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I bought my father a record player for his 60th birthday. It’s a gray, retro-style Crosley standing on long black legs, like a whooping crane, looking out over our kitchen in Atlanta. I also included three starter records I knew he would love — “Crosby, Stills & Nash,” “Let It Be” and “Hotel California” — because they contain the signature songs he sang at karaoke my whole life. My father, the crooner, is always the life of the party, the class clown. My mother calls him a yes man, which she thinks means someone who says “yes” anytime he’s asked to hang out, which my father does. He loves fun, and as someone who also loves fun, I wanted him to have a record player for whenever his friends come over to play cards. Sometimes I can hear it in my dreams: John Lennon and Paul McCartney harmonizing over the clinking glasses of soju with lime juice from a plastic green bottle.

Since that birthday a few years ago, we put the record player on whenever we’re in the kitchen, which is often, especially during the holidays. I might be baking cookies or preparing Christmas dinner — always a big glazed ham — or making cottage-cheese pancakes in the morning. When my mother is sitting at the kitchen island with her coffee before the rest of us wake up, it’s Joan Baez. When my brother Kevin is whipping up a cocktail before dinner, it’s Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. When I’m baking a loaf of milk bread at midnight, alone, it’s Johnny Cash or Elvis — a little bit of country, a little bit of rock. It’s my father’s Crosley, but we all benefit from it.

I am not a religious person, but I revere Christmastime as a secular season centered on food and family — two of my favorite things. As with any family tradition, there are rules. My father expects a ham every year. Last Christmas, I was so busy and burned out from the pandemic that I never got around to making one. So this year, I want to be sure I come home with an excellent ham recipe, though I shouldn’t call this my recipe. When it comes to matters of cured pork, I’ve picked up things along the way from various cooks. But the recipe that has inspired me the most is Nigella Lawson’s. Her ham in cola is a treasure of a dish that calls for boiling a gammon in two liters of Coca-Cola, with an onion chucked in for mellow savoriness. The caramel-tinged ham is then lacquered with molasses, dark like licorice and dusted with spicy English mustard powder and crunchy demerara sugar.

I bought my father a record player for his 60th birthday. It’s a gray, retro-style Crosley standing on long black legs, like a whooping crane, looking out over our kitchen in Atlanta. I also included three starter records I knew he would love — “Crosby, Stills & Nash,” “Let It Be” and “Hotel California” — because they contain the signature songs he sang at karaoke my whole life. My father, the crooner, is always the life of the party, the class clown. My mother calls him a yes man, which she thinks means someone who says “yes” anytime he’s asked to hang out, which my father does. He loves fun, and as someone who also loves fun, I wanted him to have a record player for whenever his friends come over to play cards. Sometimes I can hear it in my dreams: John Lennon and Paul McCartney harmonizing over the clinking glasses of soju with lime juice from a plastic green bottle.

Since that birthday a few years ago, we put the record player on whenever we’re in the kitchen, which is often, especially during the holidays. I might be baking cookies or preparing Christmas dinner — always a big glazed ham — or making cottage-cheese pancakes in the morning. When my mother is sitting at the kitchen island with her coffee before the rest of us wake up, it’s Joan Baez. When my brother Kevin is whipping up a cocktail before dinner, it’s Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. When I’m baking a loaf of milk bread at midnight, alone, it’s Johnny Cash or Elvis — a little bit of country, a little bit of rock. It’s my father’s Crosley, but we all benefit from it.

I am not a religious person, but I revere Christmastime as a secular season centered on food and family — two of my favorite things. As with any family tradition, there are rules. My father expects a ham every year. Last Christmas, I was so busy and burned out from the pandemic that I never got around to making one. So this year, I want to be sure I come home with an excellent ham recipe, though I shouldn’t call this my recipe. When it comes to matters of cured pork, I’ve picked up things along the way from various cooks. But the recipe that has inspired me the most is Nigella Lawson’s. Her ham in cola is a treasure of a dish that calls for boiling a gammon in two liters of Coca-Cola, with an onion chucked in for mellow savoriness. The caramel-tinged ham is then lacquered with molasses, dark like licorice and dusted with spicy English mustard powder and crunchy demerara sugar.

I bought my father a record player for his 60th birthday. It’s a gray, retro-style Crosley standing on long black legs, like a whooping crane, looking out over our kitchen in Atlanta. I also included three starter records I knew he would love — “Crosby, Stills & Nash,” “Let It Be” and “Hotel California” — because they contain the signature songs he sang at karaoke my whole life. My father, the crooner, is always the life of the party, the class clown. My mother calls him a yes man, which she thinks means someone who says “yes” anytime he’s asked to hang out, which my father does. He loves fun, and as someone who also loves fun, I wanted him to have a record player for whenever his friends come over to play cards. Sometimes I can hear it in my dreams: John Lennon and Paul McCartney harmonizing over the clinking glasses of soju with lime juice from a plastic green bottle.

Since that birthday a few years ago, we put the record player on whenever we’re in the kitchen, which is often, especially during the holidays. I might be baking cookies or preparing Christmas dinner — always a big glazed ham — or making cottage-cheese pancakes in the morning. When my mother is sitting at the kitchen island with her coffee before the rest of us wake up, it’s Joan Baez. When my brother Kevin is whipping up a cocktail before dinner, it’s Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. When I’m baking a loaf of milk bread at midnight, alone, it’s Johnny Cash or Elvis — a little bit of country, a little bit of rock. It’s my father’s Crosley, but we all benefit from it.

I am not a religious person, but I revere Christmastime as a secular season centered on food and family — two of my favorite things. As with any family tradition, there are rules. My father expects a ham every year. Last Christmas, I was so busy and burned out from the pandemic that I never got around to making one. So this year, I want to be sure I come home with an excellent ham recipe, though I shouldn’t call this my recipe. When it comes to matters of cured pork, I’ve picked up things along the way from various cooks. But the recipe that has inspired me the most is Nigella Lawson’s. Her ham in cola is a treasure of a dish that calls for boiling a gammon in two liters of Coca-Cola, with an onion chucked in for mellow savoriness. The caramel-tinged ham is then lacquered with molasses, dark like licorice and dusted with spicy English mustard powder and crunchy demerara sugar.

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