December 25, 2008

The Christmas ham: Overrated

Having finished a scrumptious turkey dinner earlier this evening, I'm in quite the mood to discuss Christmas meals. And while I'd love to lump praises on sugarplums and figgy pudding, it's important to address the meat of the issue.

The Christmas ham is a sham.

Plenty of different meats can claim to take center stage for dinner on the big night. Christmas isn't like Thanksgiving, when turkey is consensus main course. Instead goose, ham, turkey and even duck shuffle around for space at the table.

All of the fowls are okay. Their meat is succulent enough to merit a feast fit for the holiday. But ham ... Unlike the birds, ham is too foul.

In fact, it's hard to view ham as anything but imperfect pork. It's been cured with too much salt, which overpowers the true flavor of the meat, which isn't all that good anyway. It's hard to find a piece of ham that won't leave you chewing through gristle halfway through.

Those characteristics translate fine to lunch meat. In fact, Italian subs, which have ham in them, are one of my favorites. But you wouldn't serve up a platter of thick-sliced hard salami and expect it to satisfy as a hot dinner at a big family gathering.

So unless you're feeding your relatives cold cuts -- which is perfectly acceptable, and even recommended if you don't want to spend the day in the kitchen while they unwrap presents -- stay away from ham for Christmas dinner. I know it's too late to plan this year's dinner, but keep it in mind for the future.

Pick your favorite between duck, goose and turkey. Because ham is for the birds.


  1. You have overlooked one of ham's greatest virtues: leftovers to make split pea and ham soup! Nothing finer than gristly meat disguised in a goop that looks eerily similar to vomit. Christmas fave!

  2. Too bad you can't just serve that split pea and ham soup for Christmas dinner. I also enjoy ham loaf, but that's not what ends up on the table for the "feast."