What you hear coming from your radio this time of year is not Sleigh Ride or The Christmas Song, but a train whistle of inevitability. With only about 36 hours left, Christmas is coming at you like a Japanese bullet train. And speaking of bullet trains, there is real cause for concern that if I eat one more piece of rum cake and have one more glass of eggnog, that the button on my jeans may pop off and fly across the room and take out someone’s eye.
Christmas is as much about food (and drinking) as it is about presents. But at least the presents don't make us fat! So in the spirit of the season, let’s talk about Christmas food. After all, next month, we’ll all be talking about diets. Ugh.
And when it comes to Christmas food and drink, what two always come to mind (even if we never have any)? Yep, eggnog and fruit cake.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, eggnog is enjoying something of a comeback. In the article, Joe Miller, director of marketing at Trickling Creamery in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, is quoted as saying, “[w]e’re getting a lot of coffee shops and restaurants doing interesting things with eggnog.” Really? I’m not sure I would put the word “interesting” and eggnog in the same sentence.
The second question most of ask about eggnog (the first one being, “why the hell would anyone drink that?”), is what is “nog”? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, nog was "a kind of strong beer brewed in East Anglia.” That makes sense, because about the only way to drink this stuff is with copious amounts of bourbon. And spiked ‘nog is certainly helpful at those holiday gatherings. If your Aunt Rita is going on and on about your Uncle Ralph, then slip her a little eggnog with a lot of Jim Beam.
Around the holidays, I try to remember the less fortunate. I get toys for the angel tree at work. I put money in the Salvation Army kettles. I buy a fruitcake, that multi-colored, dusty brick orphan alone on the shelf at the Piggly Wiggly. (I don’t think a new fruitcake has been made since 1978; they just get passed from family to family, year after year.)
It’s Christmas, and I get sentimental at this time of year, and I’ve always felt a bit sorry for fruitcake. Let’s face it: fruitcake may be the most maligned and ridiculed food in the Western world. But it shouldn’t. Fruit cake is nothing more than cake with dried fruit and nuts, hence the name. And based on that definition, fruitcake has been around a long time. The Romans ate a type of fruitcake that consisted of pomegranate seeds in a barley mash. From there, it spread to the rest of Europe and then on to Aisle 4 at your local supermarket.
And while I don’t eat fruitcake very often, when I do it’s Claxton. This iconic fruitcake has been made in Claxton, Georgia, for a hundred years. But just because Claxton has been around a long time, doesn’t mean it's not in step with the times. Claxton now makes something called ClaxSnax, which according to the company’s website is “Claxton Fruit Cake by the slice, individually wrapped for freshness.” What’s next ? One hundred calorie “ClaxSnax” packs? (For the record, that would be a piece of fruitcake the size of a quarter—have you read the calorie count on the back of the box?!)
I’ve been told that fruitcake is not that hard to make and can actually be made quite well. The jury is still out on that one and besides, the holidays are nearly done and I’m done with cooking, so maybe next year. Until then, grab a fruitcake from your local grocery store at half-off and scarf down the last few fatty calories before the new year, when we all will be forced to hit the gym!