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Commentary Detail

Ham and FHB
Commentary by: Elaine Viets
Aired January 17, 2007

FHB – family hold back – is an ancient tradition when unexpected guests show up. It means the family – especially the kids – should keep their mitts off the food until the guests are served.

Many people don’t realize some stores used to cater to FHB. My grandparents had one. They sold Sunday ham.

In the 1950s my grandparents had a confectionary, the old name for a convenience store, in South St. Louis. My parents helped out on Sundays. I read comic books and ate penny candy.

The big supermarkets were closed on Sundays. Kids would come in for 10 cents’ worth of ham. Back then, a dime bought four slices of boiled ham. When unexpected guests showed up on Sunday afternoon, mom would fix a platter of cold cuts, and send a kid to my grandparents’ store for 10 cents worth of ham.

Ham outranked baloney, braunschweiger, even pickle loaf. It was too expensive for everyday lunches. The four precious slices of ham were draped over the cold cut platter, and the order went out: FHB.

The guests were allowed first choice. They always took the ham.

If there was a slice left over, Dad got it.

Kids never ate Sunday ham. They just ferried it from the confectionary to the kitchen. But nothing smelled quite as good as Sunday ham.

My grandparents and their store are long gone. I can eat all the ham I want, any day of the week.

But I know it won’t be as good as Sunday ham – now that there’s no holding back.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets


Elaine Viets is a freelance writer.

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