In 1891, a 31-year old entrepreneur founded Geo. A. Hormel & Company in his hometown of Austin, Minnesota. From its origins as the Provision Market, he grew the company into an international product line that made him one of the world’s wealthiest men in his lifetime.
In 1991, to honor the centennial of the company’s origin, the Hormel Foods First Century Museum was opened in the Oak Park Mall. It was renamed the Spam Museum in honor of one of Hormel’s most popular products.
In 2014, the museum began the move to a downtown location. Given more space for larger exhibits, the reopening in 2016 includes a gift shop where people can buy all sorts of Spammy accessories. Indeed, my wife and I bought a couple of souvenirs and a cardboard tray full of several varieties of Spam.
George Hormel’s company developed and sold the first canned hams, and the corporation is now a conglomerate of food product companies, but it is for Spam that the company is world renown. While you can look on the Internet to see several definitions of where the term Spam is derived, a museum placard notes that the origin of the term is lost in the company’s history. The image above features one of the seven sections, the core with pillars of canned Spam of many varieties.
Though it isn’t my very favorite canned meat (like I have a lot of favorites in this category), my wife used to make a casserole, or as true North Dakotans might say, a “hot dish”, consisting of diced Spam, elbow macaroni, and a couple of “secret ingredients”. I will share her recipe for your kitchen if you’d like to give it a try.
Overhead in the high ceilinged museum, there is a long conveyer belt that continuously runs through the museum carrying several thousand cans of Spam. In the background, you can see a poster for Monty Python’s Spamalot musical. You can see it better if you click on the photo above to view the image in Flickr. From there, you can click on the Flickr image to scroll around and see more details in 2K HD.
There is a video loop playing of the Spam sketch from Monty Python’s Family Circus along with a description of how Spam came to be the name given to unwanted email “blasts.” In looking for a YouTube video of the Spam sketch to share, I found this program that provides both clips from the sketch and the history of the term Spam as it relates to emails.
One section of the museum focuses on the earlier years and transition from George A. Hormel to his son, Jay C. Hormel. The company went public in 1928. Another entire section focuses on Hormel during World War II.
Spam is known worldwide and has been a staple in Hormel’s product line since 1937. The recipe for the canned mix of pork shoulder and ham has been modified in many ways for worldwide tastes. If you wish to try some of the unique flavors, they can be purchased locally or online. A guide to finding the varieties of Spam can be found here.
Feel free to bring the kids. A large section of the museum is a play area. At this time of covid, all guests must wear facemasks and, as you can see in the image above, hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the museum.
We spent a couple of hours in the museum, and then headed to Kenny’s Oak Grill where Spam is a feature on several menu items. I chose the grilled cheese and Spam sandwich.
One more comment on finding the place. My car has a built-in GPS that I don’t always trust so on road trips, I often use a Garmin unit with lifetime map updates. If the two GPS units don’t agree, I use Google Maps on my phone to confirm which one is the more accurate.
The address of the museum is 101 3rd Ave NE, Austin, MN. For some reason, my Garmin couldn’t find the address, so I trusted the internal GPS in my car. It directed me to a residential area and told me it found the place. I loaded the address in Google Maps and used my phone for directions and it took us the right to the downtown location.
I promised you a recipe for “Spam Hot Dish.” This was a favorite of our whole family when the kids were still at home. Here goes:
1 can Spam diced into cubes
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 can vegetable (or vegetable beef) soup
1 can tomato soup
Brown the diced spam in a skillet. When the meat is browned, add the cans of soup (without adding any additional water.)
While the soups are heating in the skillet, prepare the macaroni as directed on the box. Drain and rinse.
Add the macaroni and mix thoroughly warming until all ingredients are heated through.
If you’d like to see the gallery of images in 2K HD, click on any of the photos above to scroll through the album (or click here.)