Our youngest recently had us over for a family meal. Because she worked as an early elementary teacher — and once a teacher always a teacher — she had planned every detail from the menu and the serving dishes to how long we would have for recess.
It was lovely.
But none of us will remember that it was lovely. What we will remember is the exploding ham.
The ham did not explode while we were eating, it exploded later that evening long after the meal was finished. We like to space out our fun and not do all the really neat stuff at one time.
We were home when she called, all out of breath and talking so fast I could hardly understand her. I thought she was yelling, “Don’t eat the ham! Don’t eat the ham!”
When she could talk without hyperventilating, she explained that they warmed up the ham in the microwave and it began sparking and exploding.
She wanted to know if the ham she’d sent home with us sparked, too.
Naturally, I got it out and threw it in the microwave. Five seconds … 10 seconds … 11 seconds … At the 12-second mark it began arcing, shooting sparks and popping like firecrackers. Then I started hyperventilating and shrieking just like she was.
“What’s going on out there?” the husband called from the other room.
He tends to get excited when I torch things in the kitchen, put small burn marks in the microwave and set off the smoke detector, so I calmly said, “Nothing. I’m just warming up your dinner.”
Back on the phone, our daughter wailed, “There’s foil in the ham!”
“There’s no foil in the ham!” I snapped. “Be logical!”
“Then there’s foil in the microwave!” she cried.
“There’s no foil in the microwave!”
“My children ate exploding ham!”
I was silent. That one was true. Her children did eat exploding ham.
“Calm down,” I said. “I’m sure they’re fine. But all the same, keep them away from the microwave.”
I raced to Google to inquire why ham might explode in the microwave.
The first nugget I found said the problem was that we had not removed all the buckshot.
Another post on exploding ham was from a man who was making himself a ham sandwich with mayo and Doritos. He warmed up the ham in the microwave and said it went off like mini-bombs, roughed up the edges and blew holes in the middle.
What caused it?
His post didn’t say, but he did say the sandwich was very good.
I also found articles advising people not to microwave non-food items, clothing, things with shells, eggs and blue cheese.
The most credible post cited a Purdue University food engineer who said dense food that is mineral rich can generate sparks in the electric field of a microwave. Ham is mineral rich with salt.
I called our daughter back and explained the most plausible theory.
“Are you calmed down?” I asked.
“What are you doing?”
“Watching my husband eat the ham. What’s Dad doing?”
“Eating the ham.”
Some of us are more likely to spark than others.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.