My sister-in-law got a Christmas ham from a friend last year. With no plans to use it immediately, she put the ham in her father's freezer.
Once the Christmas decorations were packed away and we were knee deep in the January blahs, I started making tentative plans for a party to celebrate Brent's return home from Afghanistan. SIL got wind of this and offered her ham. I thanked her, but didn't commit. At the time I was toying with the idea of bidding on a catered Louisiana-style shrimp boil to be hosted by a friend and held at her beautiful home in Dallas. This presented some problems, the first being finding enough change under the couch cushions to win the thing. Eventually the guest list grew too big, and although my friend was sweet and said, "The more, the merrier!", I couldn't impose this mostly Texas Aggie crowd on her Arkansas Razorback sensibilities. As it turned out, we had the party at home and had it catered by a local bbq joint.
But I digress.
I forgot about the ham until last month when the upcoming holidays forced me to take a breather from level 201 of Candy Crush. Thanksgiving Day would be spent tailgating in College Station. But with all the kids home (and in need of a real home-cooked meal or two), two house guests, and my mother to think of, I decided to host a second Thanksgiving dinner for the Saturday after.
It was while we were at my SIL's house for a chili dinner that I announced our dinner plans. SIL immediately offered her Christmas ham for the occasion. At this point, the ham had been reposing in the freezer for just shy of a year, and quite honestly I was a bit grossed out by the idea. Instead of a nice, firm "Thanks, but I've got it covered, would you bring a salad, instead?", I went with an evasive, obfuscatory, beat-around-the-bush, "Welllllll, it's probably freezer burned by now, don'tcha think?" and "What's the expiration date on something like that?" Whereupon, SIL Googled "How long can a ham be kept in the freezer before I can no longer unload it on my brother's ungrateful wife?" The answer, apparently, is indefinitely.
It looked like I was beaten and doomed to take in a rock-hard, toddler-age, frozen ham, when SIL made a crucial mistake. She said, "Save me the ham bone."
You have to understand that Richard gets very territorial when it comes to ham bones. Almost, like, well, a dog with a bone. There are two things he can manage to cook without making a complete hash of it, no pun intended. One of those things is a slow-cooker ham bone soup that is, as the saying goes, to die for. The aroma as it burbles on low all day long is unbelievable. I've heard people say that the smell of baking cookies or potpourri simmering on the stove can help sell houses. I've decided if we ever put this place on the market, I'm going to have Richard make his soup. We will have offers out the wazoo.
Anyhoots, as I said, Richard loves his ham bones and I knew there would be hell to pay if his sister took off with it. So I explained to her about her little brother's weird obsession, and told her that in the interest of family harmony I would purchase a ham, if she would bring a salad.
The next day, I got an email that said, "You can have the ham bone! I really don't care!" And instead of the usual big smiley face after her name 😀 there was a sorta of frowny face 🤨
Here's my face after I read the email 😡
I was on the verge of giving up and accepting the ham when, thankfully, my mother came to my rescue. When she asked what she could contribute to the dinner, I said, "The ham!" with a lot more emotion than those two words together generally merit. And so it came to pass that I was able to dump all the blame on my poor, unwitting mother ("She insisted, twisted my arm, what could I do?"). The meal turned out great, we had a good time, and afterwards Richard carefully wrapped up his precious ham bone, with lots of meaty bits on it. We're going to make that delicious soup while we've got all the kids home for Christmas. That and jalapeno cornbread. I can smell it already.
With the turkey day festivities over, I turned my attention to Christmas. On December 10, I sent an email to the family inviting them to our house for a Christmas Day brunch. In the email I said I will be frying up my homemade Scrapple, but would also have plenty of bacon on hand for those who don't like Scrapple, or are afraid to try it. Here's an actual screenshot of SIL's reply:
Richard had the misfortune to be home from work when I received the above. I told him his sister was relentless and stubborn. I believe crazy, lunatic, gaga, and over-zealous were also used. When I finally wound down late the next day, I sent the following reply:
The stalemate might have continued indefinitely but for a teaser for an upcoming airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and seeing that little fir tree nobody wanted. It got me to thinking about the ham. Nobody wanted it, either, and that was a really lousy way to thank Mr. Hog for his holiday sacrifice at the business end of an official Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Model Air Rifle. The more I thought about it, the more I got to feeling sorry for the poor orphaned hindquarter languishing away in my FIL's freezer. As soon as my heart wasn't feeling so tight, I told my SIL I would take her ham and we will have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas Day brunch ever. Hallelujah!
Then my daughter messaged me:
Richard has been assured by my doctors that my nervous breakdown is quite common during the holidays. The restraints will come off in a couple of weeks, and I should be able to receive visitors in a month. Group therapy, meditation, rest, a steady diet of little pills, and I should be out of here in time for our annual Easter ham dinner.
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