kentucky ham


Duncan Hines, traveling salesman and future purveyor of boxed cake mix, considered himself an authority on a great many things: hot coffee, Kentucky country-cured ham and how to locate a tasty restaurant meal, in 1935, for under a dollar and a quarter.

By the 1950s, Hines’ name would be plastered on boxes of cake mix; housewives would turn to his products for consistent quality and superior taste. Newspaper photographs featured Hines clad in a white chef’s apron, hoisting a neatly frosted cake or thoughtfully dipping a spoon into a mixing bowl.

But Duncan Hines wasn’t a chef — in truth, he could barely cook. For most of his career, he had just been a businessman, desperate for a decent meal on the road.

Duncan Hines: The Original Road Warrior Who Shaped Restaurant History

Photos: Courtesy of Clinton Lewis/Kentucky Museum/Western Kentucky University

Above: The Hog Killing, Spring 1990

When the Hog killing was made I was Head of the photography program at Salem State College in Massachusetts, then living in Salem, Mass. I always call and keep in touch with my friends in Kentucky throughout the year. During Christmas of 89 I had started talking to my friends about making a hog-killing photograph. My friend a preacher Wayne Riddle suggested the Napier Family as a good family to work with in making this photograph. He said, “They kill hogs the old timey’ way.” We both knew them and I had been photographing and visiting them for at least 5 years then. It should be noted that I have been photographing seriously in this area spending 2 to 3 months each year, some years trips made shorter, but for at least 6 weeks each time, ongoing for now 36 years. Everyone knows me in the community.

The idea and concept for this picture and many of my photographs comes from my Appalachian childhood memories. I write and sketch in my notebooks throughout the winter, when an idea comes and really excites me I call my friends and we discuss. Sometimes my Kentucky friends call me with their ideas. I consider this a collaborative relationship; some photographs materialize this way, from our sharing stories and discussing what is happening currently in the hollers. An important concern is to make pictures of people who have lived this life. Each person in “The Hog Killing,” photograph of that spring in 1990 had multiple experiences from childhood and throughout their lives of hog killings as a part of their natural life and means to survive. John Napier the man seated in the front of photo reminded us, we should hang the hog from a tripod wood frame like he had always done and his son’s volunteered and constructed this tripod frame, something they had done many times. For those not familiar with this ritual, a hog killing is usually an all day affair that utilizes every part of the animal in preparing months of food for a large family, other domesticated animals and the making of bi-products like soap. This photograph actually illustrates the middle of the process when the meat is cleaned, washed and ready to be cut into sections, to make pork chops and ribs; even the head in the pan is saved to be prepared for cooking later. Harry Crews has written an excellent book about the ritual of hog killings called, “A Childhood, The Biography of a Place”.

My early personal experience with this ritual was from my grandpa’s farm in Letcher County. From my childhood memories, this was the most exciting day of the year, up before daylight, making fires, boiling water, the crack of the gun shot, the smells, watching the men work so fast cutting the meat, hearing the sounds the knives made, scalding the hair off the animal and watching water and blood mix and the steam rise, all fascinating. Eating fresh made cracklings later was rewarding and delicious. The woman made soap from the fat, prepared hams and souse while preserving yet other meats. Everything was utilized in some manner. Mountain people consider this a joyous occasion and it is often a community event. If ill will had sprang up between neighbors during the year, on this day-the giving of meat to that neighbor renewed friendships and made solidarity. All of us in this group shared these same life experiences around hog killings.

– Shelby Lee Adams

Bill Nye to Visit Creation Museum for Debate

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” is set to visit Kentucky to debate evolution and biblical creation with the founder of the Creation Museum.

Ken Ham wrote on his Facebook page Thursday that he will square off Feb. 4 with Nye, the former host of a popular science TV show for youths.

The event is likely to attract plenty of attention in scientific and faith circles, as Nye is a high-profile advocate of science education and Ham is a respected leader among Christians who believe the Bible’s origin story is a factual account of the Earth’s beginnings.

Ham had been hoping to attract the star of TV’s “Bill Nye The Science Guy” to the northern Kentucky museum after Nye said in an online video last year that teaching creationism was bad for children. The video was viewed nearly 6 million times on YouTube.

“Having the opportunity to hold a cordial but spirited debate with such a well-known personality who is admired by so many young people will help bring the creation-evolution issue to the attention of many more people, including youngsters,” Ham said in a release Thursday.

The Creation Museum has been lauded by supporters and prodded by scientists for exhibits that assert the Earth was created in a few days about 6,000 years ago. It also has displays with dinosaurs and humans living alongside each other, in contradiction to scientific findings that the two species were separated by more than 60 million years.

Nye said in an Associated Press interview in September that steering children away from evolution and teaching creationism would hurt scientific advances. Science has demonstrated that the Earth is billions of years old, and “if that conflicts with your beliefs, I strongly feel you should question your beliefs,” he told the AP.

Nye, who is executive director of the Planetary Society, said in that interview that he would be willing to travel to Kentucky and debate Ham if the museum paid his travel expenses.

An email message sent to Nye’s assistant was not returned Thursday. Nye agreed to participate in the debate early last month, said Mark Looy, vice president of outreach for Answers in Genesis, the ministry that operates the Creation Museum.

Ham said some “mocking, strident evolutionists” have invited him and other Creation Museum staff to debates in the past, but they have declined. Ham wanted to engage with Nye because, “as a serious advocate for his beliefs, Nye’s opinions carry weight in society,” Ham said in the release.

The event will be titled “Is Creation A Viable Model of Origins?” Tickets to the evening event at the museum’s Legacy Hall will be $25.