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The Final Countdown: Christmas Edition

December 24, 2015

Cue the music. It’s almost here. Time to get excited.

Actually, I’m totally ill equipped to help anyone in these final preparations for Christmas day. I was reading Facebook, and hearing about the struggle to secretly wrap presents so that the kids might think Santa brought them into the house. I’ve never done that before. It can’t be easy. I struggle to wrap just one present whenever a kid is invited over to a birthday party.

We don’t bake cookies. It’s been a long time since I’ve decorated a tree, and I’ve never strung lights along a house. But there are still a couple of things I want to share. One is just a little insight into my own madness as we prepare for the annual Christmas trip down to the farm in Pennsylvania. The other is my annual appeal to prevent the senseless destruction of countless holiday hams through a simple, seemingly harmless, step in their journey from store to table.

THE FIRST THING
You know I’m a hoarder, right? Not like the ones you see on TV. But let’s just say I like to hold onto things. Like my obsessive and compulsive tendencies, I do pretty well with keeping this in check. So while once upon a time I had several jars of fancy mustards, now I’ve only got a few. The same goes for vinegars, and the spices that once used to be coming out the wazoo.

However, this new beer interest is proving to be a problem. I haven’t quite internalized a system for managing my desire to buy lots of beer with my limited capacity to drink it. And this trip to hang out with my brother-in-law at the farm has given me a convenient excuse to keep buying bottles. But it’s getting a bit out of control.

So there were the eight super bottles I picked up at The Bier Abbey on Tuesday. On top of those, I was also already sitting on one 32 ounce crowler and four smaller form (under 500ml) bottles, that I was planning to bring to Pennsylvania.

Really, I don’t know what inspired me to look at the Brew-Crew website to check out their growler station tap list. But I did. And that was dangerous. Because after seeing some of the offerings, I was compelled to make a side trip to buy even more beer from both the store in Westmere and at Oliver’s.

Even though I put strict limits on how much beer I would bring home, those limits went unheeded. Perhaps a reasonable person would have learned a lesson from this, but last night I took another look at the Facebook page, and it turns out the Westmere is offering some more amazing beers on draft today.

Egads. I. Can’t. Resist. They sound so delicious. And soon they will be gone. Possibly to never be seen in these parts again.

Hopefully, my brother-in-law is thirsty when I see him this weekend.

THE SECOND THING
If you’ve been reading the FLB for years, this isn’t news. Every so often I make this annual appeal to save the hams.

Even though I grew up Jewish, I love ham. It’s true what they say about the forbidden fruit tasting twice as sweet. And my favorite of the commercially available hams is HoneyBaked, hands down. It’s not the spiral slicing, but the honey glaze that makes these hams worth eating.

And that’s high praise, because for me to buy one of these hams requires me to turn my back on all of those things I care about when it comes to farming, agriculture, and meat processing. Which is why, perhaps, it’s even more important, if you’re buying one of these truly special joints of meat, to treat it with all the respect it deserves.

Here’s the little known fact. The HoneyBaked Ham comes with instructions. If they didn’t give them to you at the store, or if you thought you might not need them, you can find the full statement online. Here’s the relevant line, put in all caps for emphasis:

YOUR HAM IS ALREADY FULLY-COOKED AND READY TO ENJOY, AND IS BEST SERVED DIRECTLY FROM YOUR REFRIGERATOR.

Period. The instructions continue to explain how, if you don’t want to have your ham at its best, all the various ways you can ruin it in the microwave, in a low oven, or in a skillet. But do not think for a moment that engaging in such activities will not ruin the perfect balance of flavors and textures the HoneyBaked Company has miraculously managed to produce in this pork leg.

Once upon a time, I even wrote a poem about this. In case you don’t feel like clicking the link, here are a few relevant stanzas that really describe the nature of the problem:

Unable to save the ham from its fate.
He grabbed the paté and he ate and he ate.
While in the slow oven, under the foil
The juice in the ham was starting to boil.

The glaze that was once so crisp and so fine
Was melting away, and much less divine.
It coated the slices, it pooled in the pan.
It little resembled the ham that began.

But maybe you’re having goose? I don’t know. Whatever your celebration may be, I wish you a great one. I hope it’s full of love and great things to eat. And with luck you will be surrounded by people who you can tolerate at least for an hour or two once a year.

The FLB will continue through the holidays, so if you’ve got access to a computer, tablet, or cell phone, more fussiness is only just a click away.

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