Imagine this: it is nighttime at your parent’s house the day after Christmas, the house is dead quiet, and you smoked the joint you found in a rain boot in the back of your closet. Hunger drives you to the darkened kitchen, then to the fridge, which is full of leftovers in Ziploc bags and Tupperware containers holding two Brussels sprouts and a single spoonful of mashed potatoes. Your mother arranged the fridge, and it is inefficient in a way that is not to your liking. You begin to dig; the silver-covered hump of your reward looms in the distance. It’s a honey-baked ham wrapped in tinfoil, and soon you will eat a cold chunk of it in front of the fridge, and be happier than you’ve been in months.
Unlike Thanksgiving, a Christmas dinner is left to the interpretation of the cook. No doubt some people out there cook a goose for their family of 24, and others will enjoy a Christmas dinner consisting of a baguette, some good French butter, and a handful of Mallomars. To me, though, the best Christmas dinner is the kind of gift that keeps on giving: a ham, typically purchased to feed an entire family. But, if you’re smart, it can be just for you. What better gift to give yourself than sustenance for an entire week of pure, unfettered sloth?
The sludge that is the week between Christmas and New Year’s can be depressing, but also refreshing in its own way. Everyone needs a minute to themselves by year’s end, and cooking anything after a season filled with cooking, companionship, and caution around gathering in the first place will do a number on the old mental state. The beauty of a nice ham is that you don’t have to do much. Get a ham, cover it in this glaze from the Barefoot Contessa, bake it, and then you have a feast for one, or however many you’d like to share your bounty with. Ham is nice when it’s hot and crackling and beautiful, straight out of the oven, but it really comes into its own as a snack option when it’s cold. Room temperature, if you’re fancy, but straight out of the fridge, a chunk of ham dipped in a little mustard, chased with a single Kit-Kat is a meal fit for you, a tired king who wants to watch your stories and read your book without thinking much about anything else.
The beauty of a ham is not only the ham itself, but also what you can do with it. Yes, eat the ham alone, but also save the bone and make a soup. Perhaps one day you’ll feel adventurous and make a “ham salad,” bound by mayonnaise and served over a crisp wedge of iceberg. Candy the ham, if you can figure out how, and then enjoy a salty-sweet snack. Drink a lot of water, too, and eat the ham out of a mixing bowl like popcorn. Take back your time, if even for a minute; 2022 will come, whether you like it or not. Be nice to yourself in what remains of 2021 and eat the ham.