Friday, May 15, 2009

Eternity and Ham, Part I

From time to time, we all think about eternity. But our thoughts differ. The great English poet Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) began his poem “The World”:

I saw eternity the other night
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm as it was bright . . .

I’ve always loved that poem. There is something so matter of fact about it. I imagine Henry Vaughan, who made his living practicing medicine, waking up to talk to his wife with those words. Just the same as you or I might mention an acquaintance we’d run into at the grocery.

The eternity I’ve been thinking about, unfortunately, is not Vaughan’s, but Dorothy Parker’s (1893-1967), who said “Eternity is two people and a ham.” If you don’t know Dorothy Parker, you should. She was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, perhaps the most celebrated gathering of American bon vivants ever. If you know anything she said it’s most likely:

Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.

I don’t think that’s nearly as clever as her description of Los Angeles as “Seventy-two suburbs in search of a city” (she was a confirmed New Yorker) or the words she requested for her tombstone “This is on me.”

But to return to my topic (sort of), for the last five weeks I’ve been struggling with a ham. A very nice ham, a Hormel Cure 81, which is the best regularly produced commercial ham in the United States. It was the leftover from our Easter Dinner and unfortunately, it wasn’t two people and a ham, it was me alone. My wife and daughter eat very little (which explains why they are thin and I am not) and have very busy social calendars. That means most every night since Easter it’s been me against the ham—mano y mano.

I lost. I ate ham sandwiches; ham omelets; ham and eggs; ham salad; salads with ham and almost every other variation of ham I could imagine. I made and ate a gallon of Senate Bean Soup, one of the most traditional, and boring, recipes in America (you can find the recipe here:,1748,144160-243193,00.html,
among other places).

The travel guide Frommer’s says, “The Senate Bean Soup may be famous, but it’s tasteless goo.” Frommer’s isn’t far off the mark. Anyway, after five weeks, the ham finally went bad, just when I was about to make ham croquettes. So I have faced eternity and lost.

(and please, don’t be scared, but there is a part two to this essay!)

No comments:

Post a Comment