Altamont, Mar. 6, 2014

Everyday activities and sounds can seem very strange when you are deep in thought. I was reading the latest book that I picked up at the library when my cell phone rang and made me jump. Although the ring tone is very familiar, hearing it in the quiet of my home while engrossed in my new book was almost alarming.

The bubbly voice on the other end of the call, started right in with a description of some of the latest Spam. Before I could tell her that I was already familiar with the latest unsolicited e-mail that was circulating, she continued with a full description of the Spam that she had just received on her computer.

If you have a computer; today it is almost assumed that everyone has at least one in their home, you are most likely very familiar with the term Spam. E-mail spam, also known as junk e-mail or unsolicited bulk e-mail, involves nearly identical messages sent to a large number of people by e-mail. Clicking on links attached to spam e-mail may send users to phishing web sites. Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as passwords, user names or credit card details. Some of those sites host malware, short for malicious software, which is software used to disrupt computer operation and gather sensitive information.

Like other forms of unwanted bulk messaging, it is named for Spam luncheon meat by way of a Monty Python sketch in which Spam is depicted as ubiquitous and unavoidable.

E-mail spam has steadily grown since the early 1990s. Networks of virus-infected computers are used to send about 80 percent of Spam. Since the expense of the spam is borne mostly by the recipient it is basically postage due advertising.

Spammers collect e-mail addresses from chat rooms, websites, customer lists, newsgroups, and viruses, which harvest users’ address books, and are sold to other spammers. They also use a practice known as e-mail appending or apending in which they use known information about their target, such as a postal address, to search for the target’s e-mail address.

As I mentioned earlier, Spam was portrayed in a Monty Python sketch as ubiquitous and inescapable. 

The luncheon meat named Spam is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. It was first introduced in 1937. The product has become part of many jokes and urban legends about mystery meat, which has made it part of pop culture and folklore.

Let’s take a look at what Spam really is and how it is made. In the classic variety, chopped pork shoulder meat and ham are pre-ground. Then, salt, sugar and the rest of the ingredients are added and mixed for 20 minutes, to reach the desired temperature.

From there, the mixture is moved to the canning line, where it’s filled into the familiar metal cans, 12-ounces at a time. Once filled, cans are conveyed to a closing machine where lids are applied through vacuum-sealing. Next, the cans are cooked and cooled for about three hours. At this point they’re nearly ready to be enjoyed. Labels are applied and then they’re off to be cased, where they await distribution.

Ken Daigneau, brother of a Hormel executive, won a contest to name the product and received a $100 prize. Hormel claims that the meaning of the name is known by only a small circle of former Hormel Foods executives, but popular beliefs are that the name is an abbreviation of special processed American meat or shoulders of pork and ham. One popular belief says it’s derived from the words spiced ham.

In addition to the traditional flavor, there are several different flavors of Spam products, including: Spam Classic, Spam Hot & Spicy — with Tabasco flavor, Spam Jalapeño, Spam Black Pepper, Spam Less Sodium, Spam Lite, Spam Oven Roasted Turkey, Spam Hickory Smoke flavor, Spam Spread, Spam with Bacon, Spam with Cheese, Spam Garlic, and Spam Teriyaki.

As of 2003, Spam was sold in 41 countries on six continents and trademarked in over 100 countries. In 2007, the seven billionth can of Spam was sold.

My husband, Jim, and I love Spam. Although it is still quite popular in the United States,  it  has a more favored position on the table in many other countries. As an example, each person on Guam consumes 16 tins of Spam each year. Consumption is similar in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Hawaii, and Saipan.

These areas have the only McDonald’s restaurants that feature Spam on the menu. When we visited Hawaii with our friends Harvey and Di Levin we enjoyed seeing Spam on the menu. They also added something to breakfast that every one of us enjoyed, they gave all the customers a cup of fresh pineapple.

Spam was introduced into the islands in the Pacific such as Okinawa and the Philippine Islands, during the U.S. military occupation after World War II. Since fresh meat was difficult to get to the soldiers on the front, World War II saw the largest use of Spam when it was served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some soldiers referred to Spam as “ham that didn’t pass its physical” and “meatloaf without basic training”. Soldiers commonly referred to Spam as special army meat due to its introduction during the war.

Surpluses of Spam from the soldiers’ supplies made their way into native diets. Consequently, Spam is a unique part of the history of U.S. influence in the Pacific.

The residents of Hawaii consume the most Spam per capita in the United States. Hawaiian Burger King restaurants began serving Spam in 2007 to compete with the local McDonald’s chains. In Hawaii, Spam is so popular it is sometimes referred to as the Hawaiian steak.

One popular Spam dish in Hawaii is Spam musubi, where cooked Spam is combined with rice and edible seaweed, known as nori and classified as onigiri Japanese rice balls. During the last week of April, Hawaii holds an annual Spam Jam in Waikiki.

Spam that is sold in North America, South America, and Australia is produced in Austin, Minnesota and in Fremont, Nebraska. 

Austin, Minnesota has a restaurant with a menu devoted exclusively to Spam, called Johnny’s Spamarama Menu.

Spamarama was a yearly festival held around April fool’s Day in Austin, Minnesota. The theme of Spamarama was a gentle parody of Spam, rather than straightforward celebration. The event at the heart of the festival was a Spam cook-off that originated as a challenge to produce the most appetizing recipe for the meat. The festival included light sporting activities and musical acts, in addition to the cook-off.

Austin, Minnesota, is also the home to the Spam museum, which tells the history of the Hormel Company, the origin of Spam and its place in world culture. Austin is also the location of final judging in the national Spam recipe competition.

Well, I’ve done it again. I have been talking about food and made myself hungry. Jim will be happy though because I will make him a favorite of ours, Spam and fried egg sandwich with a slice of cheese. How do you like your Spam?

Celebrate America

Fifth graders at the Altamont Elementary School have been asked to donate new or gently used trinkets and small toys for Celebrate America. The items requested included: McDonalds toys, action figures, cars, bouncy balls and similar toys.  The school still needs about 3,000 more items. 

The school is asking for your help saying that “whatever we don’t get, we have to buy.”

For more information, contact the school.

Pennies for Patients

Students at the Altamont Elementary School are now collecting spare change for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This project is part of the school’s Service Learning Initiative program. Monies collected will be used to help children and adults across our country and world.

All students are asked to bring their change to the school  on or before  Friday, March 21.  After all the money is collected and counted, the donation will be made to the local chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 

The school has sent home material in advance of this program with a request for parents to talk with their children explaining the need for donations, where the money will go and who will be helped by their sharing.

GHS yearbooks

Students and parents are reminded that the last day to pre-order your child’s high school yearbook is Friday, March 7.  Orders can be made on   

Questions regarding the yearbook order can be directed to Julie Higgins at .


Parents, are you a member of the Guilderland High School PTSA?  Do you know that your membership fee of $10 helps the PTSA to provide funds for senior scholarships, teacher grants, school activities and the staff appreciation luncheon.

Membership dues are as follows: Parent $10, teacher $8, and student $5. Please send your name, e-mail address, phone number, student (s) name and grade, and category of membership.

For more information go to .

Safety drill

The Guilderland High School performed a shelter in-place drill on Feb. 28. Students and teachers remained in their classes and teaching continued during the drill.


Special happy-anniversary wishes are extended to:

—  Myrtle and Owen Murray who will celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary on March 9, and 

— Debbie Giambo and Luis Garedo who will celebrate their special day on March 10.


Happy-birthday wishes are extended to: 

— Melissa Jensen, Cheri Pieniazek and Keith Weiler on March 7;

— Brenda Adams, Riley Grimm, Gail Munroe, Lori Sanderson and Joshua Timer on March 8;

— Bonnie Anthony, Mary Ann Charon, Mike Farley, Audrey Vojnar Kearns and Alison Roemer on March 9;

— Brian Fidler, Larissa Lenenbacher, Hollis Stedman, and Jack Lawler Tashjian on March 10;

— Nancy Caruso, Brianna Lynne Grant, Bill Salada, and Donna Schadow on March 11;

— Linda Hookgamp Emily Lauren Murray, and Susanne Spiak on March 13.

Columnist comment:  My birthday and anniversary lists need to be  updated:  corrected


names,  spelling and anyone who would like to  be added to my lists  should write to me at  

.  Thanking you in advance.