Crackers! #2: Toby Fehily

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Welcome to our very merry, end-of-year series, Crackers!

We’ve asked eight of our favourite writers to tell us about the best gift that 2015 gave them/the world, and we’ll be posting their responses all the way through to New Year’s Eve. Today’s cracker comes from Toby Fehily. Happy reading.


Why Colorectal Cancer Is The Best Thing To Happen to Christmas Ham

The gift arrived early, wrapped in an article titled “Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat”, left by the merry International Agency for Research on Cancer under the Christmas tree of UK medical journal The Lancet. When unwrapped on October 26, the gift revealed itself to be a link between the consumption of bacon, sausages and ham and an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Within hours, there were at least twelve farmers fuming, eleven butchers balking, ten chefs a shaking, nine rabbis gloating, eight breakfasts a bawling, seven bloggers a blubbering, six lobbyists a lobbying, five hot takes, four glum cows, three worried hens, two chuffed pigs and carcinogenicity.

But if Christmas has taught me anything, it’s the value of goodwill and cheer. And so with love in my heart and a smile on my face, I thought more about the discovery and realised it has set in motion a chain of events that will ensure this year’s Christmas ham will be my best Christmas ham ever.

You should never eat your Christmas ham angry.

It works like this: some, spooked by the news, will skip on their Christmas ham this year. At the very least, this will lead to shorter queues at the butcher and so less aggravation and frustration while I wait and so a reduced risk of me eating my Christmas ham angry (you should never eat your Christmas ham angry). At best, though, if there’s a significant tumble in demand, we can expect a drop in prices — a welcome respite from the Australian bacon boom, which has seen pig prices rising steadily for the past five years. Any money I save will go towards some trimmings to accompany my Christmas ham. (By the same token, any money I earn from writing about why colorectal cancer is the best thing to have happened to my Christmas ham, as here, will go towards a glaze, maybe a maple honey one.)

This is not to say that I’m being cavalier about my own health, though. To mitigate the increased risk of colorectal cancer from my Christmas ham, I will be taking steps to decrease said risk, including eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains; being more physically active; and quitting smoking. Not only will this counteract any adverse effects of my Christmas ham, it will also make me more physically fit—and so better equipped to expend the exertion required to eat my Christmas ham—and, quite possibly, happier, which would enable me to more fully enjoy and appreciate my Christmas ham.

All this might sound selfish, un-Christmas-like.

All this might sound selfish, un-Christmas-like. But with some scared away from eating their Christmas hams, there will be a corresponding dip in the prevalence of colorectal cancer, which means less medical treatment for colorectal cancer, which means less strain on the healthcare system, which means good tidings for everyone. Even if the difference is negligible, there are other benefits, such as a reduction in the risk of obesity, which currently poses a serious burden on public health. This is perhaps the greatest gift of all, as it means I don’t have to worry so much about things like other people while I’m trying to concentrate on eating what will be my best Christmas ham ever.


Toby Fehily is the editor of Art Guide Australia and a freelance writer.