How to Cook a Wolf Week, Day 4: Like a Warm Morning in Spring

Breakfast was hot cereal (steel cut oats) with milk and a little brown sugar. Lunch was polenta, a dish I have written about many times, and I think is the ultimate poor food. It’s tasty and about as cheap as it gets. As MFK Fisher puts it:

Polenta is on of those ageless culinary lords, like bread. It has sprung from the  hunger of mankind, and without apparent effort has always carried with it a feeling of strength and dignity and well being.

It costs little to prepare, if there is little to spend, or it can be extravagantly, opulently odorous with wines and such. It can be made doggedly, with one ear cocked for the old wolf’s sniffing under the door, or it can be turned out as a well-nourished gesture to other, simpler days.   But no matter what conceits it may be decked with, its fundamental simplicity survives, to comfort our souls as well as our bellies, the way a good solid fugue does, or a warm morning in the spring.

Bam. I ate mine with a few sautéed veggies.

Dinner was ham. My roommate put it best: “I don’t mind ham, but I don’t…seek it out.” Exactly my sentiments.  Fisher’s describes her recipe for Baked Ham Slice as “One good way to cook meat slowly without feeling completely extravagant…”

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Baked Ham Slice
From How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher (1942).

1 one-inch slice of ham (“or thicker if you can afford it!”)
1 sweet potato for each person
1 cup brown sugar
1 handful parsley
2 teaspoon hot mustard
1 tart apple for each person
1 cup hot water (“or cider, or wine”)

I set the ham slice in a shallow casserole, then spread it with minced parsley and the mustard.  I was skeptical about the combination of mustard and ham, but I trusted Fisher (it turned out to be awesome).  I placed sliced apples and potatoes in the casserole around the ham, and poured in the hot water.  I sprinkled everything with brown sugar before sliding it in the oven at 325 degrees, for about 40 minutes (until the potatoes were tender).

The entire apartment was filled with the homey smells of cooking ham.  When it finally came out of the oven, I was so anxious to eat it, I forgot to snap a photo.  Just imagine a delicious ham, swimming in sweet juices, befriending supple apples and potatoes.

No, I don’t seek out ham–but I would seek out baked ham slice any day.

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