Hambone was purportedly what Ava Gardner called Mickey Rooney way back when, probably meaning a preppy loaded up with cologne and Brilliantine.
Hambone is also a black styled dance now almost forgotten.Â
In each case the term does not seem very conjuring of its meaning if you don’t know it already. So how did it come about?
FWIW, my OED (not the OED) says the sense of “inferior actor” comes from an elaboration of “ham”.Â That may apply to Mickey Rooney’s character (though not to Rooney, I’d say).Â The entry doesn’t mention the dance at all.
Either you’re understandably ignorant or I’m teaching grandma to suck eggs.Â When it comes to swine,”butt” is the shoulder, and the rear quarter is the ham.Â
That fellow playing rhythm on the vid clip is slapping himself, ahem, on the ham.Â I always understood Hambone to be the nick of a fellow in the percussion section of the band, especially a jug band, or of a bass player thumping rhythm on his bass), and was unaware of a dance called that.
Incidentally, the pork butt is often cured and sold as a “picnic ham” but it’s better cooked low and slow.Â Â Mario Batelli says it’s his favorite roast, and he has a wonderful recipe on the Esquire siteÂ ( http://www.esquire.com/features/food-drink/ESQ0407-APR_PORKBUTT ) but my recipe is great, too:Â rinse it off, drip dry, wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil, sealing edges, plop it in a roasting pan. Give it an hour at 425F, then reduce to 275F for 3-5 hours.Â Add salt and pepper. Give the turkey and ham to the soup kitchen, because everyone will want this.Â
(Actually, it’s ON topic, as it leaves you speechless.)
I think I’d better opt for “understandably ignorant”.Â I did not know that the butt is the shoulder of a pig; and while I might have figured out that the guy was slapping himself on the ham, I didn’t think of it.
I’m interested in your notions of how to cook a pork butt.Â I usually live in extended-stay hotels; thus I’m equipped with microwave, stove and refrigerator, but almost never an oven.Â But it happens that just now I’m in a rented house, and I’m thinking I should find excuses to use the oven while I have it: pot pies, whole turkeys, maybe broil a steak instead of frying it, that sort of thing.Â Slow-cooking a pork butt may be just what I need.Â How many pounds am I cooking this way?
I regularly roast a boneless pork butt in the toaster oven. What you need is a supply of those formed foil baking pans, the kind that come with silvered cardboard lids that you can crimp the edges around to hold them tightly in place. Place the butt into the pan, fat side up if there’s a clear distinction, with your choice of seasonings (I go for black pepper, dried cilantro leaf, and whatever other contents of the spice cabinet fall easily to hand, along with a little meat tenderizer for good measure). Either crimp the lid into place or turn a second foil pan upside over the first and seal it on as a domed lid.
Put the whole thing in the toaster oven for about an hour at 300-350 degrees, then turn it down to about 225 and go to bed. At a minimum of nine hours after you started (and I’ve gone as long as 22 hours), take off the lid, raise the temp back to 350, and give it another half-hour to an hour to brown the surface. After cooking that long, there’s no chance of toughness even if you omit the tenderizer (I’ve inadvertently roasted a bone-in butt this way, and even the bone tenderized to the point of being chewable), and the low-and-slow process ensures that the seasoning permeates the entire roast.
Drain off the liquid (there’ll be a lot of it) and save it to make gravy or sauces from, and let the meat cool for a while so it doesn’t just fall apart into a big mess when you try to slice it.
1970s rock bands liked to use rumba shakes and cymbal shakes. The players would often strike the instruments on the sides of their legs, which must be why they were also said to be hamboning.
Anyway, the 2 meanings at top must be by 2 different words that only look the same: The hambone that is the African musical art based on slapping the thighs, and the hambone that came from the Old English word for ‘bad actor’, hence a type of personality marked by excessive affectations. Different words, same spelling.
Now when was the last time you saw any grandmas sucking eggs?
Back to the Online Etymology dictionary.Â It had never occurred to me that they might come from different words, but according to them you’re right.Â No, wait, you’re only partly right.Â Ok, now I’m not sure how to call it:
Back in the olden days, the Greek word for the calf of the leg was kneme (ÎºÎ½á½µÎ¼Î·) and the Proto-Indo-European was similar; they spell it konemo-.Â By the Dark Ages, konemo- had evolved into Proto-Germanic hamma-, Old Norse hÃ¶m, Middle Low German and Middle Dutch hamme and Old High German hamma.Â By the time of Old English, hamm meant the hollow back of the knee.Â Around the 1630s it meant the meat of a hog’s hind leg.
In 1863 there was a minstrel song called “The Ham-Fat Man”.Â In 1880 the term “hamfatter” was used to mean a low-grade actor.Â By 1889 it was written that the latter came from the former, but by then the Americans had already shortened it to “ham”.Â “The song, a black-face number, has nothing to do with acting, so the connection must be with the quality of acting in minstrel shows, where the song was popular.”
So it sounds like the meaning related to acting has nothing to do with the meaning of the meat (to which extent RobertB is right), yet OED claims it still came from the same word, coÃ¯ncidentally.
Bob Bridges said
I’m interested in your notions of how to cook a pork butt. I usually live in extended-stay hotels; thus I’m equipped with microwave, stove and refrigerator, but almost never an oven. But it happens that just now I’m in a rented house, and I’m thinking I should find excuses to use the oven while I have it: pot pies, whole turkeys, maybe broil a steak instead of frying it, that sort of thing. Slow-cooking a pork butt may be just what I need. How many pounds am I cooking this way?
Pork butt runs from4 to14 pounds per package. Mario prefers bone-in, and I agree that the flacor is better, but it’s getting harder and hader to find. Costco has better meat than supermarkets, so I buy there, where there are two butts to a cryovac package; I cook one and toss the other i the deepfreeze. bb
Online sources also mention “hamfat” as either an ingredient in blackface makeup, or else as a solvent for removing it. Hambone as a musical performance (thanks for the clip!) brings to mind another form of body percussion: bones: a rhythmic accompaniment, often to fiddle music, in which a pig, or maybe a cow, supplies a couple of ribs for the percussionist to beat together. Here’s the Carolina Chocolate Drops:
One more instance of vernacular American drumming comes to mind: fiddlesticks, also a recent topic of the show. Here’s the late Dewy Balfa:Â
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