Friday, 6 August 2010

Pump up the Ham

1994. U14. A sweat box/greenhouse that called itself a classroom. The blackout cellophane even curling itself up in misery.

There were no trendy film posters, no whiteboards of the millenium classroom, no one saw fit to crouch into their teeny tiny handbags that masqueraded as a schoolbag to schnidily check their texts from their mate in the next classroom.

No siree bob.

These were the days of old school teaching. When teachers planned their lessons around the use of chalk and the possible use of a TV on skates that was usually harboured up in the Geography department.

I will never forget her.

Mrs Toop.

A true lady in every sense.

She wore a box pleated skirt which was usually in tune with the season. Think dark truffle for winter, rust in the autumn, mink in the spring and an aquamarine in the summer.

A highly intuitive and eloquent lady, her knowledge of poetry and literature was flawless. She exuded class and oozed intellectual prowess from every inch of her court heeled shoe. I never got close enough to find out, but if I was a gambling man, I would have her down as an Estee Lauder Youth Dew fan.

A teacher with the ability to command utter silence from a group (OK, so we were top set in the school and extraordinarily well behaved young people) however, even the boys in the group had a fear of her.

It was sheer pleasure when she asked you to read as it meant you had the chance to perhaps impress her.

Thanks to Mrs Toop, I got the opportunity to read one of my all time favourite plays, Romeo and Juliet.

Due to the loquacious nature of my personality, I was often thrown the role of the nurse. A meaty role for me to get my chops around. The nurse was a cool lady. A rebel who was up for mischief who managed to flit between the Capulet's and the Montague's, but no one really gave her any stick for it.

I will never, nor any of my girlfriends forget the time that Toop had got the wheelie TV on loan for a double lesson on a wet Wednesday afternoon. We were going to be watching Franco Zeffereli's "Romeo & Juliet". The double after lunch was always a tumultuous time for a teacher. I know and understand this all too well now, however, when you are 15, obsessed with making sure your body smells like vanilla and decorating your pencil tin with Neighbours stickers, double English did not seem to important.

That was until Andrew Smith decided to bring in his Casio digital watch which niftily changed TV channels.

Being one of the more garrulous of the supreme set (I am not really sure what I was ever doing there) and the most likely to go for a dare, I decided that I would take the lead role in clock faux-channel changes during the film.

Mrs T took pole position in her director's chair which was turned to a tight acute angle of about 40 degrees. She had full view of her auditorium. Or so we thought.

So engrossed it appeared by the surprisingly "hot for a film from the 60s" Leonard Whiting who played Romeo, Mrs Toop was blissfully unaware of the digitally remastered version that was about to unfold in her top set theatre of A grade's.

Peppering the Capulet's ball scene with Henry Kelly's "Going for Gold" and "Greenclaws" was pure thespian gold.

Panting and puffing and a few searches of the Wheelie proved to be as fruitless as Romeo's mission to Mantua itself.

Not so square as we had thought, she turned to her baying audience and flexed her Shakespearean muscles with an experienced and commanding monologue.

Despite the choking and pent up giggles even from some of her most ardent followers nobody relented.

The VHS was turned off.

The TV was wheeled away back to the clutches of the Geographers, ready for a view no doubt of the Mt St Helens eruption.


For all her foibles and idiosyncrasies, Mrs T was a fantastic teacher.

One piece of knowledge that she imparted upon us which I have found infallible and meaningful for most daily events is that we should all read as though we are on a diet.

"Reading should be like a diet. We should not eat junk food too much as it is bad for you. As are terrible books. You must read books that will benefit your brain."

I do not wish to divulge into my preferred book habits in my adolescent life, however, I do have to admit that I agree with Mrs T and her wise proverb of 9T4.

Having actually gone onto university to study food and the diet, I should know and obey the basics of nutrition and good wholesome food.

As much as I adore excellent food and food that makes my body and mind feel good. I cannot help myself but want to go a little "casio" on my food habits and rebel now and then.

I have a long list of Foods that are my Montague to my metabolism's Capulet. I love them, but my body certainly does not.

Hollands Steak Puddings, Krispy Kreme's, KFC Zingers, Findus Crispy Pancakes, Dr Oetker Pizza, Gregg's Sausage rolls, Fish Fingers, Mr Kipling Vieniesse Whirls, Birds Eye Waffles, Party Pork Pies, McCoys, Sensations, Campbell's meatballs, Ravioli, Spaghetti hoops, Heinz Beans n Balls, Angel Cake, Primula cheese to name but a few storecupbaord nasties.

Quite heavy in fact on the savoury.

Come and sneak on my book shelf and you will find my collection of embarrassing dietary literature.

Notably autobiographies from most of the Spice Girls, at least two of Jordan's "books" and even some thicker fashion magazines that I have collected that I like to falsify as books.

A food item that is constantly in my fridge as an embarrassing collection is that of Ham.

Not any ordinary Ham.

I am talking plastic Ham. One that you could draw on with a marker and then wipe off with a J-Cloth.

A lot of people have a problem with Ham.

These breed of Hamists are pig ignorant (snort snort) to the multi faceted use of this ingredient.

I have a different Ham style to suit my moods for Ham.

There's the roll up, which is basically a cigar style of Ham used for quick on the go eating between making your actual evening meal. Think Larry Hagman meets plated salad. Advantages include the double quilted thickness of the ham and a slim easy to carry model of the ham.

Alternatively, you could go for the sheet. This works better with the tissue paper ham that has a translucent appearance. Opportunities for the sheet include being late for work, not having enough to eat at a friend or relatives house, being drunk and cleaning up. Clean, no nonsense, no need for a plate or cooking utensil, this has all the elements of a highly intelligent snack.

Bumping into an old friend in the gym recently, he enlightened me upon his new found diet of eating small amounts of Protein every five hours.

Now personally, eating every five hours is something which definitely holds court with me, however when he told me it is cubes of chicken, tubs of tuna and slices of beef, my enthusiasm began to wane. I told him that supermarkets are missing out on a niche in the the protein pumpers. What about a meaty sweet? Ham flavoured fudge? Hammy glaciers? Just a thought now.

My personal favourite combines another of my passions.......cold toast.

Two extra pieces of thick white bread left to go cold and chewy and then coated corner to corner in salty Lurpak. I then like to use my plastic honey roast ham as a linoleum to the bread. The butter acting as an adhesive for our centrepiece.
Essentially a ham toastie, this has a more gutsy use of the ham and provides a platform for its potent glory. Dependant upon my mood, I may provide the ham with a flavour. Perfect partners include thai sweet chilli sauce, barbecue crisps, Branston Pickle and sandwich gherkins.

My affinity towards plastic ham spans many years. I feel sorry for ham. It gets a bad press. It tells foolish lies claiming to be part of a burger. I can understand people's repugnance.

Just reading the passage du terror of the food labelling and you will see the descriptive tales of terror. I mean really, who is going to be attracted to "ham with water added". Hammy water. Yikes......

Given shoddy sandwich accompaniments over the years like soggy bread inducing tomatoes, milky coleslaw and oesophagus stripping mustard, ham just has not had a chance to shine.

Bring on the insults. It only makes me love it more and it means I am always left with a fresh sandwich in a motorway service station.

It is an affordable meat. It steers well clear of main meals only allowing itself into the realms of pizza and the odd pasta dish.

I personally like to use ham in between layers of lasagne to add extra depth and texture.

I have no ham snobbery. I will buy over the counter or from the shelf.

If I am feeling flush, I will head to the butchers in my local high street, Tom Duckworth's of Rishton and buy some delicious ham off the bone.

Deeply pink, verging on a cerise, this ham has a deliciously melt in the mouth and fresh flavour.

My own little slice of Jamón Ibérico in a paper bag with it's price written on it.

Yes, I am a habitual user of ham and I am not afraid to admit to it.

It is only on a cold November day or often a day battling with a hangover that I salivate and fawn over Billy Bear. I air on the side of caution when something that is being sold alongside meats, requires a surname of meat at the end as an affirmation.

Fear not Mrs Toop, I eat Billy Bear as much as I enjoy reading Point Horror stories.
Come on then, join me in the ham crusade. Save this butty box favourite from being banished from all good lunchboxes forever.

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree... my favourite comfort food is ham, egg, chips and a slice of grilled pineapple. Heaven!