Thursday, January 6, 2011

So two vegetarians walk into the SPAM Museum...

The Museumologist outside the SPAM Museum
I was recently in Minneapolis to visit a friend, and I got the opportunity to pay homage to America's favorite canned meat, SPAM. The SPAM Museum is located in beautiful Austin, Minnesota (affectionately known as Spamtown, USA), home of Hormel Foods.

Fully expecting a storefront mom-and-pop operation, I was amazed to find that the SPAM Museum is a large, modern institution complete with beautiful displays and great interactive features. Of course, as a vegan I have to swallow back a little bit of vomit when I read those words. Especially considering the fact that 20,000 pigs are slaughtered in the packing plant across the street every year. But still, it's a nice museum.

Upon entering the museum, we were greeted by a kindly old woman with a tray full of tiny SPAM cubes impaled on toothpicks. "Care for a SPAMple?" she asked. "We've got original flavor and black pepper."
Spammy, the SPAM mascot
"Uh... No thanks."

"They're still warm."

"Welllll... We're vegetarian."

[Awkward pause, followed by a hasty retreat]

Next we were greeted by Spammy, the SPAM mascot, all decked out for the holidays.

And if it weren't for our helpful SPAMbassador, we probably never would have noticed the wall of SPAM cans behind us. It's made of over 3,000 cans. Our guide helpfully explained that if we ate a single can a day, it would take nearly ten years to finish them all. He failed to mention, however, that we would also likely end up with a crippling case of gout.
Wall of SPAM!

Continuing on into the museum, we found ourselves at a bank of computer terminals, where we were able to access SPAM-themed games and songs. Our favorite was the country classic, "Pam Don't Take My SPAM," featuring this rousing lyric: "Cuz if you take my SPAM, there'll be no more pork and ham. And I beg your pardon ma'am, but that's the crazy tasty truth about it."

Just past the computers is a wall bedecked with a 14-foot spatula, which would come in very handy should you ever choose to cook up a giant SPAMburger!

Giant SPAMburger
Following the conveyor belt loaded down with SPAM cans, we found ourselves at an alcove with a Viking statue holding a television. Yes, a Viking statue holding a television. Pressing the correct button gives you the opportunity to view the classic Monty Python sketch about SPAM, which prominently features Vikings. If you've never seen it, go and watch it, then come back and continue your tour.

As with any quality educational institution, the SPAM Museum is chock full of useful information, like this juicy morsel:

The Austin plant packages about 2,700,000 slices of bacon every day. If you and your classmates in a class of 30 people ate one bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich every five seconds, around the clock, you still couldn't keep up!

A Viking holding a television
I hear Michelle Obama is going to present the SPAM Museum with an award for encouraging children to take up healthy eating habits.

If you do happen to come to the SPAM Museum on a class trip, make sure you choose the smart kids for your SPAM Exam team. They do not cut you any slack on those questions. You're gonna get doozies like "Which US state consumes the most SPAM per capita?" (Hint: It's not one of the first 49.)

As you might expect from a museum devoted to such an important icon of Americana, there's an excellent selection of SPAMorabilia (see what I did there?). You got your advertising posters through the ages, your historical can designs, your video booths in which to watch clips of the Hormel Girls drum and bugle corps, and of course, your interpretative displays elucidating SPAM's role in winning the war against fascism.

Packing SPAM
By far, the most humiliating experience at the museum is trying your hand at packing SPAM-shaped bean bags into cans. Just look at the frustration on my face as I try to slip that last stubborn label on one more slippery can. Gah!

As the tour winds down, you get a nice little automated puppet show featuring a can of SPAM with a really sexy voice lounging in an easy chair, as well as a mock grocery store with all of Hormel's delicious products on display. 

"Son, your mom and I are moving to California."
But it's not all fun and games at the SPAM Museum. Oh no. The innovators at Hormel make sure to bring you back to earth from the heady whirlwind of canned meats with a short dramatic piece illustrating the transfer of the company from founder George Hormel to his son Jay, featuring stark-white statues of the men themselves!

After that sobering denouement, it's off to the gift shop, where one can load up on souvenirs to take back to loved ones. Note: it turns out those laminated SPAM signs are actually placemats, for those of you who weren't raised by timberwolves.

The photomosaic
Of course, no post-1995 museum is complete without a photomosaic. And, as is the case throughout the entire experience, the SPAM Museum does not disappoint in this regard. Take your time to admire the detail on this baby on your way out. 

And if you're lucky, maybe they'll still have a few warm SPAMples to munch on your way back to the car.

Photomosaic detail

1 comment:

  1. Spam saved my life, as well as saving the world from fascism. Is there anything it can't do?