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Long before it was a term for Nigerian princes clogging our inboxes, Spam was one of the United States’ most infamously maligned meats, both a symbol of American resourcefulness and the country’s questionable taste.

Made of pork shoulder, ham, salt and water, all compressed in a can, the processed meat product became popular during World War II. Since it required no refrigeration, Spam was served as a regular meal to US soldiers serving on the Pacific front and they returned home with a taste for “spiced ham” (where the name derives). Hormel Foods Inc then began selling the product in US supermarkets starting in 1937, and while Spam has fallen out of favour in most of the continental US, the meat remains incredibly popular in Hawaii. The island state consumes more than seven million cans annually, about five cans per resident per year.

The processed pork even has its own annual festival. Hosted on Oahu, the Waikiki Spam Jam, this year held 27 April, welcomes more than 25,000 people to sample restaurant dishes featuring the canned meat.  Entrees range from straightforward Spam burgers to international variations such as Spam Thai meatballs and Spam street tacos. Other entrees include Spam nachos, Spam pizza and Spam lo mein.

In the mood for a meaty dessert? Try the choco Spamalicious popsicle from Ono Pops, Spam cheesecake from Hawaiian Cheesecakes or the Spam and apple cobbler from the Hard Rock Cafe.  

The festival will also feature the 2013 International Ukelele Contest Championships at 8:30 pm on the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel Stage, plus local music and hula dancers on two stages along Kalakaua Avenue throughout the evening. Visitors can stock up on Spam-themed gear at the vendors lining the street, selling everything from Spam spatulas to stuffed plush Spam cans.

Admission to the event is free, but booths are available to collect donations (of Spam, of course) for the Hawaii Food Bank.

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