Eggnog, if you’re not familiar with it, is a drink that is the ultimate culmination of the evolution of a posset: a hot drink of sweetened and spiced milk curdled with ale or wine (Mirriam Webster), frequently used as a healing remedy, that dates back to 13th century Britain where they may have even included figs and may have included sherry, beer, or ale as the alcoholic entrant. Eggnog is the end of the evolution made with eggs and a nog or a grog or a nugg…
A nog or noggin is a small cup or mug that ale or liquor might be served in… like the container that would have been used to serve an eggnog or posset in a tavern or pub – an egg in a nog. A nugg is the Scottish term for an ale that was heated with a poker hot from the fire, a nugged ale – an egg’n’nug. And grog was the Colonial American term used for rum, which is a common alcohol added to a true eggnog – an egg’n’grog perhaps. Because the drink used eggs in a unique way, included mixtures of somewhat more pricey alcohols, and had very expensive imported spices as a garnish, they were for the upper crust and when sold by taverns were big money makers as far as drinks were concerned. I digress… the exact history is unimportant. The point is that there is an eggy drink with booze and it was wildly popular with the upper and lower crusts, and all the crusts in the middle too.
Eggnog, not the stuff called eggnog found in the store that has very little egg and only some egg flavor but actual eggnog, is made from raw eggs beaten with sugar, milk or cream, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or cloves perhaps) and, ideally, liquor. The thought of drinking it elicits either disgust or mouth watering delight. It is the most polarizing drink known to man and thus begins…
The Eggnog Theory, or How Not to Alienate Your Friends and Loved Ones
There are certain things in this world that immediately push people into one of two camps, one staunchly for and one adamantly against. Read a few things and contemplate the actual physical sometimes visceral response you have as you do:
There’s no middle ground with any of these things. I’m fairly certain it is impossible to have a medium opinion on these things. They’re on your go list or your no go list, you love them or hate them. You don’t like mayonnaise or sauerkraut a little bit. You don’t like the word moist sometimes and cringe the rest of the time. You are either a cat person or not. You either love eggnog or you can’t stand it; there is no middle ground. Obviously none of us agree with everything everyone else thinks, feels, believes, or supports. When it comes to the things in that word cloud, we don’t actually lose friends, family, or the respect of our coworkers, neighbors, and community members for loving or hating them like we do when it has to do with vaccination, health care, politics, the economy, global warming, and how we vote. We look at The Other and say they’re batty for disagreeing with us, maybe even telling them sarcastically they’re dead to us because they obviously don’t have a palette quite as sophisticated as we do but never actually meaning it, and then we carry on knowing we differ but still cherishing our relationship for whatever it is.
So why do we find it perfectly acceptable to completely polarize ourselves from our fellow humans over differing opinions when it comes to other things?
In America, our election is a couple days away and we will learn not only who we will have as a President for the next 4 years but also who will control the lawmaking in the Congress. For the last few months – okay, let’s be honest, it’s been the last 4 years since the day Trump was elected – we have been constantly inundated with political ads, political remarks about social issues, and politicians, celebrities, and news outlets turning everything into something related to this election. Somewhere in the middle of 10th month of worldwide pandemic life where some people have been at home except leaving for essentials for more than 7 months, somewhere after seeing or experiencing rioting and protesting in ways that have at times destroyed and even taken lives, somewhere in the middle of questions about healthcare and unemployment and the economy, where the stresses of distance learning and telecommuting are building up, and somewhere in the middle of being closed up at home with your family who may be driving you up the wall a little (at best) or abusive (at worst), some people decided that it would be beneficial for us to push one another farther apart rather than pulling us together.
People are tired. They have been living without certainty and with far more stress then they ever have lived with before and there are serious fears about an economic collapse or civil unrest after the election results are announced, regardless of the way it goes.
The truth is, I see people treating all the big questions they see in the world as they treat eggnog:
Either all for or all against…
But what is missing is the part of the eggnog attitude that says it’s totally fine for you to be wrong about eggnog because that means there’s more for me.
I’m not saying I’ll be happy with one party in power but the truth is I’m also not saying I’ll be completely happy with the other in power either. If the person I voted for gets elected, they’re not going to vote 100% of the time for whatever it is that I think is best. They’re not. They’re going to make compromises on bills to get something I want while also voting in something I don’t want. They’re going to vote for something that some special interest that gave them money for their campaign. They’re going to pork barrel for their pet projects and personal passions. They’re going to be pressured to vote on party lines regardless of what they think and feel and regardless of what I think and feel. Someone is going to find out they were a dirtbag at some point in their life and that they’re an irritating person to be around. And the truth is I’m not really going to be thrilled with anybody’s track record in everything they do because politics will happen everywhere… So I have to vote for who
If you take a long and hard look at whomever you voted for last time or who you’re voting for this time, you’re going to find things in their past, whether it is their voting history or their personal history, that you don’t like. You’re going to find that they were a despicable scumbag somewhere in their life because they are fallible and they are human. And it is also true that if you are willing to give your favorite candidate grace for being human in their past and for voting for things you don’t agree with in their past, it won’t make you a better person to deny the same grace to the candidate you don’t like and it won’t win you or your favorite candidate any support.
So if you know that there are things in your past that you are less than proud of and you know that your candidate won’t make every choice you want or like or support, what does it gain you to polarize yourself from the people you live around, the people you work with, the people you’re related to and live with because you don’t agree with what they think is best or who they voted for? What do you gain by isolation and alienation?
Regardless of who wins, if the economy tanks, we are all going to suffer.
Regardless of which party is in power, if there is civil unrest, we will all be afraid and in danger.
Regardless of whatever else happens with healthcare, Covid 19, stimulus checks, defunding or funding the police, changes in immigration policy, abortion, violent crime, foreign policy, or any form of inequality, we are all going to roughly be in the same boat as our neighbors, our coworkers, our family, our community.
Is that celebrity you’re supporting, that politician you’re voting for, that news reporter whose words you hang on going to help you patch your tires and change your oil if money gets too tight to take it to Jiffy Lube? Are they going to watch the kiddos when you need to go to the grocery store and your spouse is sick? Will they share a pound of beef when the store is out and you really need some protein? Are they going to help you sandbag if a storm comes through or the river rises? Will they hold your hand in the front lawn if a tornado or fire hits your home? Will they spearhead fundraising for emergency medical expenses or gathering some clothes and necessities if you lose everything?
But your neighbor that voted for that other guy probably will. The person who believes that marriage is just between a man and a woman will and so will the gender queer next door. The Black Lives Matter supporter will, just like the Blue Lives Matter supporter will. They’re not going to reject you in your moment of need because you voted for someone else because the truth is there’s a lot more good in everybody and we have a lot more in common than we have in difference.
Is my everyday going to be different than the everyday of someone in a different kind of community? In some ways, yes.
Is it going to be so different that it is worth silencing or dehumanizing them in my thinking, believing, or behavior? No.
What is so fantastic about the question of eggnog is that when you don’t like it you’re completely happy to let someone else enjoy it without it hurting you in the least. The thing is that you’re perfectly able to apply the same philosophy toward people who think differently and vote differently than you.
If we stop disregarding and trying to silence The Other based on what we find in difference, accepting our differences, and being truly willing to listen to understand, not hear to respond or hear to disagree, maybe, just maybe, we can find ways to find a little bit more common ground to build on. At some point with questions of freedom, safety, and how to live in a community, we have to find ways and places to compromise and listen to one another, but we never will be able to if we demonize everyone who doesn’t like eggnog even when we know they’re wrong.
We will never be able to convince someone else that eggnog is tasty if we can’t create an environment where they feel safe and inspired to try it.
Eggnog: The way I like it (*ahem* the right way):
12 eggs, raw, washed with warm water and dried
1 pound powdered (confectioners or icing sugar)
1 quart milk (not skim… don’t be ridiculous)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
2 quarts heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
2 cups good sour mash bourbon or whiskey (to get the salmonella drunk)
and 2 cups dark rum or spiced rum (to start to kill the salmonella)
and also 2 cups brandy or rye (to kill the salmonella once and for all)
Nutmeg for garnish
This recipe can be halved or quartered if you grew up in a time before Common Core when you learned how to do things without taking 147 useless steps using ridiculous forms that (post script) the teachers also think are utterly stupid but they have to teach anyway…
1. Let your eggs come to room temperature. Separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a large bowl, preferably of a stand mixer. Put the whites in the refrigerator in a covered container.
2. Taste the bourbon or whiskey to make sure it’s still good. If you’re skipping the alcohol,
3. Beat yolks until light and lemon yellow, occasionally sipping the brandy or rye if you have a stand mixer rather than a handheld one (just to make sure it is still good), then gradually beat in 1 pound of confectioners sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure it is well incorporated. This will be thick and heavy.
4. Taste the rum to make sure it is still good. Hold up 2 fingers and make sure you don’t see 4 fingers. If you see 2 fingers, proceed to step 5; if you see 4 fingers or you have to close one eye to only see 2 fingers, get a responsible (sober) adult to help you.
*note* If you wish to make a virgin eggnog first and add the alcohol later or skip the alcohol altogether, proceed to the step 6, otherwise carry on.
5. Add very slowly – we are talking about a teaspoon at a time – the bourbon or whiskey with the mixer on low speed, scraping the bowl often. DO NOT RUSH this step because doing so will cause your mixture to curdle. You can let the mixture rest for 1 hour at room temperature to let any egginess mellow. While you wait, taste the brandy or rye to make sure it is still good.
6. Very slowly and beating constantly, add the milk, rum, and brandy or rye. Cover and refrigerate at least 3-4 hours.
7. Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold it into the base mixture. Return to the fridge until you are almost ready to serve!
8. Beat the egg whites with the salt until the stiff peak peak stage and carefully fold into the mixture. If you wanted to make a virgin eggnog and add the alcohol later, now is the time to separate the virgin from the adult version; add the alcohol to the adult version before folding in the egg whites but simply fold in the whites mixture to the virgin version.
9. Serve. Garnish with nutmeg. Be responsible and call an Uber or a friend.
To age your eggnog:
First, your eggnog needs to be at least 20% alcohol content to be safe to consume after aging, which means for this full recipe you have to add at least 4 of the 6 cups of alcohol: 4 cups = 21% alcohol, 6 cups = 29% alcohol.
I suggest using quart sized or smaller wide mouth canning jars; make sure they are cleaned and sterilized before use but they should not be hot or warm. Make sure the beaten egg whites have been well incorporated and folded into the yolk mixture, scraping the side of the bowl. If you need to prepare your jars after you make the eggnog, let the nog rest in the fridge and then make sure you beat the crust that will rise to the surface back into the mixture before you pour or ladle it into the jars.
Do not fill the jars above 1 to 1.5 inches from the upper lip of the jar! You do not want the mixture to be touching the lid. Period. End of discussion. You need space to be able to shake it up to get your foam before serving. Screw the lid on tightly. You can dip your lid in a bottle sealing or paraffin wax if you choose; it is not essential.
Store your jars in the refrigerator. Every 3 or 4 days, shake each jar up a bit and turn it over so that it spends half of it’s aging life standing on its head. Age 2 weeks and up. I found one example of someone jarring this stuff in July for use at Christmas. They said it was fantastic and mellowed along the way.Recipe roughly based on The Joy of Cooking (1943) + my Grandma Betty & great granny, Mamma Bill
Yes, this recipe calls for raw eggs and lots of liquor. First of all…
"Too much anything is bad,
But too much whisky is just enough."
Secondly, you have a 1 in 20,000 risk of getting an egg contaminated with salmonella (The Incredible Edible Egg), which is also roughly the odds of someone in the United States dying from an asteroid or comet impact in any given year but all my American friends don’t spend their lives looking skyward trying to avoid all those asteroids and comets (Dartmouth). To put it into perspective, your odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident in any given year is way higher with a 1 in 100 chance and yet we all drive everywhere all the time (also Dartmouth). But there is a risk of salmonella and I cannot tell you that it does’t exist, only you can decide if you’re willing to take the risk.
However, the other cold hard reality is that if you add enough alcohol and give your mixture time to rest before consumption, which this recipe calls for, the alcohol can actually kill the salmonella if Dr. Paul Wigley from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health is to be believed (BBC). In this article in Forbes, they even suggest allowing it to mellow for weeks or months (canning jars, folks, in the fridge is the answer to the question that is plaguing you) to let all the flavors and things mellow before enjoying.
If you’re making a nonalcoholic version, keep in mind you’re actually running the risk of salmonella with raw eggs without alcohol or lemon juice, even though the risks are low, so if you’re of the mind to worry, it might be advisable to use a recipe that calls for tempering the eggs like this one from Delish that doesn’t look half bad (not that I’ll be trying it).