Is it possible to eat too much at Christmas?
The period between Christmas and New Year is always a challenging time as you try to achieve that illusive balance between eating and sleeping and then eating more.
Usually heroic amounts more.
I find it’s best not to overthink it.
There’s only so many storage areas in a body.
If you understood that, you may stop eating.
Which is very un-Christmas.
What particularly amuses me is the amount of ham we consume.
December certainly is a dark month if you’re an oink.
Cows and sheep slip under the radar to a degree.
Poultry and seafood not so much.
But the poor old pig cops a ritualistic thirst for ham off its bone.
I’d be freaked out if another species took a hankering to my flesh the way we humans do ham.
At a primitive level I can understand the reasons why.
Ham is delicious. It’s pre-cooked. And it can be consumed in industrial amounts without much technique – just add bread, pickles and gorge.
Perfect bloke food.
But let’s not be sexist. Women are partial to it, too, because more often than not they’re the ones prompting the bloke to get down to the butcher and get an order in.
Just when you thought modern man had lost his purpose – arise sir pig hunter.
And you don’t want to scrimp.
Even though at any other time of year half a dozen slices would suffice for a sandwich.
Come Christmas time, when the butcher inquires, you don’t hesitate – just a whole leg mate.
Even though there’s maybe only four in your family, three are vegetarian and half a razorback won’t fit in the fridge. Just means you’ll have to eat it quicker.
I’m always encouraged in that regard by my parents and their tales of the meat locker.
Back in the day they didn’t used to have a fridge.
They didn’t used to have electricity.
They’d buy a pig, get it slaughtered, cured and smoked and hang it in the locker, cutting strips off it through the days and weeks as required.
Special praise was reserved for the skilled butchers who somehow managed to convince them eating meat this way would not give you food poisoning.
Even though I’m divorced from those agricultural practices these days, it feels like I’m reconnecting when I say to my butcher, ‘‘That been smoked with hickory?’’
Whatever hickory is.
A bit of research suggests the Yuletide ham tradition dates back to Germanic pagans.
These guys used to worship a god called Freyr, who was associated with boars, harvests, and given how much ham we eat at Christmas, nanna naps.
The Catholic church started hamming it up in mediaeval times when persecuting, I mean converting, Portuguese Jews.
Strict followers of Judaism, like Islam, don’t dine on swine. So the church viewed eating ham as reliable proof that an individual had converted.
By that measure I’m way more Christian than I realised.
Being slightly agnostic, I’d argue I eat ham with religious fervour, not conviction.
Still it’s nice to have an excuse to eat like a barbarian.
I bet the pagans would have got into cricket too, if that had been available back in Freyr’s day.