Friday, December 24, 2010

A Vegetarian at Honeybaked Ham

When I was tasked with getting a Honeybaked Ham for Christmas dinner, I thought, why not? How hard could it be? I'll just go to the store and grab a hunk of meat.

It turns out that getting dropped in the middle of an angry group of warlords and their rhinoceros bodyguards would be less intimidating. Keep in mind that I became a vegetarian at age 5 after a traumatic experience with my babysitter involving a rather vivid visual of Betsy the big brown-eyed cow no longer roaming the grassy fields because she was now on my hamburger bun. When I discovered that Wilbur the pig, Chicken Little, and the cute Thanksgiving turkey were also being killed in the name of dinner, I conducted research via my farm animals pop-up book and gave my parents an itemized list of cute animals I would no longer be eating.

My parents thought this was just a phase, but after a few weeks, they realized what a stubborn little girl they'd birthed, and resorted to guerilla tactics--like hiding meat in my food...which I found. This then forced me to go through a lengthy food inspection at each meal and before long, I'd invoked a hunger strike. Eventually, and with some trepidation, my parents shook their heads and gave up, slightly terrified of my will and worried what that force of nature would turn into during my teenage years.

I still feel the same about little animals, and have been a vegetarian for 25 years. I won't prepare meat or cook it myself, but it doesn't bother me when other people eat it, which is why I agreed to the Honeybaked Ham trip. I arrived at the store, thinking I'd park, grab a ham, and get back to my coffee in the car. As I walked up to the door, I saw a line. And not just any line, this line stretched out the door, and wound its way into a neighboring store, complete with poles and tape as a guide to get people through the maze. This feat of people herding put the airport security line to shame.

I looked around, wondering if there was some sort of Justin Bieber concert--I mean, that would be the only logical explanation for a line long enough to last through Valentine's Day. But Bieber was no where to be found and after sidling up to a few people in the line herd, I surmised that this was, in fact, the ham exodus. I bided my time Twittering and Facebooking about my experience, then decided to play Duck Hunt on my phone. Here's a tip: Turn off the sound if you're playing a game where you shoot guns while in a very crowded ham line.

After 45 minutes, I finally got to the front of the line--which felt a lot like being in a concert mosh pit at a Neil Diamond concert--and it was there that I was confronted with a rather uncomfortable situation: the order. Here's the thing...sending a vegetarian into the Honeybaked Ham store is a lot like telling one of the orcs from the Lord Of the Rings that they are about to be the lead in The Nutcracker Ballet. Like a lumbering dancing orc, I was completely clueless, and out of my comfort zone.

I muddled through the order, not sure what exactly I was buying, or how to prepare it. The nice clerk helping me took the time to unwrap the ham and show me my purchase. When she asked if it looked okay, I noted the pinkness of it and gave a slight nod, then looked at her with a disconcerted expression and said, "I'm a vegetarian," cue the gasps from the people surrounding me. Worried about the angry patrons and not wanting my obituary to read that I was bludgeoned to death by a Honeybaked Ham, I continued in a quieter voice, "I really don't know what it's supposed to look like. Does it look all right to you?"

She nodded and gave me a concerned smile as she glanced behind me, clearly worried about the crowd. Then she handed me the ham with no warning that I needed to prepare my arm for a chunk of meat heavier than Hercules' bowling ball. I made it to the check out stand as I put my shoulder back into its socket, paid for my ham, and sat in my car taking a few cleansing deep breaths. Then I turned the key in the ignition and started to drive away when my car began beeping at me, clearly unhappy with the meat passenger I'd mistakenly plopped in the front seat. Apparently my car's weight sensor thought my ham-child needed to be buckled in.

When I got home, I put the ham in the fridge and breathed a sigh of relief that my Honeybaked adventure was over. Next Christmas, my carnivore husband can go to the store.

Happy Holidays!