Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Legend of the Noggin-Numbing Eggnog

Early one winter's eve that first holiday season after we moved into our current home, a neighbor appeared at our front door.

eggnog-everywhere One hand of his held fast to the leash of his basset hound; the other bore what is now my legacy to carry on.

"I bring you some holiday cheer!" announced George, a scholarly gentleman in his late 60s with a snowy Abe Lincoln beard who had lived in the neighborhood for more than three decades. He presented me with his gift, wished me a happy then moved on with his self-appointed rounds.

I closed the door perplexed, partially by having an unexpected visitor on Christmas Eve but mostly by what I now held in my hand.

It appeared to be a repurposed brandy bottle. Inside appeared a liquid whose look and viscosity resembled pancake batter, assuming that, as I learned upon unscrewing the cap and taking a whiff, said batter had been mixed by W.C. Fields and Dean Martin.

While my previous neighbor in Texas and I had on occasion bonded over beers in the rear alley (never fault TV's "King of the Hill" for a lack of suburban Dallas accuracy), this was different. This turned out to be my official rite of passage into our new community: the Yuletide ritual of "The Passing Out Of The Eggnog" which, if not acted upon judiciously by recipients I learned, can quickly devolve into -- yes, Virginia -- "The Passing Out From The Eggnog."

George had been making and sharing his concoction annually since the late 1950s. That’s when he and his roommates at the time became intrigued by a cookbook recipe. When George and his wife moved to Vermont a couple of years ago, they passed down their version of the recipe to some of us at their farewell party; however, succession plans for neighborhood distribution were never discussed.

Encouraged by my wife, who knows of my conflicting desires to want to be the center of attention and to avoid prolonged interaction with people, I have since become The Merry Mixer of Uncool Acres.

My first pass at this new role came last winter. Quarts of milk and cream were emptied, dozens of eggs beaten, and pounds of sugar added even before I had poured the first drops of the rum and brandy.

Ah -- the rum and brandy.

As its imbibers will attest, the effects of this particular eggnog are decidedly warm and, shortly thereafter, inevitably fuzzy.

This, I now know, comes from a nog to non-nog ratio that slightly exceeds 1-to-1. This proportioning explains why one neighbor claimed he kept one of George's bottles in his refrigerator for a year before opening it only to find it unspoiled and even more potent than ever.

Having earlier sampled a quart of my brewing from last December, I confirm the myth. And a slight headache.

Once mixed and bottled, I loaded my sack, harnessed my Labrador retriever and set about the streets to keep the tradition alive. Several people were not home at the time, but when a door opened, I was greeted warmly, and sometimes even with the same perplexed look I gave George several years ago.

As I readied to whip up this season's elixir last week, I became curious about the true origins of this parochial legend and hit the Internet.

Via Google Books, I learned its origins lie in a submission by a Col. C. H. Welch of Tucson, Ariz., for “Wild Moose Milk – A Different Eggnog” that appeared in a mid-century edition of "Adventures in Good Cooking and the Art of Carving" by Duncan Hines, the man who sacrificed his good name to supermarket cake mix everywhere. The ingredients and ratios match George's, though he skipped the "three or four hours" of heating during which one must add the eggs "drop by drop."

"Col. Welch in Tucson must have had servants," George suggested in a recent e-mail to me.

Some other research I did suggests that this may be the same Col. Welch of the U.S. Air Force who was once mixed up in a UFO sighting in the 1950s. Draw your own conclusions.

But even when mixed at room temperature at George instructed, his modified version remains true down to the original's mention that it "keeps indefinitely."

Curiously, though, the instructions for the original concluded, "When serving, the eggnog can be thinned with milk, cream or water."

Thinned?!

Some faint of heart folks would suggest that "can" be replaced with "should under all conceivable circumstances." But not me.

Some legendary holiday beasts should never be slain.

18 comments:

  1. goodonya! years from now you will be a legend.

    oh, and "conflicting desires to want to be the center of attention and to avoid prolonged interaction with people" made me nod knowingly. that's me through and through too.

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  2. Having never before tried egg nog, I get the scary sense that this version might be the best way to be initiated into it.

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  3. Would it be blasphemy for me to say that I don't like eggnog? Well there, I said it. And I am sorry. But I might try yours if it would really fuck me up. There, I said that too ;)

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  4. I think my absolute favorite part of this whole post is that u admit to wanting to be the center of attention!!! :)

    And that u Googled the recipe to find its origins :). We bond that way ya know... Google is my know all also!

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  5. Sorry, but I think I just threw up a bit. I don't care how fucked up it gets me. Pass the Sam Adams Winter Brew.

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  6. I love eggnog, but always end up having to buy it from the store. I wish someone would bring ME eggnog . . .

    Cheers!

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  7. Mmm, sounds delightful!! I'd love to have "your" version of the recipe to try (did you say room temp? Does that mean you aren't cooking it at all?) Indulge me, of Maker of Nog, so that I, too, can purposely give people hangovers on Christmas morning!
    ~Miranda
    miranda.mangiapelo@yahoo.com

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  8. While celebrating Hanukah, we drink egg CREAMs - which contain neither cream or eggs. So, is it the Nog that gives it those ingredients? Must be.

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  9. I am going to try making it for the first time ever this year. I love it with bourbon...will try and include rum too!

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  10. I think I'd rather drink the pancake batter ...

    and a shot of brandy!

    Merry HanuChristmaKwans Uncool!

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  11. I came home today to find WonderWife™ cooking up her first batch of homemade eggnog. After reading this, not sure if I should be as excited as I am.

    But I am.

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  12. brings it to only 30% alcohol - I like it!
    Sounds like a new tradition needs to be born -I'll forget the baklava!

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  13. 2 legends explained in 1 post (the origin of your eggnog recipe, and Area 51). That's great!

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  14. Egg nog is all right, but I'll be sippin' on some 125 proof Booker's bourbon tonight while my lady love has her basil martinis. Aaaah.

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  15. Here we put the alcohol in the Christmas pudding, and custard on the pudding, which I suppose leads to a similar result in the end.

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  16. Sounds good. Pass me a mug's worth...

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  17. "my conflicting desires to want to be the center of attention and to avoid prolonged interaction with people"

    Loved it ! Nog sounds great, too

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