While doing some critical research for work last week, I came across a troubling story. The article, titled Ham, Thanksgiving’s Second Fiddle, Will Cost You This Year explained how a swine fever in Asia has led US ham prices to reach a 5-year high. Given how expensive ham is this year, it’s critical that you get your money’s worth at Thanksgiving. But, if you’re like me, you have to fly home for the holiday, making leftovers an impossibility and forcing you to consume all of your ham in the short period that you’re at home.
Isn’t that a little unfair? You flew all this way just to watch your aunt drive home with 8 slices of leftover ham while you board your plane empty handed? Why does she deserve it? She lives 20 minutes away and says “Oh I’ll get out of you guys’ way” when it’s time to do the dishes. Enough is enough — you’re flying home with some ham this year. I know what you’re thinking, “There’s no way I’m going to bring ham on a flight, that’s so embarrassing”. You know what’s embarrassing? Spending $300 on a flight home and limiting yourself to a few slices at dinner in a market like this. It’s practically a delicacy! So, swallow your pride, follow this guide, and enjoy some judgment-free leftover ham.
PHASE ONE: PREPARATION
Proper leftover ham travel takes preparation, so the work begins while you’re packing. Step one is to pack a football in your carry-on. If you’re running low on real estate in your bag, I recommend you put the football in place of the running shoes that you’re not actually going to use. I’ll explain the purpose of the football shortly.
The next step is to text your family and ask them if they want to throw the football around the backyard on Thanksgiving Day. If your family doesn’t usually do this, it will seem like you’re just proposing a fun, new idea. Even if they say no, say that you’re bringing it just in case they change their minds. If your family does play football every year and already has a football, I suggest taking a slightly different approach. Ask your family if they want to use a different size football than your family typically plays with. Here’s a sample message you could send:
“Hey Mom and Dad, I think my hands grew since last year. Let’s play with an NFL-sized ball this year — go long!”
Once the text is sent and the football is packed, you’re all set until the big day.
PHASE TWO: THE BIG DAY
After your family has enjoyed their meal and leftovers are being stored, it’s time to shine. Amidst the hustle and bustle of putting food from its platter to its storage container, you need to create a diversion to allow yourself to set a nice stash of ham on the side. At such a chaotic time, it shouldn’t be difficult to divert attention away. I’ve found that things like “Boy, Grandpa’s been napping awhile over there, are we sure he’s still alive?” can create an immediate rush to the living room.
Once the diversion is created, put some ham in a plastic bag, and then find a place to stash your leftovers to ensure their safety. If you have a second fridge in your garage, I’ve found this to be a great option. If not, I recommend concealing your bag of ham within another item in the fridge that’s unlikely to be used around Thanksgiving, such as a resealable bag of Mozzarella cheese.
PHASE THREE: THE RE-PACK
When it’s time to pack for your flight home, there are two key steps. Step one is easy — buy a pack of dog treats and put them into your suitcase. Step two is just as easy — take the football you brought home, slice it in half, put the ham inside it, then sew the football back together. Put the football back in your suitcase and you’re all set. Due to your immaculate deception, your family will perceive you to be a loving family member who wanted to start a new tradition with the pigskin, but in reality, you just brought a vessel to transport your pig meat.
PHASE FOUR: TRAVELING HOME
Now that you’ve enjoyed your time with the family and secured your stash of swine, it’s time to head back. You know how sometimes when you’re in line for security at the airport they have cops with dogs checking all luggage before you go through TSA? Well the dog will undoubtedly be seduced by the scent of your honey-glazed leftovers, and the cop will stop you. The cop will then ask what’s in the bag. You don’t want to be judged for your ham-carrying by a policeman, so tell the cop that the dog must be smelling the treats that are in the bag. Ask if the dog wants one. The cop will surely say no, but on the odd chance he doesn’t, you’ll be able to open your bag and pull out the treats and give one to the dog.
Next comes the TSA screening process. Nothing would be worse than the TSA agent looking at the scanner and laughing at you for traveling with ham — that’s why you put the ham in the football. The agent will see yet another pigskin go by on the X-ray machine, and won’t assume a thing.
Now that you’re through security it’s smooth sailing from here, except for one thing — temperature. The temperature of the ham has risen in the time you’ve gone from the airport, through security, and to your gate, and it’s likely to get a little lukewarm on the flight if you’re not careful. Luckily, there’s a simple step to chilling your bag with the ham on your flight. All it will take is the following:
Once the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign on the plane, get up and go to the restroom. If you need to go, do so, but that’s not why you’re there. Take some water from the sink and apply it to your head and underarms to make it appear as if you’re sweating profusely. When you return to your seat, do your best to look a little unwell. Hit the flight-attendant button and tell the flight attendant that you feel like you’re overheating. Ask for 5–6 cups of ice. Once they bring the ice, apply a few cubes to yourself to keep the show going, but try and keep as much of the ice in the cups as possible. The next time your seatmate gets up to go to the bathroom, stand up as well. Take your remaining ice, open the overhead bin, and dump the ice into the area surrounding your bag. When you close the overhead bin, it will create a similar effect to that of a 1990’s cooler, and your ham will keep from overheating.
Note: If your flight is longer than 3 hours you may have to repeat this process
Depending on the chilling ability of your overhead bins (I’ve found United’s tend to run a bit warm), you could have up to an hour and a half after your flight to get home and get the ham in the fridge — I recommend a sense of urgency just in case.
The last person to potentially judge you for your leftover ham is your cab/Uber driver from the airport. As the ham nears the lukewarm temperatures, it’s likely to give off that unmistakable honey scent. Once again, the solution is simple. After you land, head to one of the shops in the airport that sells personal goods and buy a can of Axe body spray (I recommend Dark Temptation if it’s available). Do not try and do this before the flight, as TSA is not a fan of aerosols. Douse yourself in the Axe body spray in a way that will overpower all nearby noses and mask the unmistakable ham smell.
When you get in your car, your driver is likely to be alarmed by your fragrance, although there’s an approximately 20% chance that the Uber already smells like this. If the driver asks why it smells so strongly, simply respond “I hugged my nephew for a long time before I left and it must have rubbed off on me — sorry, I’ll crack the window.” The cracked window has two benefits, it ensures the ham scent is undetected, and — if the outside temperature is below 50 degrees — it adds a little chill to the air to help keep your ham even cooler.
As long as you avoided opening up your bag and getting yourself a slice along the way, you should be home safely with your leftovers. Whether it’s your own family, TSA, or anyone else along the way, you will have evaded the judgment that comes with being a leftover ham flyer. I hope you found this guide helpful and more than that I hope we can find a cure for swine fever in Asia. If you find you’re doubting yourself along the way, just remember how much that flight was and how few dishes your aunt does. In a market like this, you deserve it.