2005/03/25

Why Ham?

There's one aspect concerning Easter observances that has puzzled me for quite awhile now. Why ham for Easter? I mean, I like ham well enough, but why is it the meat of choice for Easter feasting?

So I asked my wife (who, coincidentally, is a great cook). She didn't know. I asked friends. They didn't know. I even asked Leslie Kelly, writer of the Whining and Dining blog for the CA. She didn't know. But she did have suggestions for wines to go with the "Easter" ham. (By the way, according to an email from her, she's having sushi in NYC for Easter.)
The only alternative left was to track it down for myself. Here's what I found.

What would Easter dinner be without ham? This type of pork is popular throughout the world. The custom of serving ham at Easter goes back as far as William the Conquerer, who served it along with such things as gammon and tansy pudding.

The custom of eating ham around Easter actually goes back before Christianity, and had a practical origin. According to Imponderables author David Feldman, at the beginning of spring fresh meat was not readily available. Pagans would bury fresh pork legs in the sand by the sea during the fall and winter. The pork was cured by the constant "marinating" of the salt water. Come spring, the preserved meat was cooked over wood fires. Slaughtering pigs in the fall would produce perfect spring hams. Others believe that ham became traditional because the pig is a symbol of prosperity in many cultures.

So now we know. Hmmm, hammm.



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