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Getting a spiral cut ham for your Easter dinner? You can thank this Detroit salesman.

photo of spiral-cut ham
Brent Hofacker
Adobe Stock
"One night he [Harry J. Hoenselaar] had a dream that there was a better way to slice the ham.”";

Sprial cut hams with a sweet honey glaze are a staple of many Easter Sunday dining spreads. That now common method of slicing up a ham has its roots right here in Michigan. 

New York Times food correspondent Kim Severson joins Stateside to talk about tracing the origins of the spiral cut ham.

Severson lives in Atlanta, but she grew up in the Midwest and attended Michigan State University. Severson says she became interested in tracking down the origins of Honey Baked Ham when she started to notice how popular it was among Southerners. 

"As a food writer, you have to come up with some interesting new thing to write about each year [for the holidays], and I recently moved the American South. In Atlanta, everyone eats spiral cut hams, and Honey Baked Hams specifically."

She traced the roots of the glazed, cured meat back to the Midwest — Detroit, Michigan to be precise — for her recent article titled "The Sweet Success of Spiral-Cut Ham." Severson says the popular spiral cut ham got its start in the 1930s with Detroit ham salesman Harry J. Hoenselaar. His job was to go around and try to convince the soda fountain clerks to buy his brand of ham for sandwiches.

Though he was known for his knife skills, Hoenselaar thought there had to be a more efficient way to slice the ham, which would in turn help him sell more meat. Severson says one night Hoenselaar had a dream of how to do just that. He built a new kind of meat slicer out of "a tire jack, a pie tin, a washing machine motor, and a knife." That invention would ultimately lead to the founding of the Honey Baked Ham company, which today has more than 400 stores around the country. 

Listen to the interview above for more details about the Michigan roots of the popular holiday meat. 

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Katie Raymond.

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