Food ham
As a child, Easter for me meant a once-a-year butcher shop-bought Virginia whole Ham. Aunt’s brown sugar, tangerine and ginger glaze turned that ham into the best-tasting ham, ever. (Contributed)

“Easter is the only time when it’s perfectly safe to put all of your eggs in one basket.” —Evan Esar, an American Humorist

Of all the holidays we celebrate in America, 12 of these are National and five are Occasions, with Easter being my favorite Occasion. As a child, Easter for me meant a new dress for church and a once-a-year butcher shop-bought Virginia whole Ham.

The first Easter that I can remember I was 7 years old and being told I might choose between a new Easter dress or new shoes. Now the new dress would not come from a department store, but from the talented hands of my aunt and her black Singer treadle sewing machine.

Aunt was a “sturdy” God-fearing no-nonsense woman, born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia. Aunt was frugal and yet generous with food from her garden and kitchen. Once a year aunt would buy a Virginia Ham to be shared with the family gathered around the Easter table. Aunt’s brown sugar, tangerine and ginger glaze turned that ham into the best-tasting ham, ever.

The week before Easter I would get to choose the 10-cent dress pattern from J.C. Penney’s Department store in downtown Aberdeen, Wash. If I chose the new shoes, they would have to be Buster Brown’s from the shoe store of the same name.

Buster Brown was a fictional young boy who was created in the early 1900s and was featured in the comic section of our local newspaper. Buster had a little girlfriend, Mary Jane, who wore red patent leather shoes and a dog named Tige. Tige was an ugly and fierce-looking pit-bull with a white circle around his left eye.

There were also candy and chewing gum wrappers bearing the name of Buster Brown. Little Buster made his home in a shoe and every kid I knew yearned to wear Buster Brown shoes.

The Buster Brown’s store did carry red patent leather Mary Janes, much like the shoes the Good Witch gifted Dorothy in the movie, “The Wizard of Oz.” This was the shoe every little girl yearned for; however, this particular shoe was not for this little girl. Aunt had no money for frivolous things, such as red patent-leather shoes.

The original Buster Brown’s that I wore were brown sturdy shoes, meant to withstand the game of marbles played on the ground, with toes being dragged through dirt and gravel.

I remember going with aunt to the department store and looking through package after package of McCall’s little girl’s dress patterns, finally choosing one with puffy sleeves, which looked much like the ones hanging on the dress rack in the J.C. Penney’s store. I decided to settle for the dress pattern with puffy sleeves over the Buster Brown’s.

That year, in April of 1942, my grandmother became ill, and aunt sent for family from the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia to live with and care for grandmother. These mountain people had very little, being from a mining town whose mines had shut down, leaving families extremely poor from lack of income. Cousin Doris, my age, was among this family. I was overjoyed to have someone my own age living just a few blocks away.

I was overjoyed until Easter morning as I watched aunt going through my clothes and sharing them with Cousin Doris…among the clothes, aunt included my new Easter dress with its puffy sleeves. I remember my aunt giving me that stern look that said, “Don’t fuss, she has only had hand-me-downs, she needs a new dress far more than you.” I cried all night long, my face buried in my pillow.

All the week following Easter I was sad, and aunt was busy in her sewing room “making aprons,” she said.  

It was a few days after Easter that I found an identical puffy-sleeved dress to the one aunt had given my cousin Doris, hanging on the door to my closet, and under it, on the floor, was a pair of shiny red patent leather Mary Jane shoes.

Aunt owed the shoes to Dorothy’s Good Witch who could make magic happen.

Easter Ham with Ginger Tangerine Glaze and Sweet Potatoes alongside

(The Ham shown is 4.5 lbs and cost $36.31. Large enough for a family of 6 with leftovers.)

This recipe will make 1-1/4 cup of Glaze, enough for a 4-5-lbs ham.

Parboil Sweet Potatoes until “nearly” cooked. Peel and slice 1/2-inch thick. Set aside.

One Precooked Ham

2 Tbsp. butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup orange marmalade

1 Tbsp. light corn syrup

2 tsp. Tangerine grated zest

1/4 cup of Tangerine juice.

1 tsp grated fresh gingerroot.

1 tsp. Allspice

1/2 tsp. black pepper

In a saucepan melt butter and add rest of the ingredients. Bring to a low simmer, and stir until slightly thickened. Remove pan from heat.

Slice 2 UNPEELED Tangerines horizontally about one-fourth of an inch thick and add to glaze. Let sit half an hour and then arrange tangerine slices on top of Ham. Secure in place with toothpicks. Pour glaze over top of ham.

In a roasting pan arrange Sweet Potatoes around base of ham.

Heat ham in a 300deg. oven until quite warm and glaze begins to caramelize over potatoes and potatoes are done.

Note: Oranges and Yams are good substitutes for this recipe.

Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].

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Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].


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