Move Fuel: Christmas Vacation with Grisowld Ham

The ham is still in the oven, roasting away. I’ll let my very own Mr. Movie Fuel take it away with a modern Christmas-omedy favorite!

National Lampoon’s – Christmas Vacation (1989)

  Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly Deangelo, Juliette Lewis, Randy Quaid and Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Writer John Hughes has a talent for creating characters that are perfectly imperfect.  Their quirks and faults make them funny, but within each of his movies, he seems to create a world full of these people, maybe so they are not alone?  There is a certain sentiment he has for the outsider that is most notably demonstrated in films like Breakfast ClubPretty in PinkSixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful.  But, I would argue that he is at his best when examining the family dynamic, especially because he has a gift for creating a family out of any group of people who grow to care for each other.

Films like Uncle BuckPlanes, Trains and AutomobilesFerris Bueller’s Day OffHome Alone and all of the Vacation movies.  If you ask anyone, they will argue why one National Lampoon’s Vacation movie is their favorite over another; European Vacation, the original Vacation movie in which they travel to Wally World and some people even love Vegas Vacation(?).  Needless to say, each movie has its moments and can be watched multiple times, still drawing out laughs throughout the living room.

My personal favorite is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  I love Christmas and I love the Vacation movies, so it’s the perfect match.  And everything about Christmas seems to be included here; tree hunting, mall shopping, decorating the house with lights, the family dinner, advent calendars and gingerbread houses, even reading “The Night Before Christmas,” but of course these are all done in the special Griswold family style of Christmas time fun.

As usual, Chevy Chase drives the movie home with his deadpan expressions and innate ability to get into trouble.  Chase’s Clark Griswold wants nothing more than happiness for his family and an ideal vacation. Griswold never fails to go about it the wrong way up until the very end, when he realizes his family loves him despite (and almost because of his) faults. However, it is the rest of the family that enhances his character this time. In this Vacation movie, we get to know the family members quirks at home, as opposed to their usual role of being a fish out of water in different locales. This time nearly all of their extended family come for a mostly unwelcome visit. The word dysfunction probably wouldn’t do this family justice, but the standout here is Randy Quaid as Clark’s hillbilly cousin in-law Eddie, who seems to live on another planet and is impossible to get rid of!   “Every time Catherine revved up the microwave, I’d piss my pants and forget who I was for about half an hour or so.” – Cousin Eddie

The movie as a whole is one segment after another that make up a giant circus of Christmas mishaps.  We can all get frustrated over the holidays and can relate to issues like family pressure, shopping, money stress, decorations and a general sense of wanting everything to be perfect.  And while this film dabbles with some of these themes, don’t kid yourself, this is all just straight laughs with a sprinkle of warming the heart.  So, grab your popcorn tin (four flavors!) and let John Hughes entertain you for 90 minutes!

Now, on to the eats! My Griswold ham is the second big pig butt I have roasted in the past month. I have a newly found, firm belief that every mother needs to teach her children how to roast a large piece of animal. This would have come in handy during my slice of pizza or bowl of cereal college years. I found a ten pound ham at Fresh & Easy for .97 cents a pound. It wouldn’t have been that hard to scrounge up ten dollars between my roommates back in the day! What I love about roasting meats is the large amount of food I end up with. It’s not too often that there are more than one or two portions of left overs in my home!

The secret to roasting ham (and all meat really) lies not in the ingredients, but the oven! Just like turkey, I like to let my ham cook uncovered in a hot oven (400 degrees) for the first twenty minutes or so. After that, the heat goes down to 325 degrees and the meat is covered loosely with aluminum foil. Pre-cooked hams need around 15 minutes per pound. This is why roasted meats are the best rainy day meal, you’ll need to be home for at least three hours while it cooks.

The last ham I made was seriously juicy. I had doused little Wilbur in orange juice, syrup, brown sugar, pepper and honey. This go around, I was out of orange juice. I used instead, extra honey and then patted the whole thing down with all the apple sauce I had in the fridge. Apple juice works well, but we are out of that too. My only other options were Kefir or Almond Milk. Uh, no.

That’s it, that’s all I needed to do. Now we have ham for at least three days, so I had better get crafty! Now, if someone would only teach me to slice!

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