Monday, April 21, 2014

Frances Gray Patton & Ham

Why Frances Gray Patton and ham? Because yesterday was Easter and we traditionally have ham for Easter. We, R.H. and I, always have a little "discussion" when it comes to how long to cook a ham. He, partly right, says it's already cooked and only needs the short cooking time the instructions recommend.

I, on the other hand, prefer my ham to be a beautiful red color, cooked until the flavor intensifies. I won yesterday because I insisted I had three books, by Southern authors, that backed me up, proof that dark ham is the best.

Today I present the first book, Frances Gray Patton's The Finer Things of Life:

"The Young Matrons were tired that February…Mrs. Battle offered to make a tipsy parson, and my mother asked if she couldn't see to the ham, which required soaking, boiling, baking, and innumerable fancy attentions before it was transformed into the noble object that would repose on a silver platter to be carved by the senior vestryman of St. Luke's Parish into paper-thin slices, 

the color of red mahogany."

Did you get that? The color of red mahogany. The Young Matrons in The Finer Things of Life knew what the men of their church liked--well done ham, richly flavored and richly colored.

"Mrs. Battle continued. 'We know which things are Representative and which things are not Representative. And my dear friends'--here her voice rose an octave--'pink ham does not represent St. Luke's Protestant Episcopal Church and, by God's grace, pink ham never shall!'"

Frances Gray Patton is a Southern author of the 1940s and 1950s who I admire with a passion that borders on obsession. Author of Good Morning, Miss Dove and contributor of fiction to all of the popular women's magazines of the day, Mrs. Patton lived in North Carolina with her husband who taught English at Duke University. I imagine her as chic and a woman of the world even though she wrote mainly of domestic themes. 

And I present her as my first expert on the color a ham should be cooked to. I bet she never served a pink ham in her life. 

Later on I'll present two more Southern authors who agree with me. That should lay the question to rest, although I doubt it will.