a lot of bored people in Minnesota.
They’ve piled 3,390 cans of the stuff in the lobby. They have a display of George Hormel’s desk in one display. Another features letters from war veterans and their fond memories of the luncheon meat. Old-time radios have recordings of commercials.
There is an area where you can see how fast you can can your own can of SPAM. Donned in a white lab jacket and hard hat, I stuffed the peach-
colored bean bag into the can, put it in the “microwave,” put a lid on the can and tried to put a cloth wrapper around the can.
In the time I “produced” one can of SPAM, the real factory next door had made 261, the computer told me. So much for moonlighting.
Our favorite, of course, was Monty Python’s sketch in a deli where the menu boasts such delectables as 1) beans, beans, beans, beans and SPAM; 2) beans, SPAM and beans; and 3) beans, beans, beans, SPAM and SPAM.
A woman tries repeatedly to order beans, beans, beans, beans and SPAM without the SPAM – an impossibility that sends a group of Vikings into a chorus of SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM! You know the flick.
We took the SPAM Exam – hosted by an ethereal Saturday Night Live’s Al Franken – and failed miserably, mixing up Babe the Pig with Slammin’ Spammy and other famous porcine heroes.
They even have haikus dedicated to the pink stuff:
Or, “And who dares mock Spam?
you? you? you are not worthy
of one rich pink fleck”
Or: “Like pink luscious meat
It manipulates our tongues.
Cook, smell, taste, eat, cry.”
There is an official SPAM Fan Club, boasting tens of thousands of members.
And then, after an hour or so of brainwashing, we found ourselves in the retail store, surrounded by hundreds of items labeled with the famous blue and yellow label.
They have pencils, cans of SPAM, wristwatches, golf towels, T-shirts, cans of SPAM, all sorts of kitchenware, recipe books, notepads, boxer shorts and pajamas, cans of SPAM, footballs and cards.
I almost laughed out loud when the lady in front of me racked up a $75 bill. But mine came to $54, and my husband’s to $39.
It was an hour well wasted, there in the land where they bow to pigs.
“Pink tender morsel
Glistening with salty gel
What the hell is it?”
We left as confused as ever – and plan to stay that way.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at
(970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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