My dad is a difficult person to shop for. (Just ask the set of golf clubs he never used that mysteriously disappeared.) Sometime around the 14th flannel shirt we gave him, he finally acquiesced to my mom’s and my plea to give us a Christmas list.
This year the list included ski socks and a Taylor Pork Roll (aka “Taylor Ham”), which—for those who are curious—is a New Jersey developed “pork-based processed meat” that looks like Jimmy Dean sausage and spam had a baby.
Christmas list aside, my dad first asked about the Taylor Pork Roll in early summer 2020, before my parents visited RI. “See if you can find some Taylor Pork Roll,” my dad asked, I assumed at a local grocery store, but being caught up in quarantine, social unrest, and a blissful relationship, I did little to investigate the ham situation.
This time, though, things were going to be different. I was going to bring home the baco—um, pork roll for Christmas.
TO BE FAIR (to myself), as soon as the request came in, I did do a Google search, but then my job, which is rarely extra-hours crazy, became extra-hours crazy. For a week, my web browser had 20 tabs open, one of which was for Taylor Pork Roll. And then Friday came. At 9pm I exuberantly shut my computer off, only to realize a couple of days later that I never purchased a pork roll.
Sunday, December 13th
The Sunday before I flew home, I got online once again, figuring I could just order some ham from the very obvious “Home of the Pork Roll” website, ship it to Roswell, have my mom hide it in the freezer until Christmas.
I had a couple of 1.5lb rolls ready to go in the shopping cart, but when I went to select my desired shipping costs, I came across two options, which were:
- “Ship after Christmas”
- “Ship before Christmas WITH NO GUARANTEE WHATSOEVER”
Even if I selected two-day shipping for (let’s say) $75, there was a disclaimer that said:
“…our shipping guarantee for these services will be suspended until after the New Year.
US Postal, Ground and Home delivery orders ARE NOT REFUNDED or REPLACED for ANY reason.”
The red ink and the all caps were alarming.
So, I was faced with a dilemma. Do I purchase this Taylor Pork Roll to be shipped to New Mexico WITH NO GUARANTEE WHATSOEVER, or do I try to come up with a better solution?
I searched Google again. Suddenly, there were no shipping guarantees anywhere. The only exception was an option called Instacart, which told me for $10 I could have a Taylor Pork Roll on my doorstep at 9am the next morning, but that seemed dubious. Where was it coming from? I’ve literally never seen this product in any grocery store near me,* so—only one click away from the “complete order” button—I reached out to someone I knew in New Jersey.
*neither have I looked
JR lives in central New Jersey, the heart of New Jersey (if you will), so I thought he must be surrounded by Taylor Pork Rolls. Granted, JR and I have only had two or three conversations total, but I prefaced my text message with “I have a random question for you,” and assumed that covered my bases.
JR was quick to respond. Yes, he knew of the pork roll, and yes, he believed there must be some near him, though he knew of nothing offhand. He promised to call a few shops in the morning and let me know.
I withheld online purchases and decided to call it a night.
Monday, December 14th
The next day was a flurry of activity, both because it was a Monday, because I was dealing with RI Unemployment, and because JR was texting me options that brought me to the NO GUARANTEE WHATSOEVER shop, and a store that sold competitor ham (“Johnston’s Pork Roll”). Just as I was about to consent to the NO GUARANTEE website, we faced a glimmer of hope. A local supermarket carried Taylor Pork Rolls(!)
Moments before JR’s cell phone died, he sent me this photo, asking which size ham I would like:
I opted for one small and one medium, completely unaware that my dad had specified how much he wanted (1.5lbs). But you know what they say: Go small-and-medium, or go home!
By Monday night, we had secured the Pork Roll.
Tuesday, December 15th
At 9:30am, JR texted me a copy of the UPS receipt with a tracking number. He signed me up for two-day shipping, set to arrive on Thursday, the 17th—the day before my flight to New Mexico. Take that, no guarantees!
Note: JR deserves to be sainted.
Later that day
A text message:
Ironically, we thought only of my flight, and not of the mail.
Wednesday, December 16th, 7pm
The snow began to fall.
Thursday, December 17th
We got a foot of snow. Everyone worked from home, even people who were no longer working from home due to COVID. I actually didn’t even consider the pork roll until my boss emailed me a very heartfelt thank you for her Christmas gift—it arrived in the mail.
In a snowstorm.
Via “Regular” mail that I dropped off the day before.
I wrapped myself in fleece and ran downstairs to see if my package had arrived.
I checked the UPS tracking number, and there was no indication the package had even left New Jersey.
I began to panic.
Friday, December 18th
Before my alarm went off, I was awake and frantically praying. “I know this is a dumb thing to pray, Lord, but can you please let the Taylor Pork Roll arrive?”
JR texted me with UPS tracking updates, even though I signed up for texting alerts from UPS and none of them came in. It was in CT as of 10:50pm the night before. At 7am Friday morning, it was scanned in Warwick, RI.
Lord help me.
As a matter of pre-flight business, I walked, in the snow, to the post office to mail gifts, and as soon as I returned to my apartment, there was a UPS truck in the street.
HAIL MOTHER OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND PURE – could it be?
It was! The Taylor Pork Roll had arrived!
I have never been so happy to see a processed pork-based meat in all of my life. It truly felt like a Christmas miracle!
TSA took the Taylor Pork Roll out of my bag to examine it. I nearly had an embolism, but they let me keep it. (I chose to carry it on because there was a possibility my suitcase might not make it with my tight connections.)
My friend, BR (not to be confused with JR) texted me while I was waiting to board: “DID YOUR MEAT COME IN?!”
He had told his mother about the meat saga, and she, too, was concerned. (She lives in Indiana, by the way.) She told her son that if it didn’t arrive on time, he needed to go to my house and collect the package, so that, at the very least, it wouldn’t rot on my doorstep.
Friday, December 25th (today)
Therefore, I present to you, Father, the story of Sir Hamselot and the quest of JR2 to ensure this gift arrived to Roswell and made it underneath the Christmas tree. I hope you enjoy this pork roll as much as it deserves.
Did I write this partially because I was afraid that my dad might unwrap the Taylor Pork Roll and be like, “Oh, cool,” with little-to-no-enthusiasm, not understanding the depth of what has now been deemed as “the meat saga”?
Yes, yes I did.
But I also wanted to have an excuse to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. While I know the best gifts aren’t found underneath a Christmas tree (UNLESS THEY ARE TAYLOR PORK ROLLS), I also know that holidays can be hard. I hope you find a sense of joy today. There is one gift we all share, one that cannot be taken away (or delayed by UPS), and that is *God with us*. In this world you will face trouble, but take heart: I have overcome the world.