A Dish Named “Ham Balls” Almost Ruined My Marriage


My husband, like me, was raised in Brooklyn, however he’s second-generation. His dad and mom emigrated from a overseas land I knew little or no about, with plenty of white folks, farms, and Walmarts: Iowa.

Twelve years into our marriage, I nonetheless haven’t been there, however by household visiting us in New York and the wonders of Fb, I’ve discovered a lot. I perceive that Iowa isn’t just a few idyllic wondrous fantasyland that exists to provide us hope for a extra stunning world, like Mayberry or Canada. And I’m proud to say that I’ve scaled what I feared was insurmountable: believing that my husband’s household is truly that good. These folks like one another a lot that they’ve had an enormous household reunion each single yr since 1918. We’ve met 4th, fifth cousins we knew nothing about, and you recognize what? They’re very nice.

Grandma Flossie would ship us handwritten notes concerning the goings on in her backyard, and tales about all of the completely different birds she’d see in her yard. Aunt Pat posts dispatches from the Democratic Membership of Madison County, and voices her displeasure concerning the present state of affairs with a politeness and integrity I do know for sure that I’ll by no means be able to. Uncle Jim owned a pharmacy with an It’s a Great Life–type soda fountain, smack dab in the course of Foremost Avenue in Winterset, Iowa: inhabitants 5190, coated bridge capital of America, and birthplace of John Wayne.

Know what it’s like rising up a Brooklyn Italian? It’s as dramatic as a goddamn Scorsese film. There are the Sunday dinners that finish in screaming and tossed plates, the incessant shit speaking behind the backs of the folks you’re keen on, and—marone—the vendettas! No Italian household is full with out one vendetta in opposition to a detailed relative, and multiple convoluted revenge plot, as a result of any individual’s received a greater recipe for Sunday Sauce than one other. You suppose it’s regular till you get to know salt-of-the-earth of us from the Midwest—folks you’ve all the time mistrusted as a result of they smile and say hiya while you see them on the street. Who does that? Do they suppose they’re higher than me, performing all good?

I nonetheless have a protracted solution to go at the start Midwestern (state gala’s, milk with dinner, craft tasks on Pinterest) makes complete sense, however I’ve made great progress—climbed many mountains of Jell-O, so to talk. I’ve conquered my concern of canned cream of mushroom soup, and found that it makes a reasonably bangin’ meatloaf—one other factor I’ve discovered to like. I’ve crocheted issues very poorly, although I did make a wonderful pair of nipple tassels for my father-in-law one Christmas. Not kidding about that. Iowans might look like harmless Christian Donna Reed throwbacks, however expensive white bread Jesus, can they inform a grimy joke. I’ve blushed a quite a lot of instances, and I’ve been to Cancun.

However there was one revelation that went far past nipple tassels and gelatin, one which brought about such an epic battle between Matt and I that I nonetheless maintain a twinge of resentment to at the present time. We have been almost a decade into our relationship once I spied this Fb put up from Uncle Jim: “Three extra trays of ham balls to bake earlier than the annual Hamball Dinner at St. Paul Lutheran. Can’t watch for tomorrow evening!”

Ham ball dinner. Ham. In balls. They aren’t only a dish—oh, no no no, ham balls are an occasion. You get all of the folks in your church collectively, everybody makes ham balls, and you then stroll across the church basement sampling all of them. This isn’t only a quirky little recipe Matt “forgot” to say. That is an integral pillar of Iowan society! So sure, Matt. How is it that in all our years of marriage, I’ve by no means heard of ham balls earlier than?!

Ham balls are meatballs…..made from ham. I’ve made balls of beef, turkey, lamb, seitan, lentils—how had I by no means considered ham? It’s so easy and so genius. The recipe is one thing that appears to be straight out of a World Conflict II rationing cookbook, and was most likely missed for many years due to hideous classic meals images. However as I held Uncle Jim’s recipe in my palms, I spotted that I had discovered treasure, a priceless heirloom that had been tucked away in a dusty nook of the attic. If I introduced these balls onto Antiques Roadshow, I’d make a bazillion .

After a pleasant lengthy bout of screaming and threats of divorce on the grounds of willful neglect and fraud, a cellphone name was made and Uncle Jim despatched over his recipe post-haste. The recipe makes sufficient for a church group—or breakfast, lunch and dinner for a girl who’s making up for misplaced time.

Makes 24 meatballs

  • 1

    pound floor ham

  • 1

    pound floor pork

  • 1

    pound floor beef

  • 1

    cup milk

  • 1

    sleeve crushed graham crackers

  • 1


  • 1

    can tomato soup

  • 1 half

    cups brown sugar

  • 1/three

    cup white vinegar

  • 2

    tablespoons dry mustard

Go to Recipe

This text was initially revealed in March 2017, however we’re working it once more to loosen up your day and since we adore it.

Meat, Tradition