Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Ham is Served

The following piece ran in the Island Park News, December 19, 2008

Leftovers are seldom an issue at my home, except at Christmas when my husband in a fit of gastronomic nostalgia, always wants to serve ham. I don’t mind traditions, but there are some logistical issues with this one. 1) My husband buys a very large piece of meat. 2) Our children don’t like ham.

Christmas day is never the issue. Emotionally softened by the glow of the day and the pile of freshly acquired loot, the kids are willing to indulge their father by trying his favorite Yuletide meal. Knowing that there is fresh pumpkin or apple pie waiting for dessert probably helps too. The next day, leftover ham served with eggs will still get eaten. By day three, some of the older ones still consent to consume ham sandwiches if I serve them with chips. Day four, sounds of open revolt are beginning to be heard when dinner is served.

Seeking to avoid a revolution over Virginia ham, my beloved husband proposed playing a board game our daughter received for Christmas during dinner. The kids were keen to play. Setting out the game “Operation,” their father explained the “special” meal time rules.

Everyone had to play. Everyone was served a plate of pasta with the now offending Christmas ham mixed amongst the Fettuccini noodles. If you took on a job in the Operation game and touched the sides, not only would you lose your turn, you had to eat a bite of ham. If you refused to take a job, you had to eat two bites of ham. If you got the ham bone out successfully, you were exonerated from eating anymore of the ham at this meal and could move straight to pie. If you won the game, you could opt out of ham for the remaining duration of the ham’s existence.

The next day, when I offered to play operation, my daughter said, “How much ham do I have to eat?” Kids were offering to do chores to avoid the other white meat. By day six, positive reinforcement in the form of cold hard cash was insufficient to guarantee compliant consumption. A week into eating, it was no longer worth the emotional effort for any sentient adult to consider serving ham to a non ham eater.

Day twelve, the UPS truck pulled up. A large package had come from our family’s gift exchange with a note that said, “Sorry this is late. Merry Christmas! Love…” from one of those fancy gift mail food order catalogs.

“This special Virginia Ham was sent to you…” I read.

I called my husband. “Oh man, we’ve been eating ham for weeks.” He said. The kids grinned. Over the phone, my beloved heard the sounds of ham induce karma from his daughter. “Hey Dad, let’s play Operation.”

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