In praise of steamed hams

Ever told a lie that got really, really out of hand? Are you hungry for some mouthwatering patented Skinner Burgers? Are you sufficiently dubious about the merits of isometric exercise – not least when practiced in a smoke-filled room?

When you bring up The Simpsons in conversation nowadays you can expect a range of reactions. Typically ‘the show sucks now, but it used to slap’ or some variation on that. Older millennials remember it fondly, as the show’s heyday roughly correlates with their own glory days.

Gen-Z and beyond have got used to it being an almost SpongeBob-level fount of incredible memes. 

Why is the Simpsons so memeable? Because basically anybody, I don’t care how old you are or where you’re from, can name about a dozen Simpsons characters. And so the show offers the common frame of reference that’s essential for humour to work. 


Of all the classic scenes, there’s an especially iconic episode first broadcast on April 14, 1996, as part of an anthology-style episode called 22 Short Films About Springfield, itself (who knew?) based on a project by Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould

Sort of loosely inspired by Pulp Fiction, the episode is a set of interconnected vignettes. And the best is called ‘Skinner and the Superintendent’, a parody of mid-to-late 20th century sitcoms. 

In the skit, Seymour Skinner, Springfield Elementary School headmaster, has invited his boss over for lunch. He intended to cook a roast, but he messed it up by burning it. What to do?! Purchase fast food from across the street and pass it off as his own cooking. 

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Anyway, you already knew that. So what are the best steamed hams memes?


Obviously, you’re probably au fait with the Guitar Hero version, which various online commentators have praised for highlighting the deft comic timing of Bill Oakley’s unforgettable script. 

Bill Oakley, by the way, was so tickled when his creation became a massive meme around 2018, he shared the first draft of the script (which incidentally featured ‘an unforgettable dinner’ not ‘luncheon’ – a great example of the merit of drafting and redrafting). 

Last year some chef cooked Oakley a steamed hamburger, and, bless his heart, he fucking hated it

It’s been translated into Chinese, and back again. There’s of course the piano dub, which is pretty.

It’s been remade into various other timeless video games including Metal Gear Solid, Grand Theft Auto, and Hotline Miami

The music of Gorillaz, a bonkers version that switches genre every time Skinner tells a lie. There’s a Lego version, obvs. Fellow indestructible meme Jeff Goldblum plays the part of Skinner in this loungey take

Nerds being nerds, they love pointing out bloopers, like the fact that even after Superintendent Chalmers starts eating the burger, there are no visible teeth marks in the burger

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They’re actually a real thing, by the way. Ted’s restaurant in central Connecticut steams burgers. It’s been running since 1959, so they can’t be all that bad. 

Apparently it’s a good idea, because when you grill or fry a burger some of the flavour leaches out in the fat. So steaming preserves that taste. However it’s not as simple as that. 

When you cook on a high heat, a process called the Maillard reaction takes over. In the Maillard reaction, protein (like in meat) turns to sugar (which is tasty). That’s why the darker bits of any given burger are always the most delicious. 

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Gratifyingly, the Steamed Hams phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down. Feast your eyes on this fresh family recipe, a permanently rolling AI version of the timeless skit.

And thanks to smartphones – scarcely imaginable tech when the scene first aired – you can watch the show any time.

At this time of year. At this time of day. In this part of the country. Localized entirely within your kitchen.

steamed hams

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