Monday, December 28, 2009

Staring Down the Ham

Our big Christmas meal was celebrated on the 26th (Boxing Day in the UK, St. Stephen's Day in Ireland).

This was difficult, very difficult, because my Uncle cooked this gorgeous ham.

I was armed with my VBites Turkey Roast which took 45 minutes to the ham's 2 hours. At the hour and 15 minute mark I opened the oven to place my roast wrapped in tinfoil next to the ham. The delicious aroma hit me like Father Christmas was shaking me by the lapels screaming, "What are you doing?!" The ham smelled amazing. It smelled and looked like Christmas. I must admit I was a bit depressed placing my roast, the size of 3 hockey pucks stacked together, next to this gorgeous pink and brown glistening ham. I wanted that ham!

So much of Christmas happiness is a combination (often Pavlovian) of your favorite sights, smells, and sounds of the Christmas of your youth. Driving through the snow listening to traditional Christmas carols, and songs is infinitely better than listening to your favorite CD. A Christmas tree with lights is always a welcomed and happy sight no matter how old you get. And the smells of Christmas dinner can be intoxicating!

We had fresh green beans and pine nuts which were great, as well as a tasty sweet potato and bread rolls. But then there was the vegan turkey roast sitting next to that big gorgeous ham. It took a few minutes before I was OK with my first vegan Christmas. Now, I had had the Vbites beef roast on Thanksgiving and that was pretty good. I knew this turkey roast would be just fine, but the mind, well, the mind is a powerful thing. It didn't want to like this vegan meal, and shut down my taste buds. Psychologically, I was pining for the glazed ham, and was choking down something that was not ham. My vegan defenses kicked in and my mood began to lighten as I realized that I had lots to be thankful for as I shared this meal at Christmas time. Also, I thought of all those POW's during the war, including my grandfather, who spent their Christmases freezing and munching on whatever they could find, including rats. Whining about my new food choices was not an option!

My feeling sorry for myself soon subsided and I focused on the meal at hand. The roast was fine, who cares if it was not the glazed ham? The point is that I ate my Christmas meal in a warm house with family, and lots of laughs.

I think because we so often associate food with feelings that we confuse what it is which makes us happy. Would my Christmas had been better if I had ham and a glass of wine instead of a vegan roast and water? No. Now, I am all too aware, and often the biggest proponent of food turning into theatre. I think that we, especially us in the civilized world, too often view food not as a fuel for our bodies, but rather a large musical production of props and costumes. Christmas = golden brown turkey, or glazed ham; Baseball game = hot dogs; A Summer Evening at the beach = a lobster clam bake; a movie at the cinema = popcorn, and so on. We are conditioned that certain foods enhance an experience, and they absolutely, 100% do, but going without a particular type of food traditionally associated with a particular occasion (especially if it is not healthy) will really force you to examine what makes you happy. Is it the holiday, family, friends, or is it food and the instant gratification?

I can confidently say that a glazed ham would have enhanced the experience of eating Christmas dinner, but I had just as much fun with family on this special day eating something healthier.

Oh, and during appetizers of cheese and crackers even the most skeptical of people agreed that my VBites Gouda "cheese" actually tasted like, well, cheese!

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