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The original "grandma's ham" story

Posted: Mon Nov 21, 2005 11:51 pm
by tom jupille
For those who haven't heard or read it, here's the original version of the "Grandma's Ham" story cited in the PKa vs. PKb thread on the Liquid Chromatography board.

I have a friend whose wife had a family recipe for Christmas ham which involved cutting the ham in half lengthwise (parallel to the bone) and then putting the two halves in a shallow roasting pan. One Christmas eve a few years ago, he was in the kitchen watching his wife cut the ham.
"Honey, I've been meaning to ask: why do you go to the trouble of cutting the ham lengthwise that way?"

Her reply was interesting:
"I don't know. I got the recipe from my mother, and we've always done it that way. She's coming for dinner tomorrow, so if you really want to know, why don't you just ask her?"

Now, my friend is a stubborn type, so the next day, as the family was sitting down to Christmas dinner, he asked his mother-in-law:
"By the way, you know the recipe for Christmas ham? Why do you go to the trouble of cutting it lengthwise that way?"

To which his mother-in-law replied:
"You know, I'm not really sure. I got the recipe from my mother, and we've always done it that way. If you're interested, we're going to the nursing home to visit her later today; why don't you just ask her then?"

Later that day, they did go to the nursing home to visit his wife's grandmother, who was in her late eighties and recuperating from a broken hip (suffered while skiing!). When the familiy gossip slowed down, my friend asked his inevitable question:
"Grandma, you know the recipe for Christmas ham? Why do you go to the trouble of cutting it lengthwise that way?"

His wife's grandmother (who apparently didn't have a very high opinion of my friend's intelligence), fixed him with a withering gaze and said:
"Well, back in the 'thirties, when I first came up with that recipe, we were too poor to afford a big roasting pan, and we had to cut the ham in half in order to make it fit into the pan we did have."

Sixty years later, her grand-daughter was still going the trouble of cutting the ham in half lengthwise ". . . because we've always done it that way!"

Posted: Mon Nov 21, 2005 11:59 pm
by Kostas Petritis
Good one!!!! :D

Posted: Tue Nov 22, 2005 1:32 pm
by DR
A similar (but false) one...
http://www.snopes.com/history/american/gauge.htm

Here is a look into the corporate mind that is very interesting, educational, historical, completely true, and hysterical all at the same time:
The US standard railroad gauge (width between the two rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?

Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots first formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses. Thus, we have the answer to the original question.

Now the twist to the story . . .

There's an interesting extension to the story about railroad gauges and horses' behinds. When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a Horse's Ass!

Posted: Tue Nov 22, 2005 6:24 pm
by tom jupille
:lol: :lol: :lol:

Actually, though, that's sort of relevant to the discussion on the LC board (http://www.sepsci.com/chromforum/viewtopic.php?t=2970) that prompted this thread. Once a "standard" becomes entrenched, it tends to stay, even if the original rationale no longer applies.