25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
HAM - A Reminder of Christmas!
It is only November 14, and it already begins to look like Christmas. Soon it will begin to feel like it. Today there are already a few businesses putting out the lights and decorations that remind us of Christmas. Today Christmas is all about lights, clothing and the amenities that go with celebrations.
It was called the Christmas ham because it was not available throughout the year except at Christmas time. These hams were not refrigerated but came in cloth bags and were very salty and smoked. They were hung in the stores for the public to notice them and villagers purchased them and hung them from the ceiling of either the living room or the kitchen which was also the dining room. You might ask why they were hung and it was for public viewing so that everyone would know that the family would be having a grand time, an exceptional Christmas, and a special banquet departing from the customary everyday fish and marine products. This ham was boiled two times to remove the salt and then baked. And listen to this, the ham was cut until the 24th in the night and then consumed slowly hoping and intentionally trying that it would last until the New Year. This is how we USED TO enjoy the hams in yester years.
Twenty five years ago you could know that Christmas was approaching because the local shop owners would start asking the villagers if they wanted to order a ham for Christmas. The main event or the "biggie" back then was to be able to provide a nice juicy ham for your family during Christmas. Hams were imported by a few Belize City agents. They were the salted smoked hams that came in bags. They were hung from the ceiling of the stores and could stay good for many months without refrigeration. In fact there were no refrigerators back then. When you opened your bag of ham, it had this net around it. It was usually covered with some white stuff like mould that had to be scraped. These hams were so salty that they had to be boiled at least two times and then baked before they were ready for human consumption.
Anyway back to the feeling of Christmas. Simply hanging one of these smoked hams from the ceiling of the kitchen gave the family a sense of Christmas. It meant that the family was well off to be able to afford a good Christmas meal. And indeed, a few families could not afford it. These hams were usually purchased around the 15th. of December and the children would insist that it be opened and baked. However, it was mom's and dad's decision that it would be prepared until the 23rd. of December and the first bite would be made on December 24th., Christmas Eve.
Do you have any clue why hams were so special back then? It was simply because they were not available during the rest of the year. Today you get your hams in all varieties throughout the year. In fact, I believe that this year you will be eating for the first time that special ham prepared in San Pedro. Yes, you heard it right, in San Pedro because San Pedro is now the home of the Sausage Factory that produces a variety of delicious sausages and even smoked ham. Now we can eat hams throughout the year, so it is not a special Christmas delicacy. Now Christmas is about parties and booze.