Ben Fink

“Every Christmas,” author Shane Mitchell tells us, “my father descended the dim cellar stairs to fetch forth a cured ham that had spent up to a year in a cheesecloth sack hanging next to his workbench. After baking it, Dad would carve wafer-thin slivers for my parents’ annual cocktail buffet. The five of us kids would pile our own plates with biscuits layered with ham and dijon mustard. Then, ever frugal, Mom would find dozens of ways to stretch the leftovers. For supper on New Year’s Day, she paired cold ham with hoppin’ john (black-eyed peas and rice), a traditional meal that ensures good luck for the coming year. The hock and leg bone went into a stockpot to flavor okra-and-tomato or split-pea soups. And salty chunks of the meat were stirred into a creamy Macaroni-And-Cheese Casserole–manna from heaven for frost-nipped children.”