There's a reason why I'm always offering to host each year's Easter meal gathering at my house. The reason being I can control the food, and guarantee that I will have a good time regardless of what anyone else thinks. Selfish? Perhaps, but sometimes it's better to deal with massive amounts of family on home turf than it is an away court. So it came to pass that as I was gearing up to host for the fourth year in a row, there was a twenty pound spiral cut ham in my fridge.
This was an all natural beauty. This ham was the type of ham that inspired poetry. The type of ham that makes you proud to be an American. Sometimes on days when I was feeling at my lowest, I'd open up the fridge, put on a Christopher Cross album, stare at the ham, and let the muse take me where it might (Now you all know why I wrote Pride and Prejudice with Ham). I went to bed the Wednesday night before Easter feeling great, excited about the ham filled delights the weekend would bring.
Then my phone rang. It always rings, and sometimes when it rings, plans get ruined. “Quick change of plans” my mother said to me early that Thursday morning, “your Aunt Julie wants to host Easter this year, so we're gonna go there.” Now, I know that ham is part of a dead animal, but I swore in that moment, I could sense that my ham felt betrayal. “You can still cook the ham, though. But Julie is gonna take care of everything else.” At least the gem in my fridge would still be on hand to save the day.
The though of spending Easter at Aunt Julie's house filled me with dread. Not because I dislike Aunt Julie, far from it, it's just that Aunt Julie's recipe folder hadn't been updated since 1972. It's just that Aunt Julie is the type of cook who hordes Jell-O for use in SAVORY dishes. The type of person to whom gelatinized salads are a way of life. In that sense, I was glad there was twenty pounds of ham to be had, as I felt it might be all that would reside on my plate.
The egg hunt came first, if my family has learned anything over the years of having kids at Easter gatherings, it's that they won't eat anything till they get a chance to scour the yard for eggs. While that's going on I look at what is hitting the buffet table in the dining room. It was about what I'd expected. There was my ham, and some fried chicken that looked quite nice. All of this was mixed in with the usual Ross family tradition of a sea of casseroles in various shades of green and brown. Not to mention Aunt Julie's congealed salad. It looked to be the color of what a room in a really bad motel would be, some type of aqua meets off white. I didn't want to eat it.
When the meal began, I found it wasn't as horrid as I thought it was going to be. The food was, mostly edible, and some of it was in fact tasty. Just when I thought the meal was going to be one of a passing grade, up came the dessert. Now, I have no clue who in the hell thought this was a good idea. I have no clue how any human person of any moderate intelligence could have put these things together on a plate and said “yes!”
Dessert consisted of half a pear, served on a lettuce leaf, that was then topped with a dollar of mayonnaise and sharp cheddar cheese. It was the only time in my life that I have ever dry heaved at a table. Family looked at me as if I was acting odd, and I ran outside and did the best I could to get the visage from my mind. On the plus side, I did find some double bubble hidden in an egg.