kevin haworth

Q.  I keep kosher.  Can I scrape the honey off the ham, using a parve knife, and eat just the honey?  Is that allowed?

A.  That’s an excellent question.  I too keep kosher, having just achieved a new state of consciousness during an extended eco-vacation in Cambodia and Laos. 

My father claims this is just a phase, that I will soon grow out of it, and that my refusal to eat off any of his plates or anything that his new wife prepares is merely a kind of childish rebellion.  It is true that I had a confusing childhood, observing dietary laws at Hebrew school only to be followed by takeout shrimp lo mein from Happy Panda while my father insisted that I ‘misunderstood’ the meaning of shellfish.  Since the divorce, I find much of my parents’ marriage, in retrospect, to be marked by hypocrisy and inattention. But the holidays are a difficult time for everyone, I think.

Anyway, back to your question: if, in a pinch, you find yourself with nothing else to eat, or you just don’t want to give that new shiksa the satisfaction, then yes, you can scrape the thick glaze of honey from the ham and enjoy it on some nicely crusted challah.  But you should do so carefully, and only under strict rabbinic supervision.

Q.  Does Honey-baked Ham ever bake with anything other than honey?  There’s a strange texture here in my dinner.

A.  In this time of dwindling resources and environmental catastrophe, it is only the responsible thing that Honey-Baked Ham experiment with alternative ingredients.  I suggest you pour yourself another glass of wine and move on.

Q.  Do you ever get the sense that sometimes people call the help line even though they don’t really have a question? 

A.  It is quite natural that we all feel lonely from time to time.  Here at HoneyBaked Ham Headquarters, for example, I am assigned to a poorly-lit, windowless room, with only the blinking red call light for company.  There are many times when I secretly switch off my headset and sit for hours contemplating the nature of temporary seasonal employment.  Other times I find that I stay on the line long after I have answered the initial query, listening for TV sounds in the background or other signs that the caller is not living a life of quiet desperation.

Caller, if you are still there, this is my answer.  Drive down to HBH headquarters here on Riffle Road and wait for the security guard to go on his company-mandated break at exactly forty minutes past the hour.  Enter at the southeast corner, make a left at the copy machine, and look for me.  I’m waiting for you.  Perhaps there are some questions we can only answer together.

Kevin Haworth is the author of the novel The Discontinuity of Small Things and co-editor of Lit From Within: Contemporary Writers on the Art and Craft of Writing, forthcoming from Ohio University Press. He is the winner of the Michigan Quarterly Review's Lawrence Foundation Prize for short fiction for 2009. Other recent work appears in Witness, Juked, Harpur Palate, Sentence, and elsewhere. He will be spending the summer as Writer-in-Residence at Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California.