Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hamming It Up at Easter

No, it’s not so much the case here in Texas, where brisket seems to be the meat of choice for Easter feasts, but in the rest of the country, at least, on Easter Sunday, people eat ham.

It is more than a blip in sales at those spiral cut ham stores. Easter makes their year.

But yesterday as I was buying my package of ham slices on sale I had to stop and ask myself why the heck we Americans eat ham at Easter.

It’s not like Jesus ate ham. Jesus, after all, was Jewish and eschewed the products of porkdom. Jesus kept kosher, I think, even though the New Testament doesn’t mention it at all, I think anyone who called himself a rabbi kept kosher.

So I looked it up.

And no, it hasn’t got a single thing to do with religion. Like just about all Easter traditions, eating ham at Easter has nothing to do with Jesus. Like just about all Easter traditions, it all has to do with springtime.

In the before times, before we had electricity, before we had refrigeration, we Americans did our slaughtering in the fall and the meats that weren’t eaten then were preserved through a process of curing, a long slow process that took all winter to complete. So really, the first opportunity to put out a spread for an Easter feast came just as the curing process was complete.

A happy coincidence that became tradition after ice boxes and later, refrigerators, became part of the household furniture.

Now on to my next investigation. Why the heck do Germans eat carp on Christmas Eve?

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