The magical, mystical world of SPAM

When one hears the term "mystery meat," it's hard not to think of Spam. After all, although the ingredients -- pork shoulder, ham, water, sugar, salt, sodium nitrite, and potato starch -- are clearly marked on every package, there still remains a question about its origins. Maybe it's the mysterious can, with its old-fashioned illustrations and rounded corners, or maybe its just the fact that the meat doesn't really look like anything that occurs in nature; regardless, Spam carries with it a tinge of strangeness, a touch of enigma.

One of the greatest mysteries in this most mysterious of meats lies in the question of who actually eats it. While Whole Foods seems notably lacking Spam, most grocery stores stock huge piles of the stuff. What's more, Spam cans always seem fresh, undented, and almost pristine, which would suggest that it doesn't spend much time in the store. Recent news reports back this observation up.

While Spam is popular across the United States, it is almost legendary in Hawaii, where every man, woman, and child consumes, on average, six cans a year. While most pundits claim that the canned snack gained popularity during World War II, when U.S. soldiers gave it to natives, Christopher Moore cites a more entertaining explanation. In Island of the Sequined Love-Nun, he claims that Spam actually is code for "Shaped Protein Approximating Man," and that it was used to wean cannibals off of long pork.