I recently read the first book I've read in what seems like a very long time. I was seriously worried that between a busy life, facebook and twitter, I had lost any semblance of an attention span. Would I ever go back to that activity I once so treasured? Reading books? It certainly helps that I surround myself with smart food people. After a road trip to the Iowa State Fair, my friend Kelly (fittingly, she is an English teacher) mentioned Beth Howard's book, Making Piece, A Memoir of love, loss and pie.
A group of my food blogger buds decided to read the book, then meet about it and eat pie. Food book club turned out to be a great way to get me back into my old book worm ways. It helped that I am just Smitten with Beth's life... she has traveled and had adventures all over. She currently lives in the house that is in the painting American Gothic, which is in Eldon, Iowa. Very cool! In fact, us book clubbers are going up there in a couple months to take a pie class from her.
I liked the book. At points I was scared that it was going to be too much like Eat Pray Love, which I couldn't finish because of the whining. No worries, I liked Beth's voice and attitude, and I read the whole book with enthusiasm! Making Piece is about Beth grieving the sudden death of her husband, so there are a lot of soul-searching and soul-wrenching moments. I empathized with her on many levels, and found the story mostly inspirational. Especially the parts about pie.
Pie is Beth Howard's savior. It helps her stay calm and meditate. It also helps her connect with people, because... everyone loves pie, right? Making pie and making people happy is warming for the spirit, like a hug for your soul. In short, it makes the world a better place. I have similar feeling about cooking and food. Everyone on the planet eats, and everyone has some sort of food that they just LOVE to eat. A food that comforts them. Everyone can GET that about other people, if they think about it.
Kelly read the book before I did (see her related post... Better Than Sex Silk Pie... oh my!), and was swift to point out that the book had a part about Balls. Ham Balls. We knew that was what I had to bring to our book club meeting. So perfect. There is not a recipe in the book, but it mentions that they contained ground ham, ground beef, tomato and... graham cracker crumbs. Yep. Googling Ham Balls, Iowa gave me several results that were exactly like what the book described. Of course, they all made enough balls to feed a church group, and I was only feeding 5 pie-eating ladies. So I pared it down, and this was the result. At first I thought the graham crackers were a really weird ingredient, then I remembered I had made some stew that had ginger snaps in it and it was delicious. The crumbs add a deep, toasty sweetness to the meats.
-1.5 lbs. ham, ground or chopped as finely as you can manage.
-1 lb. ground beef
-1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
-.5 cup milk
-2 eggs, beaten
-2 cans tomato soup
-1.5 cups brown sugar
-1 cup vinegar
-2 teaspoons yellow mustard
Combine the first 5 ingredients and mix well. Form into golf ball-sized balls. Heat some oil in a skillet and brown the balls, in batches, on all sides (you do not need to cook them all the way through at this point, just brown them for flavor). Meanwhile, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Put the browned balls in a crock pot and pour the sauce over them. Cook on low for 5 hours. Serve hot.
Related posts from the Archives:
Year of the Balls posts: