The Third Leader: Retro-food

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The Independent Online

Of the world's mysteries, few are as intriguing as the popularity of Spam, which, to the despair of sensitive food lovers, has staged yet another comeback. And, indeed, one sympathises with the sighs of those who try so hard to convert us to fresh food and subtle tastes. Even I take salad cream with it.

As with all the best mysteries, Spam is surrounded by many minor ones. It's not entirely clear, for example, who came up with the name in 1937, or whether it stands for Spiced Pork and Ham or Shoulder of Pork and Ham (but definitely not Someone's Pigs Are Missing). And does it taste spiced to you?

Again, while it's easy to see how its portability, longevity and availability made it into a star of the Second World War and its aftermath, how has it managed to make itself appear essentially American to the Americans and essentially British to the British, a feat matched only by the baked bean and freedom?

Monty Python was a salute to local status, not the source; and the exact attachment of their sketch to electronic junk mail is still debated, as is why, in Hawaii, Spam with pineapple is extremely popular when the eponymous pizza is not. All most puzzling.

And the major mystery, why we keep buying it? Well, I fear that Spam has become a rallying symbol for the usual obstinate refusal by the British to defer to good taste, and their liking for a laugh. So I was very pleased to see that a limited edition of World Cup Spam has been launched, as we'll be needing something to smile about.