Monday, December 04, 2006

A (pre) Christmas meme

Kasia at The Clam Rampant tagged me to answer this survey...

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Egg Nog, certainly, but only if it is home-made. And I know how to do it. It's not as hard as you may think; and when people taste home-made egg nog, they are astonished -- they never knew what the real thing was like, because all they've ever had was that gooey, wallpaper-paste-like substance sold everywhere.

I cannot just now find a recipe that corresponds to the one I have, somewhere; but the basic method is as follows:

Ingredients: Half-and-half (or pure cream if you like); eggs; sugar (Splenda works too); Bourbon (others like Rum or brandy, but I've never used them); fresh nutmeg.

Method: First separate the eggs. My mother taught me that when you separate eggs, never open the egg over the bowl of separated whites, because if you have a failure -- the yolk breaks -- over the bowl of all your whites, you will spoil them all. Her method was to have a small bowl, separate the whites into that, then after success with that egg (meaning no yolk), toss it into the larger bowl of whites. That way, if you mess up one egg, you don't ruin all the whites. She said it was okay to get white in with the yolks, but not vice-versa.

After separating the eggs, you put the whites in the fridge, to keep them cold; then you whip up the yolks. I can't recall the order just now, but I seem to recall first make the yolks thick and creamy, then you add the bourbon -- slowly -- then the sugar, then the half-and-half. (It all comes back to me when I actually do it, plus I have the recipe somewhere.) Note that the half-and-half or cream is not itself whipped, but merely added in -- this I recall comes after the sugar and whiskey.

This can go in the fridge while the whites come out. These are now whipped up. Again, mom told me to be careful none of the prior mixture is on the mixer's blades. The whites are whipped up fairly stiff, although not too much so. (I often overdo it). I never add anything, such as salt or cream of tartar, such as I seem to recall some might.

Next step is to combine all this. I don't know if anything would be gained by waiting; I always do it right away. Since I don't care to have lots of dirty bowls, nor have any of this goodness go to waste, I try to whip up the yolk/cream mixture in the bowl I'll serve it in, which has to be huge.

When combining the whites with the prior mixture, you do it gently and patiently, because you've just gone to all the trouble to whip up those whites -- why would you want to undo all that work? The result should be mostly even thickness, but not obsessively so -- having some blobs of the fluffy whites is fine. The last thing is to grate the fresh nutmeg over the top, as generously as you like; then carefully place the entire bowl back in the fridge to chill.

When you bring it out, the whites will have risen to the top, but they should be more like a froth than a solid layer (this is where not stiffening them too much is important; but even if you do, it'll still taste very good).

Real egg nog will be kind of messy in the bowl, so I think you do well to use it all up at one go; but you can put it away again, and save the leftovers, and it'll taste just fine. I can't recall ever saving it very long, so I have no idea how long you can save it.

One more thing: you can, of course, use as much or as little liquor as you like; the recipe calls for what seems -- when you pour it in -- to be a significant quantity; but it won't be till after you whip the whites, and put it all together, that you realize just how much volume you have -- then, it's not so much, as a proportion to the whole. It's enough to give it a sharp, whiskey taste (which I like), and it will give a little "lift," but really, unless you stand there and swill it back, there just isn't enough to intoxicate. So don't be timid about the booze; it won't be as much as you think it will.

Yes, you can make it non-alcoholic; I tried it, back in college, when I went through a temperance phase. Trouble was, the egg-sugar-cream mixture didn't have much flavor -- and because this version of egg nog doesn't have as much body as the pasty commercial stuff, the result I found disappointing. One remedy is to load it up with vanilla flavoring (real, of course!), or to try a rum-flavoring. As I recall, that produced pretty good, non-alcoholic egg nog; but I haven't seen a reason to make it that way in awhile.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? All I know is St. Nicholas brings them wrapped; whether he or someone else actually does the wrapping, I don't know. I, on the other hand, am tending toward minimalism.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Whatever's on sale/or I find in the box.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? That would be a little scandalous, don't you think?

5. When do you put your decorations up? As near to Christmas Eve as I can -- unless I never get around to putting them away, as happened with the creche from last year!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? If I have a turkey, my favorite dish is the gravy; but only when it's made the way my mother made it: from the drippings of the pan, with flour, and not too thick; and still hot!

If you want to be a purist, I'd argue that turkey is more for Thanksgiving, and therefore have something else luxurious for Christmas: a big roast, or how about duck or goose? (Not that I've ever cooked a duck or goose!); but on the rare occasions I've fixed a Christmas meal, I have done a big, juicy roast of beef. I guess it all depends on how much you like turkey, and how much is leftover from Thanksgiving. I like turkey, but if I ate it for a week in late November, I like having something else. On the other hand, if no leftovers, then bring on the turkey. As it is, it's been awhile since I played host for either occasion, so I enjoy whatever is set before me.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: coming back from midnight Mass as a family, and waiting in the car as Dad ran in to see if Santa had come -- then coming out and announcing, breathlessly, that he had! Then we'd all rush in, open our presents right then.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? ... um, what do you mean?

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Sure, and earlier, if it serves courtesy: i.e., someone presents me a gift, and I think my opening it would give that person pleasure, I will do so, whenever.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Ideally: lots and lots of lights, carefully placed, so the thing glows from within; then ornaments placed both on the surface, but also the interior, and on all sides -- yes, even the back! (although this is where the uglier ones go) -- so that anyone who really looks at the tree, will see something those who only glance at it will miss. I'm indifferent to garland and won't use "icicles." Candy canes are nice.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? In the world of my own wishes, snow arrives overnight, but never sticks to sidewalks or roads; and remains only so long as it's pleasing, then goes away swiftly. In that world, I love it; in the real world, I have no use for it, particularly around Christmas. Have you any idea what a headache "threatening weather" is for parishes, their staffs, their volunteers, their plans, their budgets, and their pastors? If it must come, let snow come during the Octave of Christmas -- i.e., on a weekday, when school is out anyway, and the staff all gets time off; I don't mind trudging through it for daily Mass.

12. Can you ice skate? No; but I can fall on my posterior and hurt myself with alacrity.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Yes.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Worshiping the Lord.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? This is true: fruitcake! But it has to be made right, fresh, and properly inebriated.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Midnight Mass.

17. What tops your tree? One of those glass things that has a point on the top, intended to be a kind of star, I think.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Both together.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? Hark! The Herald Angels Sing -- unedited by idiot music publishers who Gnosticize it.

20. Candy canes: yuck or yum? They're okay; better on ice cream.

21. Favorite Christmas movie? It's a Wonderful Life.

22. What do you leave for Santa? Nothing -- isn't having Mass on his feast day (December 6) enough?

If you like to participate in this sort of thing, consider yourself tagged . . .


Kasia said...

LOL - point well taken re: mistletoe!

Thanks for the egg nog recipe, and thanks for answering the survey! :-)

Anonymous said...

" Do you hang mistletoe? That would be a little scandalous, don't you think?"

Not according to my 3 year-old daughter, this year's self-proclaimed expert on all matters involving mistletoe and mandatory kisses. The mistletoe has only been up since yesterday in our kitchen and my daughter has already lured one unsuspecting 5 year-old boy, her brother's friend from next door, under the mistletoe with the promise of a cupcake.

A word of advice, Father: If we are ever blessed to have you in our home, pass on the offer of a free cupcake. I doubt even the grace of Holy Orders will save you from my little one. :-)

Kat said...

The glass thing with a point on it is indeed a star. It is often seen in eastern europe and scandinavia. My family never placed an angel on top always the star.

Anonymous said...

I'm torn over the whole Santa thing. Every time I get all settled in my mind that it's too secular, I hear of a priest who grew up in a family with Santa, and obviously turned out okay.

Anonymous said...

What is a meme? How is it promounced (meem? mee-mee?
mem-may?) What does it mean?

Anonymous said...

Rhymes with "theme". Basically any kind of repeated information. In this context, it's any tag-you're-it blog quiz.

Anonymous said...

Thanx, AAWY.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Well, as it happens, I was not a teetotaler throughout my 10 years as an Evangelical.

Back in college, we used to have these discussions about what St. Paul said about our "liberty in Christ," and some would argue for temperance, while others would say otherwise. The crowd I ran with wasn't what we might call "fundamentalist."

Somewhere along the line, I can't just recall when right now, I decided that moderate drinking was okay, as did some of my friends -- so we'd be careful and have a beer or two, that sort of thing. We used to smoke pipes and cigars, imagine that!

Well, life does what it does, and I came back to the Church, went through a "good beer" phase, now I'm just happy to have a cold one (good is nice, but a bonus), and I haven't enjoyed a cigar or a pipe for years.

I dunno -- maybe I'm due for another "phase"?

Anonymous said...

I love how your Dad went in the house after midnight Mass to see if Santa had been there - you kids must have interpreted his breathlessness as excitement that Santa had been there!