ham and parenting

Although I have lived in NC since I was three, I do not consider myself a real Southerner. This is for various reasons: my mom is from New York, my dad from Baltimore (which is either the South or not, depending on who you ask), I didn’t grow up eating grits and biscuits, and I don’t have a real accent. (I know, I know. A lot of you who have heard my voice think I do have a twang, but it is NOTHING compared to what I hear around me every single day.) Still, I think I have acclimated pretty well. I love pimento cheese, used to live off of sweet tea, that sort of thing. This weekend, though, for whatever reason, I decided to take on a true Southern challenge: making country ham biscuits.

You might be asking, “What is country ham?” Well, I had the same question, back in high school, when we’d hit this tiny gas station/grill/store for lunch. They offered ham biscuits, and when you ordered one, they’d say, “Country ham or city ham?” I grew up with the Oscar Mayer shrink-packed circle ham: that was all I knew. That is city ham. But this country ham thing: it’s a whole other animal. Cured, vacuum packed. It’s thicker and tougher and WAY saltier, but when you put it between two halves of a biscuit it is AMAZING. I’d had homemade country ham biscuits served on wax paper, and fancy ones at weddings and events, so I wanted to see if I could replicate them. I am not ABOUT to try to make homemade biscuits—for the same reason I won’t even try homemade piecrust, i.e. life is too short. So I bought some frozen mini biscuits, a pack of country ham, and hit the internet. Then I started cooking.

Immediately, I had my doubts, as the odor it emitted was…well, not exactly good. “It smells weird,” I said. My husband, who was born and bred here, took a sniff. “Nope, that’s just what country ham smells like.” I was worried. I cooked it in the frying pan according to directions, then tore it into pieces and put it in the biscuits. I was not optimistic. But they were….good. REALLY good. Oh, dear. I have to say, though, now that I have done it, I think I could do city ham and they would be just as good if not better. And more healthy. (Southern food, traditionally prepared, is not known for this. Can you say LARD?) My husband, however, informed me that no one really puts city ham into biscuits. It is Not Done. But I’m not a real Southerner, which works both ways for me. I don’t HAVE to follow the rules. That is the nice thing about being a transplant. You can add a ton of cheese to your grits and use lowfat mayo in the pimento cheese and it’s all good. I mean, really: can you go wrong with a biscuit, EVER? The answer, my friends, is no.

Another thing that is NOT normal in the South: snow before Christmas. But watch out, on Saturday they predicted flurries and we got about an inch and a half. Whoa! It was so pretty, albeit freezing, which I got to experience firsthand as my daughter wanted to be out in it immediately and nonstop. Remember when you were a kid and you could and would stay out in the snow for HOURS? I had forgotten. But I think I will have to get used to it again. For me, snow is hot chocolate and naps and movies and books, but she has other ideas. On the flip side, the same night we decorated our Christmas tree. I will admit I don’t get as excited about the holidays as I probably should: there is stress, and shopping, and logistics, all that. But to see my kid’s face when we opened the ornaments, her absolute JOY at putting them on….well, it put things in perspective. There is a magic to this time of year, no matter what you celebrate. I think when we get older, maybe we forget that.

Which is not to say this was an easy weekend, because it wasn’t. Won’t go into detail, but parenting-wise my nerves were frayed, my temper short. Sigh. It’s probably ironic that at the same time, I seem to be talking to a lot of people who say that they have such “easy babies,” or “easy kids,” ones that don’t throw tantrums, sleep till 9am each morning, eat salmon and broccoli willingly, and are potty trained before their first birthday. (Okay, some of those are an exaggeration, but seriously, my husband talked to someone who has a kid less than one who is already on the potty. Shoot me now, is all I have to say to that.) This kind of stuff shouldn’t exhaust me, but it does. It’s just like when I hear about authors saying that they just “sit down and listen to the muse and the book comes,” or some such. They might get frustrated mid-novel here or there, but they have confidence, because they are have, I guess, Easy Books. I don’t have those. My kid isn’t easy either. But you know, what, maybe that’s okay. Because you get what you get, and it makes you who you are. It would be different if right now, as I write this blog I am desperately trying to finish, my daughter was not crawling up on a stepladder and upending the raspberry jelly on the counter. It would be different if my books were easy and flowed like water and didn’t make me feel like I was going through the ringer every single time, either the first or the tenth. But if that was the case, she wouldn’t be my kid, and they wouldn’t be my books. So I will accept that maybe Easy isn’t for me. Just like country ham. Right?

Have a good night, everyone!