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Of hams and Whos

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So this was a Sunday of firsts. Not not only my inaugural viewing of a Superbowl half-time show, but also my first attempt at cooking one of those big, big hams with the bone on it.

I’ve always been a mystified by ham-like meats and their various grocery store names—why is one a “sweet pickle roll” while another is a “steak” and that one there is “smoked hock”? But anyway, whatever the actual name, the big ones with the bone, that are not precooked, were on at a very good price at Sobey’s this week, so I decided to take a stab at cooking that. How hard could it be?

I had assumed it would be like other big hunks of meats, in that you flavored the outside somehow, then stuck it in the oven at a certain temperature for 2+ hours, until the middle part reached the acceptable temperature. To my surprise, though, the package for this thing said it was to be cooked on the stove top in water (for 2+ hours).

Well, thank goodness I still have that huge pasta pot I received as a wedding present and have rarely used since, because it just fit in there. The wrapper then instructed me to remove the wrapper before I cooked it in the water. Boy, what kind of an idiot does this wrapper think I am anyway, I thought, as I removed the plastic and discovered that the meat was in this other mesh-like wrapper. Was I supposed to remove that one?

“Jean! Help!”

Jean called for reinforcements. Since his Mom left the mesh on, so would I.

The instructions then said to cover the meat in cold water, then cook it over low heat for 2 to 2.5 hours, til it reached 71C. Seemed easy enough, so I did as told.

An hour later when I checked, the water was warmish but not bubbly or anything. That seemed a bit odd, but what did I know? Another half hour later, there was some simmer going, and I started working on the scalloped potatoes (which I actually know how to make).

As those when in the oven, I got the bright idea of actually sticking a meat thermometer in the meat to see how it was doing. It was nowhere near 71C. It was at, like 27, or something. And here I was, kind of hoping to eat this thing today.

I now did what I have to assume I was supposed to have done in the first place, which is bring the water to a full boil, then reduce heat to a nice simmer. That did the temperature moving up a bit quicker. But not really quickly enough.

As microwaving didn’t seem to be much of an option, I was at a bit of a loss as to how to accelerate the cooking time.

“Jean! Help!”

Jean’s suggestion, which I had sorted gleaned onto also, was to cut the big hunk of meat into smaller hunks, figuring each would cook faster that way.

And faster it did go, finally finishing about 3.5 hours after starting, and about 0.5 hours after the scalloped potatoes and braised cabbage with cranberries were done. But that wasn’t so bad. And everything was really very tasty. (Thank goodness, because I think we’re going to be eating the leftovers for the next week or two.)

So in the background of this kitchen drama, as of 6:45 or so, was The Superbowl. Muted. (Yes, I have a TV in my kitchen. Doesn’t everyone?) So I was able to look up to it every once in a while, between fretting about meat temperature, to see the first two quarters count down.

Though I needn’t really have worried, because as the second quarter wound down, I got not one but two calls informing me of the impending halftime show. It’s so nice to have people in your life who care! And who actually want to watch The Superbowl. And by then, we were actually done eating dinner (though not putting away all the leftovers).

I went downstairs where the PVR lives and put it on Superbowl channel. Only the sound was all broken up. That wasn’t going to work. So I tried other Superbowl channels – CBS, maritime, BC. Then other, non-Superbowl channels.

Basically, the sound was a fubarred anywhere. With about 2 minutes left in the second quarter, the PVR needed a reboot.

So while it reset itself, I watched the countdown on the kitchen TV. With about 10 seconds left, the PVR was back, sound restored to normality.

I then sat with the remote, planning to hit the record when The Who actually began their set. Only, it had been so long since I actually recorded anything playing live (I normally preset everything I plan to watch), I didn’t really know how to do that. Which I only realized as their set began.

“Jean! Help!”

Jean managed the highly complex [not] process of recording what was currently on (and we later remembered that it actually tapes everything from when I first tuned to that channel, so I actually have the whole thing).

And then we watched The Who—me a little more closely than Jean.

Jean [during Baba O’Reilly]: Is that all they’re doing of that one? Me (feeling weirdly proud that he now knows when Baba O’Reilly is shortened): Yeah, it’s medley.

The set list was utterly unsurprising. They only have 12 minutes. Of course they’re going to play all the CSI themes, somehow. It certainly would have been nice to hear more of their catalog, and it might have been interesting (or an interesting disaster) if they’d actually tried to “mash up” some of their songs (and come to think of it, they used do that very thing, live … quite brilliantly). But again… 12 minutes.

Jean [during Who Are You]: You must disappointed he’s wearing a shirt. Me: Yeah, and no wardrobe malfunctions this year.

The outfits: Though still in remarkably great shape for nearly 66, I don’t actually think Daltrey should still go out in full bare chest-al glory anymore. So the jacket was fine, but that scarf? I don’t really get his fondness for scarves, unless he feels having a warm neck actually helps with singing, or something. (And some bloggers are complaining about seeing Townsend’s “white tummy” far too often—which I can’t say I particular even noticed!)

Jean: [during Won’t Get Fooled Again]: Wow, I’m impressed how fast they set that stage up. Me: Did you know The Who pioneered the use of lasers in rock concerts?

The staging was pretty awesome. The light show, the fireworks—it looked great on TV, it must have looked fantastic in the stadium.

As to the overall performance? Though a bit sloppy at times, I thought they were pretty good, generally. Mind, I wasn’t expecting them to sound like they did in 1971. It was fun to hear the big stadium singing along with them. Knowing that Daltrey’s voice is a thing of wonkiness these days, I was actually tense waiting for him to attempt the “Won’t Get Fooled Again” scream. But to my relief, that was great! (Though it may well be the years of doing that scream that has reduced his voice to what it is now…)

I did a bit of review reading afterward. What I found most weird were the accusations, at Rollingstone.com, that they lip-synced the entire performance. (This is not in the review, but in the dreaded comments section.) I’m with those who said, you know, if the whole thing was pre-recorded, don’t you think it would have been a little… better?

And my favourite review is the fairly poignant one in the New York Times, some of which I’ll quote below:

Instead, for what was probably its biggest one-time viewing audience, the Who chose repertory from Townshend’s increasingly ambitious late-1960s albums and afterward, when he was already taking a grown-up’s point of view: “Pinball Wizard” and the gentle “See me, feel me” snippet from his 1969 rock opera “Tommy”; “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from the 1971 “Who’s Next”; and the title song from the 1978 “Who Are You.” If there was a 21st-century attention-span paradox in having the man who wrote rock operas and concept albums compress his life’s work into 12 minutes — well, Townshend said beforehand that the medley was Daltrey’s idea.

They were songs about prowess, determination, desperation and rage at how revolutions fail: an arc of verbal frustration defied, and explosively overcome, by musical assertiveness, with the power chords that the Who made ring worldwide. They were songs that expected, and got, large audiences at the time. It was music born to be heard in arenas and stadiums, and the halftime show might have been these songs’ last airing on their accustomed monumental scale.

The Who did its best to punk up its songs again, even amid the Super Bowl’s fiesta of corporate branding, and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” — the song that got the fullest airing — still had a good part of its old ferocity. But it was a line in “Baba O’Riley” that touched on what kind of milestone this brief, happily unkempt, late-career performance was for the Who. “Let’s get together before we get much older,” Daltrey sang, looking directly across the stage at Townshend.

PS – I also quite liked this blog post, which (despite not containing nearly enough information about ham) nicely made the point that while The Who’s Superbowl performance was mostly fine, they’re just doomed now by having once been the best live band. Period. I especially liked this line: “The Who are probably the most underrated band that many people consider wildly overrated.”

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