Skip to content

The Surprising Birthplace of 20 Favorite Foods and Drinks


Readers Digest

Like superheroes, many beloved dishes, desserts, and drinks have interesting, stupefying, and sometimes even controversial origin stories

The compact square of pork, salt, water, sugar, potato starch, and sodium nitrite contained in the famous blue and yellow can was invented by Jay Hormel, son of the founder of the Hormel company, in rural Minnesota in the late 1920s as a way to reinvent and “peddle the then-unprofitable pork shoulder.” The clever name—a portmanteau for spiced ham—won a Hormel executive’s brother $100 in a contest. Despite the promise of quick, cheap meals, many people were leery of unrefrigerated meat when it first rolled off the assembly line almost 81 years ago. The military quickly found uses for the processed puck of pork, sending more than 100 million cans to troops in the Pacific.