24 Days of Ham or “Hamcember into Hamuary”
On December 20, 2011, I came home from work to find an 8.59 lb Honeybaked® ham sitting in my entryway, courtesy of my employer’s board of directors. After removing it from the styrofoam shipping cooler and removing the chilling gel pack, I shoved it in my freezer. Per the instructions, it could be kept frozen for 45 days, should be thawed for 2 days in the refrigerator,* and should then be consumed within 6 days. I’m not much for hosting. Also, in the middle of winter, I just inherently disregard my freezer. So two weeks later, on January 3, 2012, an ice cream jonesing brought me face to face with my meat-bounty and the realization I really was on my own to consume it. On the plus side, the instructions clearly stated it was pre-cooked and ready to eat. So it was simply a matter of thawing and doing so.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012 – Placed ham in the refrigerator. That was easy.
Ham status – 8.59 lbs remaining, triple wrapped as delivered (foil inner layer, plastic outer layer, and insulating foil bag). Styrofoam shipping cooler and gel pack set aside for future re-use.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012 – Grabbing a beverage before heading to bed early, I saw the ham. It stared back, confident in its ability to continue existing. I removed the insulating foil bag just to have some sense of progress.
Ham status – 8.59 lbs remaining, double wrapped (foil inner layer, plastic outer layer). Assumed partially thawed, no actual visual change.
Thursday, January 5, 2012 – Felt a bit crummy all day. Moved ham to counter after work and opened packaging. I am greeted with my first moment of optimism; the ham appears pre-sliced. Upon further investigation, instructions indicate this is “spiral-slicing” and that it has no less than 4 benefits over other means of ham preparation. I stare at the ham for approximately five minutes figuring out what exactly is “spiral” regarding said slicing. Another ten pass as I ponder whether I’m impressed by this. I settle on a keen indifference as I remove the first few slices, re-wrap and return the near-full ham to refrigerator, and consume removed slices.
Ham status – 8.4 lbs. approx. remaining, opened but still effectively whole in packaging. Thawed. Delicious.
Friday, January 6, 2012 – Suffering from what has become clearly a sinus infection, I opt to stay home after a quick call to the doctor and trip to the pharmacy. For breakfast, more sleep trumps ham. For lunch, I settle on staring into space over a bowl of chicken noodle soup wondering if the ham could fit in my sinuses… especially considering it feels like one is already in there. For dinner, already rallying, I engage the ham.
I move the near-full ham to the counter. Plastic and foil layers are discarded as ham lands solidly on a cutting board. Instructions indicate, with diagrams, a three step process for carving three “lobes” from the bone for serving/storage. These were ignored in favor of the “caveman approach,” using bare hands to pull lobes apart at ‘natural muscles lines’. A knife was utilized for meat remaining near bone and to remove a fourth, undisclosed lobe that wasn’t “spiral-sliced” at all. Had I been fortunate to receive a portion of some uber-pig, the next stage of Sus evolution, having developed a mysterious bonus muscle? Was this the result of a “size matters” society that’s driven pig farmers to join professional wrestlers and baseball players in experimenting with muscle enhancers? I didn’t dwell.
With multiple, large pyrex contains full of ham, all that remained on the cutting board was a reasonably large bone. I paused, wishing I knew how to make stock or some means to cure/preserve it into a sort of off-putting shrine to my hog-yssey**. It went into the trash.*** What couldn’t fit in storage containers became dinner. A salad (or small collection of random vegetables from my fridge, which no one else would probably define as a salad) was added to the meal.
Ham status – 7.1 lbs. approx. remaining****, divided into three storage containers. Still delicious. Out of curiosity, I warmed some in the microwave. “A few seconds per slice should be sufficient” per the instructions resulted in a slice of slightly less cold ham. 10 seconds resulted in a slice that was unevenly warmed. 15 seconds resulted in slice that was tough and tasted like plain, non-honey-baked ham. 60 second produced a visually unappealing ham-jerky that soundly laid that curiosity to bed. The microwave was not considered again.
Saturday, January 7, 2012 – Woke up feeling better. Considered crediting the power of ham. Decided it was probably the antibiotics. For breakfast, a few slices of ham, one egg, toast, and tea. Heating slices in a pan proved to work quite well. Spent morning gathering my resolve, considered cleaning. Nothing makes your place seem dirtier/messier than having been sick. For lunch, a few slices of ham, crackers and hummus, milk. Stayed in for the evening, cleaned. Something about the perceived layer of the illness lingering about, reminding you of feeling crummy. For dinner, ham.
Ham status – 5.6 lbs. approx. remaining, two storage containers left. Still tasty. A bit surprised at finishing one of the containers, even if it was the smallest. Mildly concerned after reading nutrition information during dinner. Made a mental note to get to the gym as soon as health allows.
Sunday, January 8, 2012 – Breakfast, ham. Lunch, ham. Dinner, ham.
Ham status – 3.7 lbs. approx. remaining.
Monday, January 9, 2012– Quick nibble of ham before heading into work. Something seems off when there is no ham as part of my lunch. It feels incomplete. Ham for dinner. Cheese, crackers, and ham snack later in the evening.
Ham status – 2.2 lbs. approx. remaining, one storage container to go.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 – Another quick nibble of ham in the morning. Brought a small portion to work as part of lunch. Dinner, ham.
Ham status – 1 lbs. approx. remaining.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012 – Running late, I bring some ham for lunch. For dinner, a lack of ham feels like a culinary vacation. How things change over just a few days. The guilt of knowing I’ve reached the “best by” date results in a small ham snack before bed. I dream of gliding through warm, slightly sweet, salt water.
Ham status – 0.3 lbs approx. remaining.
Thursday, January 12, 2012 – Slice of ham before work, the remainder for dinner. Either the Honeybaked hamologists are really good at their job or any novelty of ham has been taken out back behind the barn. I chew and swallow the last bites without fanfare. I feel like one might upon reaching the peak of Everest only to find any vista ruined by fog… and that they’ve built a convenience store to sell tiny mountain souvenirs and salted snacks.
Ham status – Done and gone. The only evidence that the ham ever existed is now the film on my plates in the dish washer. I click the “heavy wash” button as I walk out of the room.
Denouement – Ham is a tasty, life sustaining consumable. However, like many of such things, it should likely be enjoyed in moderation. It’s hard to say if this experience contributed to my going vegetarian later in 2012. At the very least, this story’s moral is one of perseverance, the strength of the human heart (in the face of what was certainly a significant amount of sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat), and a reminder that many hands (and mouths) make light work… so if you’re ever faced with a slab of meat larger than your head, invite over some friends for heaven’s sake.
Also, I’m going to go to my deathbed pronouncing “denouement” as dee-now-ment, irregardless of how you feel about it.
*Yeah, that’s an Oxford comma. You better enjoy it, too. It won’t be the last one.
**Yeah, I just typed that. No apologies.
***For the record, making stock is super easy and this was a point of minor failure. 6 months later and I would have probably given my compost worms a shot at disposing of it, but by then I was a vegetarian, so that’s neither here nor there.
**** No, I did not eat over a pound of ham for dinner. The discarded bone was half a pound.