I have noticed that eggnog is now being stocked in grocery stores long before Christmas, infringing not only on American Thanksgiving in November, but also Canadian Thanksgiving and Halloween in October. These are three significant holidays being upstaged by Christmas cheer before its time. Being in stores earlier merely widens the window of opportunity for it to be consumed.
“What is that doing here?” my son asked last year, pointing at a wall of eggnog cartons in a grocery display. “It’s not Christmas yet, is it?”
It was early October, with several non-yuletide festivities still to come. My two sons believe eggnog was created for Santa Claus, and that normal humans are allowed to join in by purchasing the cartons sold at stores, so usually it wasn’t until December that we started buying eggnog regularly to get the Christmas cheer rolling.
The sign over the eggnog display proclaimed “Not Just for Christmas Anymore!” But I think most people feel that eggnog is just for Christmas. Who was this sign trying to fool? Since I love eggnog so much, I guess it fooled me. Cast under the spell of that grocery store marketing, I decided to see if a Christmas beverage could hold its own when straying from its intended holiday. When I brought home the first carton one week before Canadian Thanksgiving, my wife rolled her eyes.
“What is that doing here?” she questioned. “It’s not December yet.”
I shared her misgivings, but I drank my first cup anyway. It tasted great, because the sweet, creamy nectar had not touched my lips for over ten months. But it felt odd being out of season.
After learning that December 24th has been declared National Eggnog Day, I considered trying my hand at creating homemade eggnog. Alton Brown, the culinary genius of Food Network fame, is my go-to guy when experimenting with new recipes and I found an eggnog recipe in his book, Good Eats 2: The Middle Years. Alton strongly advises that “the key to success in making eggnog is patience” and I went into eggnog production hoping that I had the stamina to keep up. There was a lot of stand mixer beating involved (where the patience comes in handy). The combination of eggs, sugar, milk, cream, and nutmeg ended up being a delicious version of eggnog like we had never had from a carton. Alton’s recipe calls for the addition of rum, brandy, or bourbon, but that would come after the kids went to bed.
Since it had started appearing early, I’d had my fill of more eggnog than most years. Even so, I convinced my family that making a fresh batch on National Eggnog Day could be our new tradition, to serve Santa the best we had to offer. Before bedtime, my sons placed a mug of eggnog and a plate of cookies by the chimney. When they weren’t looking I poured a shot of rum into the mug. As Christmas Eve drew to a close I imbibed one more glass of our homemade batch, just as Santa would do when he arrived. Mine also had an extra dash of rum — it seemed wrong, on National Eggnog Day, to not enjoy one last swig in the most appropriate way before retiring it until next Christmas. Or October.