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Lamb-a-Ham-a-Ding-Dong

April 5, 2012

With all the craziness around the FUSSYlittleBALLOT, I’ve almost forgotten there are two major holidays right around the corner: Easter and Passover. I think I’m actually in denial about Passover.

My mother, stepfather, sister and her gentleman caller are all coming up to Casa del Fussy to celebrate the holiday. It’s a spring festival, so I hope to get springlike things on the menu. I’m planning a pea and ricotta thing and maybe something to do with fennel pollen. But besides those I suppose the rest of the meal will be fairly traditional and solidly Eastern European.

But I don’t want to talk about the thing I know about. I want to talk about what seems like the more interesting dichotomy surrounding Easter. There could be a simple and easy explanation for this, but it seems as if people break into two camps: those who prefer lamb and those who want a ham.

Let’s discuss.

In college I dated a girl who invited me to her parents’ house for Easter. You know what’s awful? I can’t remember her name, but I remember that her mom made an amazing leg of lamb with a spinach pie on the side. It was incredible.

Lamb makes a lot of sense in spring. It’s the season. Sheep are having babies, those babies are getting meat on their bones, and there they are off in the fields looking cute and delicious.

Ham makes a holiday. It’s a festive joint of meat that is sweet, salty and smoky. One ham serves an awful lot of people, and it’s damn easy to prepare. Heck, if you get a HoneyBaked ham, all you have to do is take it out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature. That’s right. There is no heat involved with the proper preparation of this famous brand of spiral-sliced and glazed pig leg. If you don’t believe me, check out the instructions yourself. Heat ruins this bad boy.

But on the other hand, ham feels very much like a winter dish. It’s smoked and it’s cured. The meat is preserved to last through the barren months of winter.

I don’t begrudge anyone his or her meaty centerpiece of choice. Really, I’m just curious which one you prefer, and which one you are going to have this weekend. My goal is to live vicariously through you all, as we will roast a lamb shank (sans meat) and use the bone as a reminder of the sacrifice that happened a long long time ago, but there will be no lamb.

Probably, like all other holidays, we will enjoy some roast chicken. Although I might supplement that with some brisket as well.

Sadly, I don’t think I’ll have the energy to execute the most delicious Passover dessert ever. Maybe next year. This year I’m keeping it simple. At least as simple as any meal can be that involves fennel pollen.

I still need to figure out exactly the level of our observance this year. It’s always fraught with peril. Surely you will be hearing the details of this and more in the days to come. Seders are fun. Giving up bread and pasta for a week is decidedly less so. But that’s the point. More on this later.

For now, I’d love to be regaled with tales of Easter and all of its delights.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. derryX permalink
    April 5, 2012 9:45 am

    From what I’ve seen on Curb Your Enthusiasm, seders look like lots of fun. I’d definitely compete with the kids to find the afikoman; I love money.

    Easter in my house was always a roasted leg of lamb and some kind pasta dish, either a tortellini soup or manicotti. It wasn’t my favorite holiday meal growing up, but I definitely appreciate it more now.

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    April 5, 2012 10:00 am

    Your college GF was no doubt Greek: spinach pie and lamb. For me, it’s “Agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi.” “Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world.” So I have lamb.

  3. Jessica R permalink
    April 5, 2012 10:24 am

    Kielbasa, Kielbasa, Kielbasa. Oh, and we do have some Ham, but the star of the show is Kielbasa!!

    My family celebrates a traditional Ukrainian Easter. This consists of: Everyone at the table sharing a piece cut from the same egg, egg salad, pickled beet with horseradish relish, Paska bread with raisins, butter (the butter in the shape of a lamb is always popular), KIELBASA, ham and mustard.

    • -R. permalink
      April 5, 2012 11:09 am

      Yeah! Butter lamb. My grandmother always had one at Easter (along with the kielbasa, golumpki, pierogies (cheese, potato, sauerkraut and of course, prune) and several loaves of homemade babka. Wonderful memories.

    • Chrystal permalink
      April 5, 2012 12:49 pm

      Jessica R’s Easter sounds just like mine, traditional Ukrainian. Everything was also put into a basket and blessed the day before at the Ukrainian church. But it really is all about the kielbasa and the grated beet and horseradish relish.

      We’ve never had lamb and I don’t think my family has made lamb ever.

  4. April 5, 2012 10:44 am

    We’ll be having brisket at our house as usual this year. Growing up, my hubby’s family had ham. Always ham. His mom wasn’t the most adventurous cook, so I think lamb was a bit far afield for her. I also think that lamb was too expensive for his mom. Ham is always on sale at Easter time, and she cannot pass up a good sale price! Personally, I’m not a fan of lamb for the most part. However, a nice baby lambchop, cooked perfectly – delicious!

  5. April 5, 2012 11:11 am

    My mother liked lamb, my father liked ham, and my siblings and I liked rhymes. Accordingly, Easter dinner was always “Lamb, Ham, and Yams.”

  6. Kerosena permalink
    April 5, 2012 11:26 am

    The Polish Catholic and Irish Catholic contingents of my family are ham people all the way. There is kielbasa, but that’s not Easter-specific.

  7. April 5, 2012 11:39 am

    I’ve never liked lamb. Also, I’m a little disturbed by the idea of Christian “lambs of God” eating one of them on the biggest Christian holiday — isn’t that symbolism a bit wrong?

    Michelle’s probably right up there — lamb is also more expensive, which probably explains why my family always had ham.

  8. April 5, 2012 11:44 am

    I’m firmly in the ham camp. Like @KB, I can’t imagine eating the Lamb of God on the holiest day of the year. (Lamb, however, was a childhood staple on Christmas Eve…so I guess that’s just all in my head. And now that I think about it, wow, that’s WAY out of season. Hm.)

    • Kerosena permalink
      April 5, 2012 11:54 am

      Yeah, I see where you’re coming from, but what about the body and blood of Christ we eat on the holiest day, and every other Sunday if we go to church? At least a lamb is widely acknowledged as food.

  9. April 5, 2012 2:39 pm

    I come from Midwestern Irish Catholics so it was overcooked ham all the way. This year for Easter I plan on nursing a meat hangover with salad after a fun Saturday night at Carmine’s.

  10. April 5, 2012 6:55 pm

    I’m going to be in NYC, hopefully eating Korean. But I checked and Price Chopper does indeed have some nice though pricey Certified Angus Brisket.

    Regarding not heating the HBH, does anybody ever have problems with guests who say that’s inviting trichinosis, salmonella or worse?

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