America, shall I compare thee to a can of SPAM? Thou art more decadent, salty and sweet, container of even greater mystery. In this three-part series, some of the meatiest questions the United States faces about how we work for the food we eat play out in the story of special processed American meat. The Experiment embarks on a remarkable journey to the heart of SPAM—from remote Philippine provinces, where American GIs disseminated the American dream through cans of SPAM, to Austin, Minnesota, SPAMtown U.S.A., where SPAM employed generations of meatpackers, and tore the town apart. SPAM inspired aspirations and opened wounds in the American worker’s psyche that we still yearn for and ache from today.
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A transcript of this episode is presented below:
(The quick rewind of tape.)
Noella Levy: Okay! (Laughter.)
Julia Longoria: You ready?
(Indistinct talking—possibly vocal warm-ups.)
Longoria: All right, so … This is a song about SPAM.
(A wind-down. Then, over the sound of a finger-picked ukulele, a song is sung—a variation on “Home on the Range” that one might call “SPAM on the Range.”)
Levy: (Sung.) In the blue-yellow can
That is cherished by all of the land,
It’s all to eat,
So deliciously sweet
When cooked in a hot frying pan!
[Stopping.] No, I missed a verse! Wait just a minute. (Longoria laughs.)
(As the ukulele starts back up, a dreamy synthesizer plays alongside it.)
Levy: SPAM, oh, better than ham!
It is loved by all in the land.
We chop and we slice
And combine it with rice
And grind it whenever we can.
(Applause, then laughter. The music ends.)
Levy: So that’s … (Laughter.)
(The sounds of a small audience in an intimate performance space dissipate as the mic is turned off. A low, resonant drone persists, though, playing under Longoria’s narration.)
Longoria: Coming soon on The Experiment is a story of America told through the history of SPAM. You know! The mystery meat in the blue-and-yellow can. From The Atlantic and WNYC Studios: a miniseries, starting February 3.