The Sundress Cookbook series brings you meals made by our writers and the stories behind them. In this installment, we have ham and potatoes with Jennifer Jackson Berry.
Hands down, my favorite meal ever. Like death row meal. Like end of the world zombies coming meal. My husband calls this the blandest meal ever, and he sits out Sunday dinners at my Mom’s house when she’s making it. This is from a man who grew up in a household that made meatballs with only one ingredient: meat. No garlic, no seasonings, no bread crumbs, no splash of milk. He’s not wrong. Without the apple cider vinegar, this wouldn’t be anything special. But fork-smashed potatoes laced with bits of ham and kernels of corn (I don’t eat green beans, ever!) swimming in vinegar, that’s something special to me.
I don’t think this has ever been written down, and as I’m doing so, I can’t help but think Lindsay Bluth Fünke’s Hot Ham Water. I promise this isn’t that.
Ham & Potatoes
Leftover ham bone
Potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
Apple cider vinegar for serving
Place leftover hambone in large stockpot or Dutch oven and add enough water to cover the bone. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Add potatoes and cook until tender. Add corn and green beans, heat through. Drain excess water and serve with apple cider vinegar.
The Simple Meal
Praise the simple meal of potatoes boiled
with Easter’s ham bone, green beans and corn
added at the end to mix with ham pieces loosed,
the marrow. Praise that the bone is frozen
and often forgotten for months, this meal appearing
late summer when the corn is fresh-shucked,
the beans snapped, not drained from a can.
Praise the tradition of a small yellow pitcher,
bigger than a mismatch from a cream and sugar set,
smaller than a gravy boat, filled with apple cider vinegar
to pour over the plate. Praise the tradition larger
than my family of remembering harshness,
remembering bite, even in times of plenty.
Praise being in awe of simplicity,
at least sometimes.
Jennifer Jackson Berry is the author of The Feeder (YesYes Books, 2016). Her most recent chapbook Bloodfish was published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2019 as part of their Keystone Chapbook Series. Her other chapbooks include When I Was a Girl (Sundress Publications) and Nothing But Candy (Liquid Paper Press). She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.