The Warning Before Christmas
Next week I’ll be blogging live from rural Pennsylvania. But there’s something big that’s happening between now and then. And that’s Christmas.
Sure, Chanukah is happening then too. But that’s a lesser holiday. Plus, this year Chanukah extends past Christmas, so you’ll be hearing more about the fried treats I can find around the Bedford, Altoona, and Johnstown area.
This year, Christmas is even more significant for the Fussies since we’ll be having a bonafide Christmas dinner with Raf and his family in Westchester. I’m hoping that this is the start of a new family tradition. While I might miss stopping for Chinese food in State College, PA on the way down to the farm, it’s better to spend time with old friends who are indistinguishable from family.
I’m not sure what Raf will be cooking for Christmas. I hope to find out soon, so I can bring down wines that will pair well with the meal. But the food itself doesn’t matter. I’d be happy with a big pot of black beans and rice. I’m thinking that a Carménère might be the best pick for that. It’s a good question for another day.
Today though is not about wine. But it is about Christmas dinner. Because there are always people who will have their Christmas dinners ruined by failing to do one simple thing.
Read the instructions.
When Raf and I were brainstorming about what he should make for Christmas dinner, one of the things I suggested was a HoneyBaked ham. In part because, the very first HoneyBaked ham I ever tried was at his mom’s house after a Christmas dinner one year.
Me and all my Jewish friends were ravaging that joint of meat, while standing at the door of the open refrigerator. We were just tearing off chunks of it like jackals, amazed at the deliciousness of this forbidden fruit. Even cold, and a day old, the juicy salty meat contrasted with its crunchy honey glaze, and it was enchanting.
Raf had to extract us from the fridge so that we wouldn’t devour the leftovers, which were going to be another meal for his actual family.
I mention this, because Christmas is prime time for HoneyBaked ham. And if you are buying one of these to serve, or if you are going over to a dinner where one of these will be the centerpiece of the holiday meal, there’s something you should know.
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 destroy the perfect balance of flavors and textures the HoneyBaked Company has miraculously managed to produce in this hunk of meat.
Once upon a time, I even wrote a poem about this. In case you don’t feel like clicking the link and reading the full nine stanzas, here are the two 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.
Some people like a hot ham, and I get it. That’s fine. But that’s when you make your own. I have a recipe for that too.
Now get out there and start spreading some holiday cheer. Which is different than giving presents. Often, it’s about being present. So put down that phone. Stop reading Twitter. Don’t Instagram your meal. And for the love of god, don’t create unboxing videos of your Christmas gifts. Be with those you love.
The only war against Christmas is being waged by those who want you to forget the reason for the season and embrace consumerism in its place.
These solstice holidays are about creating light in the darkness. And they signify that together, we can make it through the dangers of this winter. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but there is more that unites us, than divides us. So be strong. Stay warm. And let’s try to find some love and compassion for our fellow humans.
Salaam aleikum. Shalom aleichem. Peace be with you.