Friday, February 12, 2010

Did I ever tell you....

about the ham balls?

If you are family this is a story that everyone knows - one of those familial stories that will probably haunt me the rest of my life. First you have to have a little background.

My ex-mother-in-law could cook. She was one of those southern women who could get in the kitchen and whip up a meal without much effort, thought or recipe on hand. One of her recipes that she would whip up was ham balls. She would take leftover ham and grind it in the food processor and proceed to make a meat ball just like it was ground beef. And they were good. Not just good, they were great.

So during one of my parent's visits I had cooked a spiral ham a few days prior and we had left over ham. We had sandwiches. We had omelets. We had ham and ham and ham and I still had leftover ham. What's a girl to do? I thought back to Momma Donna's ham balls and I decided to whip up a batch. Apparently whip is the word of the day.

Now if you knew my Momma, you know that she hated onions. Period. You don't put them in any dish you are serving to her. Ever. As you can imagine that didn't sit well with me. You can't make a meatball without onions; so you can't make ham balls without them either. And I didn't.

I chopped the onion up super fine and went about making the ham balls. Because the ham is already cooked, ham balls have a tendency to be a little dry. Momma Donna served hers with a country gravy and so did I. All the better to hide the oniony goodness inside my dears.

And there we all were gathered around the table. Mom was sitting next to me and she had already polished off her first serving of ham balls. Then she went back for seconds but she skipped the gravy. Which I didn't give much thought to until I looked over at her plate. She had cut her meatball in half and there was a chunk of onion sticking right out of the thing.

"Oh. My. Gawd. She is gonna kill me!" I thought to myself. What to do? What to do?

Er. Um.

"Hey Mom, you need some gravy - take some gravy, let me get you the gravy. For the love all of all things holy will someone please PASS THE GRAVY." I knew the gravy would cover up my devious cooking tactics. But she declined and I kept pushing the gravy off on her. I was insistent and feeling oh, so guilty. Then she finally understood and spied the onion. Man alive folks, I don't think she ever forgave me. Heck, I know she didn't. Despite the fact that she loved the ham balls and went back for seconds - it didn't matter. She didn't finish the rest of her ham balls. I can just imagine she mentally went through every meal I ever cooked for her and wondered if I onionized it. And I always did. And she only caught me once - but once was all it took!

Anywho - I know she never forgave me because a few years later we went to visit with her best friend Edna and Edna related the whole ham ball story to me - I didn't even get a chance to tell her. Mom was so traumatized that she went home and told Edna about what I had done. Edna went on to say how mad she was with Mom for being upset with me about the onions in the ham balls. I guess Edna thought it was something silly to be upset with someone over.

Edna had been in a nursing home for a while before Mom got sick. She never knew how sick Mom was and I was so busy that I couldn't get up to tell her. She had suffered a few strokes and I just assumed it was best to not upset her. She couldn't come visit or call Mom - or come to her funeral. Edna passed on less than two months after Mom did. I like thinking how surprised Edna must have been when she met with Momma on the other side. I imagine them together now. Having lunch. In heaven's onion-free cafeteria.



Why didn't you post the Ham Ball recipe?

Because I just threw it all together without a recipe: eggs, bread crumbs, spices and oh yeah: onions!

Ham balls. They sound delish!

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