MOMCC, Afternoon session: Junk Foodways III

It’s been so good, this is part three of an ongoing theme being presented by Rick Musselman and Terri Reynolds.

Foodways programs have always been a main stay of living history sites, but have we talked about the history of our favorite foods, such as Spam, Underwood Deviled Ham, Ovaltine and Jelly Beans? Where did these come from and why are they popular? 

How many of us actually knew that Deviled Ham dates back to the 1860s? This delicious spicy meat product (deviled means it has added hot spices to it) has weathered competitors, marketing bias of using the image of the devil and wartime rationing. The devil trademark goes back to 1870 and is the oldest copyrighted label still in use.

Jelly beans date back to roots of Turkish Delights and Jordan Almonds, however, they must have a hard outer coating with a chewy inside.  Jelly beans helped to supplement our Nation’s sweet tooth in the Depression and World War II and of course they last have a long shelf life (not in my house!) and travel well. And these were common penny candies from the beginning of the 1900s and on. And I thought these were already a wonderful delightful treat.

SPAM: The War Years. “The last line of defense between battle hardened soldiers and starvation.” Hormel started producing Spam in 1937,  but because of World War II, it became a world-wide food source. Not only was it part of the rations of soldiers, but also was sent to England and other allies to help feed the civilian population.

“Always Drink Your Ovaltine!” Not only is it a major part of The Christmas Story, but an energy boosting drink that started in Switzerland in the early 1900s as a malted barley drink that was nourishing, but not tasty. As it was improved with additives to make it sweet and more flavorful, it slowly went worldwide.

So who knew you could learn about great foods at these conferences? It’s not just Jell-O!

–Rob Burg

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About Rob Burg (aka Hiking Historian)

I have twenty years of professional experience in history and museums and this past year I decided it was time to take my life and career in a new direction. After fifteen years running the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum and a few other sites for the Michigan Historical Museum system, I have branched off on my own presenting programs and doing professional museum consulting. I have the Northwoods and the Great Lakes in my blood and I enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities in this environment. I love the history of Northern Michigan and the Great Lakes region and through my writings I explore this history and the way of life of the North Country, including the food, the culture, and the environment. Come and explore the great northwoods with me.
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2 Responses to MOMCC, Afternoon session: Junk Foodways III

  1. And Lynne B. would encourage you all to visit the SPAM museum, as she has done. Even more good info there and a building that has shiny steel siding – like a SPAM can. All the best to everyone. Sounds like another good meeting.

  2. Rob Burg says:

    Thanks for the comment Katie. The museum was mentioned in the session. It sounds like quite the place.

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