Alcohol

National Vodka Day

October 4 is National Vodka Day! It’s also National Taco Day, but you won’t lose if you choose the booze. Really, there’s room for both around the dining room table!

Vodka comes from the Slavic word voda, which means “water.” Appropriate, given that many dismiss vodka for its lack of flavor. True, it doesn’t taste like a Christmas tree like some alcoholic beverages we know (I’m talking to you, gin!), but it sure does pack a punch. And really, isn’t that the point of a good spirit?! By definition, vodka is a combination of mostly water and ethanol, so if you’re out drinking in the middle of nowhere and run out of gas, fear not! Chances are good you’ll still make it home without having to call AAA.

There is some debate over the origin of vodka, with both Poland and Russia laying claim to its invention. The word first appeared in writing in a Polish court document in 1405, but Russians claim to have been distilling vodka since the 9th century. Not to be outdone, the Poles say they were producing vodka in the 8th century; this was called gorzalka and was used for medicinal purposes. Which just goes to show that getting sick back in the dark ages wasn’t an entirely unpleasant experience. Both Russia and Poland have named vodka as their national drink, so it appears even centuries later this alcoholic cold war rages on with no clear winner.

Regardless of who actually invented vodka, it is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages around the world, praised for its universal ability to be used as a base for mixed drinks and cocktails. Or, you know, guzzled straight from the bottle if that’s your preference. We won’t judge! Vodka is usually made from either fermented cereal grains or potatoes, and in recent years, a wide variety of flavored vodkas have popped up. These range from the simple (cranberry, grapefruit, blueberry) to the unusual (whipped cream, cucumber, cola) to the what-were-they-thinking?! (gummy bear, peanut butter and jelly, bacon). It seems like everybody is trying to outdo everybody else in the crazy flavor department. 13620780_10209747854202031_7343375134862711107_n

After being diagnosed with diabetes, I was in search of “healthy” cocktails, and discovered a simple vodka and soda isn’t too terribly bad, relatively speaking. It’s got no sugar or carbs and only 96 calories per 1.5 mL, the standard “pour.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much flavor, either. But last year I discovered a local Portland vodka distiller named Wild Roots. Their vodkas are infused with flavor, and they have some rather delicious varieties available. Their Northwest Red Raspberry infused vodka is my favorite, and this evening, that’s how I chose to celebrate the holiday. On the rocks with a splash of club soda, though really, this one is perfectly drinkable straight up.

 

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“Healthy” Cocktails: No Oxymoron Intended

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, one of my first thoughts was so long, alcohol! Fortunately, I was jumping the gun just a bit. While booze will never top the food pyramid even if you don’t have a debilitating condition, there are ways to enjoy your liquor without completely sabotaging your health or diet.

Yes, moderation is key. This much is obvious: the less you drink, the fewer calories you will consume. But when you’re out for a night on the town, it can be difficult to stop at just one beverage. Or four. You can still make relatively healthy choices, though. Keep this in mind: all alcohol has the same amount of calories, 7 per gram, which translates to 96 calories in a standard 1.5-liter serving. Doesn’t matter if you’re drinking gin, vodka, rum, or tequila. A straight shot is just shy of 100 calories. It’s the mixers that can get you in trouble. Calories pile up once you start adding syrups, sugared rims, sodas, and more. A typical margarita can easily top 500 calories a glass; just a few will put you over your daily calorie allotment (and chances are, you’re enjoying those with a plate of nachos or some other heavy food). In addition to the margarita, some other notorious offenders include the Long Island Iced Tea, Mai Tai, Pina Colada, and Mudslide. All average 500-600 calories or more per glass (sometimes much more, depending on the size of that glass and how heavy handed the bartender is).

Avoiding the mixers, or limiting them, will “lighten up” your drinking and can save you a significant number of calories. Your best bet is to order a drink neat, straight up, or on the rocks – that is, without a mixer of any kind. That way, your only calories come from the liquor itself. Order a bourbon on the rocks, for instance, and you’re looking at about 100 calories per glass. Or if you’re in the mood for a margarita, opt for tequila with club soda and a squeeze of lime and orange. I promise your bartender won’t look at you funny, and you’ll save hundreds of calories per glass. Bottoms up!vodka-soda1

Here are some cocktails you can enjoy with a minimum of guilt.

  1. Vodka Soda. The soda refers to club soda, which is calorie-free, versus soda pop such as 7-Up. Club soda and seltzer are excellent options for mixed drinks, and the vodka soda is a classic. Liquor aficionados might scoff over such a “boring” drink, but you’ll have the last laugh when stepping on the scale the next morning. Besides, choose a quality, smooth vodka (or even a flavored version – most infusions add no extra calories) and a couple of freshly squeezed lemon and lime slices, and you’ve got a crisp, refreshing drink that will give you a nice buzz.
  2. Rum and Diet Coke. Diet soda has no calories, making it a guilt-free mixer. And with a good quality rum, you won’t even miss the “regular” stuff! You could also order a vodka and Diet 7-Up/Diet Sprite, gin and Diet Tonic, etc. (Watch out for regular tonic water, which is loaded with sugar).
  3. Bloody Mary. Hands down, my favorite alcoholic beverage. Vodka is mixed with tomato juice, tabasco, worcestershire, and sometimes horseradish for a tasty drink that only contains about 125 calories per 6-oz. serving. Bonus: the addition of celery, olives, cocktail onions, and other accompaniments can turn your drink into a “salad in a glass.”
  4. Manhattan. This classic blend of bourbon, vermouth, and Angostura bitters averages just 145 calories and is manly as hell.
  5. Sea Breeze. This blend of vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice can be a fairly healthy choice so long as you get the ratios right. You’ll want about a 3-to-1 ratio of grapefruit juice to cranberry juice; don’t be afraid to let your bartender know and you’ll end up with a refreshing, tasty beverage that averages just 180 calories.

Honorable mentions: Mojito, Sangria, Mimosa.

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National Rum Day

Good news: despite the lack of recent posts, I am happy to report we are still alive. Better news: today we are walking around say “yo ho ho” a lot. Not because Christmas is right around the corner – it isn’t, and that first H is a Y, thank you very much – but because August 16 is dedicated to probably the tastiest liquor around. It’s National Rum Day!

Yo ho ho and a bottle of yum is more like it.

The word rum is believed to be derived from the last syllable of the Latin word for sugar, saccharumOr it might come from the Romanian word rum, meaning “strong” or “potent.” Both explanations make sense to me. Interestingly enough, rum was originally a byproduct of sugar cane; it’s actually fermented molasses, which occurs during the sugar refining process. Nobody knew what to do with molasses initially, and viewed it as nothing more than industrial waste. Until some whip-smart plantation slaves in the Caribbean during the 17th century discovered the molasses could be fermented and turned into a tasty alcoholic beverage. Goodbye industrial waste, hello industrial wasted! It quickly gained popularity in Colonial North America, where the first rum distillery was opened in 1664 on Staten Island. In fact, rum became so highly prized, for a while it was accepted as currency – alongside gold – in Europe. Liquid gold, if we’re getting technical.

I’ve long been a fan of rum. Maybe not as big a fan as some people…

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But I have my moments.

To celebrate, I had a rum and Coke. And also a shot of the rum, straight up. Bottoms up!

National Rum Day

 

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Does Wine Get Better With Age?

All my life, I’d heard that wine gets better with age. The myth is perpetuated through the exorbitant prices people pay for certain bottles of aged wine. The truth is, some wines do improve with age, while others reach their peak within 2-3 years. We decided to find out for ourselves when my parents stumbled across a couple of bottles of wine they had bought in the mid-1980s. This didn’t merely make them “aged,” but downright old: 30  years is a long time to wait to open a bottle of wine. Would it still be drinkable, let alone good? We were soon to find out, and turned the whole experience into a food challenge: determining whether wine really does improve with age.

The ancient Greeks and Romans prized aged wines, often storing them in sealed earthenware jugs where they would keep for many years. After the fall of the Roman Empire, wines were paler, light bodied, and lower in alcohol content. These did not age well and would turn to vinegar after a few months, so old bottles were steeply discounted. In the 17th century the cork and bottle were invented, and wines were being produced with a higher alcohol content, two factors leading to improved preservation and aging.

Today, it is estimated that only 10% of red wines and 5% of white wines improve enough to taste better after 5 years of aging, and only the top 1% of all wine tastes better when it’s a decade old. Wines with the best potential for aging have low pH levels and a high amount of tannins, meaning reds such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.

We were not really looking forward to this challenge. We had my parents over to participate, since they are pretty knowledgeable about wine. They had opened old bottles before that had gone sour and tasted like vinegar. Our hopes were not high, putting it lightly.

Our well-aged wine.

Our well-aged wine.

The wines we tried: a 1985 Hangtown Red California Red Wine, and a J. Lohr California Red Wine that had been purchased in South Dakota sometime between 1983-1986. So, two 30 year-old bottles of generic red wine awaited our palates. Right on!

We ran into trouble almost immediately. Both corks splintered when we tried to remove them. To properly store wine, you are supposed to lay the bottle on its side and give it a quarter turn every couple of months. These bottles were sitting upright in a box for decades, and so the corks had long ago dried out. This can lead to oxygen leaking into the bottle, leading to an off-taste (at best) and mold (at worst). Still, we didn’t let a little thing like crumbling corks stop us. We soldiered on, eventually prying one cork out and pushing the second cork into the bottle. Luckily, we had a strainer. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

We poured the wine into glasses. For comparison and contrast, we had a “fresh” bottle of wine, as well. The first thing we noticed was the difference in color. The “new” wine was bright, almost purple in color, while the older wines had faded somewhat to a brownish-red color.

The corks had crumbled and were difficult to remove thanks to improper storage techniques.

The corks had crumbled and were difficult to remove thanks to improper storage techniques.

Now it was time for the ultimate test: the tasting! Everybody seemed reluctant, so I picked up the glass of J. Lohr California Red and took a deep swallow.

Fortunately, not only had it not oxidized or turned to vinegar, it was actually pretty good. For a cheap red wine that was 30 years old, anyway. It tasted to me of prunes. The others followed suit – Tara and my parents – and we all agreed. We were pleasantly surprised.

The second glass, the 1985 Hangtown Red, was pretty similar. I thought this one had more of a smokiness to it, but it was certainly drinkable, if not delicious. Again, everybody took a sip or two. Again, we were all surprised.

“You know,” I said, “If you were trapped on a deserted island and these two bottles of wine washed up on shore, you’d be thanking your lucky stars,” I commented.

“You’d be smashing them open by the neck to drink them,” my dad countered.

So, there you go. I don’t know if this challenge was the exception or the rule, but our well-aged red wines – while not necessarily improving in flavor – didn’t really suffer all that much. In fact, I ended up finishing the entire glass of J. Lohr. I’ll admit: I actually liked it!

L to R: J. Lohr CA Red (circa early-mid 80s), Hangtown Red CA Red (1985), 120 Cabernet Sauvignon (2011).

L to R: J. Lohr CA Red (circa early-mid 80s), Hangtown Red CA Red (1985), 120 Cabernet Sauvignon (2011).

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365/365: National Champagne Day

Today we’re feeling especially bubbly. Pop a cork and offer up a toast: we have successfully completed our yearlong celebration of food holidays in a most fitting manner. December 31 is National Champagne Day!

One year ago, we set out on what seemed like a monumental quest: to celebrate at least one American food holiday every day, for an entire year. The rules were simple: eat or drink the food or beverage of honor anytime within that 24-hour period. We could take a single sip or bite, or devour an entire plate (or pitcher) if we wanted. We were allowed to purchase items from the store, order them from restaurant menus, or create them from scratch. We did all of the above, regardless of circumstances. There were work functions, camping trips, family visits, and vacations out of state – not to mention our wedding. It wasn’t always easy, and at times felt downright tedious, but in the end the sense of accomplishment is enormous. Tara and I are proud to have done this, and have no regrets! We had fun, got to sample a lot of foods we might otherwise never have tried, and learned a lot about the history of the foods we eat, and how many popular dishes came to be named. There really was a Melba, for instance (of toast and peach fame). And an Alfredo (fettuccine). We even had the pleasure of speaking with the latter’s blood relatives, his grandchildren who stumbled upon this blog and gave us some additional insight into their famous grandfather. We were touched and honored; I think that alone made this project worthwhile. The rewards far outweighed the hassle. Yes, sometimes it felt like a chore preparing a labor-intensive dish like Coq au Vin late into the evening after a busy day at work, and the many (too many!) desserts stretched our patience, not to mention our waistlines. Thank goodness for that gym membership, at least!

If you’re thinking of doing a similar challenge, I’ve got some advice for you. The most important thing you can do is plan ahead! Because if you are looking for blueberry popsicles in the grocery store late at night on National Blueberry Popsicle Day, you’re going to be screwed since that flavor does not exist! But if you’re prepared, you’ll have made your own from scratch already. Also, don’t be afraid to take the easy way out. You don’t have to create a fancy dish that revolves around cashews on National Cashew Day, when a few nuts from a can will suffice. At the same time, don’t take too many shortcuts. Pudding cups may be your best friend one day, but try to mix it up and make pudding from scratch (or at least a box) the next time. It’s the best way to fully immerse yourself in the food that you are celebrating. Be careful about cutting corners: maple flavored syrup is NOT maple syrup! Think small when it comes to desserts: instead of baking a whole pie or cake, go for individual slices from the grocery store or corner bakery. This will save you a lot of time, money, and calories. Remember, cupcakes are really just individual cakes! Finally, above all else, prepare for a lot of work…but have fun! Doing this will take up a lot of your time. But when you’re kicking back in a tiki bar on a Tuesday night, sipping a rum punch from a glass with a tiny folding paper umbrella, you can’t help but laugh. It’s probably not even remotely close to how you’d normally spend an evening like that. EMBRACE IT! You’ll look back fondly afterwards. I already am, and this challenge just barely ended.

Here are a few words from Tara, my lovely wife and partner in this challenge. I never could have completed this without her, by the way.

I haven’t contributed as much to this blog as I had hoped to, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience this with Mark.  I remember the weeks leading up to January 1st last year and feeling a sense of dread over how much time and effort this was going to take.  When you look at a website with three hundred and sixty-five foods you’ll be eating, it’s a little daunting!  Huge kudos to Mark for doing the bulk of the planning and writing for this project.  I did lots of cooking and baking, but I know there was a lot more time invested in researching and typing up all those posts.  It took a few weeks to find our groove, but once we did, it was pretty smooth sailing.

This past year has definitely opened my eyes and my palate to new foods, cooking techniques, and recipes.  We’ve consumed foods that we never would’ve tried otherwise…and ended up loving.  Mark hates watermelon, but loved Interurban’s Watermelon Salad with habenero, feta, and cilantro.  Go figure.  We were both surprised that the lima beans didn’t make us gag.  And chocolate covered insects weren’t bad either!  Some of our new favorites include the Chicken Curry Salad Lettuce Wrap, Coq Au Vin, Pepper Pot, and Welsh Rarebit.  I’m especially excited to try even more new recipes next year and really challenge ourselves in terms of local cuisine and healthier eating.

National Champagne DayI would also like to thank some of our supporters, without whose encouragement we could not have completed this challenge. Wendy, Jill, and Heidi – our real-life friends who offered lots of input over the course of the year. John from National Food Holiday Tour, who partook of this same challenge himself two years ago and was a source of inspiration from the start. The Muscleheaded Blog, for sharing so many of our posts with his readers. George B., whose continued presence did not go unnoticed. And everybody else who ever stopped by to read, comment, or even critique. You are all greatly appreciated. And of course, a big thank you to my parents: my mom helped us out several times (she made us a Baked Alaska from scratch, for crying out loud, not to mention roast leg of lamb, Mint Juleps, and others) and who got to share in many of the meals. And my MIL Tracy, who has been the most loyal blog follower of mine EVER…even long before I married her daughter! She also helped out, and lent us the use of her oven for our Cheese Souffle Challenge. Thank you all VERY much!

Normally at this point I would talk about the history of champagne, but I’m going to keep it simple. Champagne is a sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. The wine undergoes a process known as secondary fermentation to create carbonation. Purists argue that champagne must adhere to these strict standards in order to be classified as true champagne, while others use the term more loosely, referring to any sparkling wine as champagne.

This whole thing began with a raised glass and a toast: January 1, early in the morning, we began the challenge with Bloody Marys, clinking our glasses together and wishing each other luck, barely able to comprehend what we were getting ourselves into. Appropriately enough, things ended in a similar manner: with another raised glass and a toast – this time, to a job well done. In that regard, it feels like we came full circle.

We are in Ely, Nevada for New Year’s, and celebrating tonight at the Fireman’s Ball. But we didn’t wait for the clock to strike midnight to sip our champagne and risk elimination on a technicality! We actually brought along a bottle of French champagne, Nicolas Feuillatte, that was recommended to us by David, Tara’s stepfather-of-sorts. He’s a sommelier and knows his way around fermented grapes! And at $27 it was reasonably priced, and still tasted delicious. We toasted earlier in the day.

So, that’s it!!!

But, that’s not “it” for Eat My Words. As previously mentioned, we’re continuing the blog in 2014. Instead of celebrating daily American food holidays, we’ll be focusing on a whole new series of food-related challenges. We’ll take a fun, whimsical look at some popular dishes that don’t have food holidays devoted to them yet, giving you the scoop on their history. We’ll post food-related essays, pictures, cartoons, etc. We’ll even celebrate the occasional food holiday we overlooked this year, in favor of another. And most importantly, we’re on a mission: to have an official holiday created for the often lamented and overlooked king of condiments, ketchup. Follow along as we do whatever it takes, short of storming the White House, to get a resolution passed. So, if  you’re a subscriber, stick with us. There’s plenty more fun ahead!

Happy New Year!

We did it!!

We did it!!

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358/365: National Egg Nog Day

If the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, it’s time to kick back in front of the tree and enjoy today’s perfectly appropriate and festive food holiday. December 24 is Christmas Eve, and Christmas Eve is National Egg Nog Day. What an excellent pairing.

Egg Nog is a sweetened beverage made with milk or cream, sugar, whipped eggs, and spices such as nutmeg. It is often mixed with liquor (brandy, rum, whiskey, bourbon, and vodka are all popular choices) and is closely associated with the Christmas holidays. Egg Nog is packed full of vitamins and antioxidants and is extremely low in calories and fat, making it a popular beverage choice for folks on a diet or those returning from a workout at the gym.

NOT.

But it sure is delicious! It is unknown where and when, exactly, the drink originated. It might be related to posset, a Medieval European beverage made with hot milk. “Nog” may come from noggin, a carved wooden mug used for serving alcohol. Or it could come from egg ‘n grog, a Colonial drink made with rum. An infamous Egg Nog Riot occurred in the U.S. Military Academy in 1826 when whiskey was smuggled into the barracks to make egg nog, resulting in twenty cadets and one enlisted soldier being court-martialed.

To celebrate, we made spiked egg nog to enjoy while watching that holiday classic, Bill Murray’s Scrooged. Tara added a splash of Presidente brandy – okay, more than a splash – to our nog, along with a sprinkle of nutmeg and served it over ice. Ho, ho, how delicious!

National Egg Nog Day

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344/365: National Lager Day

If you’re a woodsman whose primary occupation is felling trees, today we celebrate your prowess and saw-wielding skills. December 10 is National Lager Day!

Oh. Hold on. That’s lager, not logger. My bad. (We appreciate you anyway, tree harvesters! The world would be a different place without wood). Lager is a type of beer that is fermented for longer periods of time at lower temperatures. It is the most popular type of beer in the world, and includes different styles such as Bock, Pilsner, and Märzen. The term “lagering” refers to the cold storage of beer in places such as caves, and was common throughout the Medieval period. It was discovered that beer continued to ferment when stored in cold conditions, thus, the German name lagerbier means “beer brewed for keeping.” Once refrigeration was developed in the 1860s, lagers quickly overtook ales in terms of popularity. German immigrants introduced lager-style beer to America in the 19th century, and it has remained a beloved beverage ever since.

I am not a fan of beer, and Tara pretty much sticks with Bud Light. Fortunately, Budweiser happens to be America’s most well-known brand of lager beer, with Coors in second place. Therefore, all we had to do was pop open a can of Bud Light, and we were set. And yes, I partook, though I did not enjoy it as much as Tara.

National Lager Day

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325/365: National Beaujolais Nouveau Day*

If you’ve got grape expectations for today, you won’t be disappointed. The third Thursday in November – this year, that’s the 21st – is National Beaujolais Nouveau Day.

It’s also National Gingerbread Day, so run as fast as you can if you’re in the mood for eating a gingerbread man. But we’ve already done this back in June, so we’re popping our corks instead.

Turns out Beaujolais Nouveau Day is celebrated internationally and is a rather big deal. It’s even got its own website. It occurs on the third Thursday of November and is celebrated in France with fireworks, music, and festivals. Wow, who knew? At one minute past midnight, the newest batch of Beaujolais – a fresh and fruity red wine made from the Gamay grape in the Beaujolais region of France, and fermented for just a few weeks – is released to the public, per French law. Per French law. They take this stuff seriously! The wine was created about a century ago by locals as a “cheap and cheerful” way to celebrate the end of the harvest season. Up until 1951 the wine was only enjoyed locally, but that year a wine merchant named Georges Duboeuf came up with the idea of holding a race to Paris carrying bottles of the newest vintage wine. By the 1970s this had become a national event, and it spread to neighboring countries in Europe during the 80s and to North America and Asia in the 90s. Today the wine is enjoyed around the world, and the latest vintage is eagerly anticipated by many.

I happen to be pretty familiar with this wine, even though I prefer whites. My dad will sometimes have a bottle of Beaujolais on hand, and I don’t mind the flavors. We picked up a bottle from Trader Joe’s over the weekend, and it proved to be the perfect after work drink. Not bad at all for a red – fruity and light!

National Beaujolais Nouveau Day

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300/365: National American Beer Day/National Potato Day*

October 27th marks our 300th food challenge of the year. It’s National American Beer Day! And also, National Potato Day. We’re on the road and enjoying our first-ever NFL game: Redskins vs. our beloved Broncos here in Denver. Fortunately, stadiums are synonymous with beer, and since we spent most of today at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, were easily able to celebrate both food holidays (potato wedges and Bud Light). Think of this as a two-touchdown performance in the 4th quarter. Speaking of…what a great game! 45-21, Broncos beat the Redskins handily. Go, Peyton!! National American Beer Day

We have already celebrated beer and potato holidays, so I won’t bore you with regurgitated history lessons. Instead, I promised a big announcement, and I wanted to save it for a special day. Challenge #300 certainly qualifies; we are racing toward the finish line now, with barely over two months to go, and nary a misstep. The food challenge has been time consuming, costly, and has required tons of planning and hard work, but it’s also been a lot of fun! We have learned a lot about the history of many popular dishes, and tried plenty of new ones we’d only ever heard of previously. Part of us will be sad when this all ends. Which leads to our announcement:

Eat My Words will continue beyond December 31st! 

Not in the same form, of course. Assuming we successfully complete our quest to consume a year’s worth of food holidays, we’re not going to turn around and do it all over again. Been there, done that, and we’d be dealing with an awful lot of repetition. Plus, the demands of a daily blog are overwhelming. The fact that we have been able to devote so much time to our challenge in a year that included a marriage, three-day work function, and multiple weekend trips is pretty amazing…but we wouldn’t want to do it again. It’s taken a ton of effort, not to mention a little bit of luck. I’m glad we took this on, but man, never again!

However, there is plenty more we can do, at a much more relaxing pace. Read: whenever we want, rather than on a daily basis. The theme of our blog will still revolve around food challenges, and we’ve got a lot of fun ones planned. Some of our ideas include:

  • Making a meal using only yellow foods.
  • Creating upscale versions of kid’s food (Spaghetti-Os, Sloppy Joes).
  • Cooking a retro meal from a 1950s-era cookbook.
  • Making a complete meal using ingredients that start with the letter R.
  • Cooking a Dinner From Hell, using foods we despise.
  • Making a meal using only ingredients sourced from the farmer’s market that day.

We also envision more head-to-head challenges (like our souffle battles) and, yes, we’ll celebrate the occasional food holiday – ones that we passed on the first time around when there were multiple choices, and others that we just really enjoyed. We have lots of great ideas, and will be turning to our readers for even more. Our blog will be more interactive than ever before!

So, there you have it! Eat My Words will be back in 2014 with new challenges, new food facts, and new fun. A scaled-down version that won’t clog your In Box with emails every single day. It’s a win/win, folks!

Categories: Alcohol, Vegetables | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

293/365: National Brandied Fruit Day

Those who like to mix their alcohol with fresh fruit will find today’s food holiday intoxicating. October 20 is National Brandied Fruit Day!

Brandied fruit is a simpler and more convenient way of preserving food than canning: it requires little more than fruit, brandy, and sugar. Alcohol kills bacteria, allowing you to skip the sometimes rigorous steps involved in canning. The downside, as stated, is that – as with pickling – it takes time for the flavors to meld. Luckily we plan our food holidays in advance, but unfortunately, not a month in advance, so we were unable to make our own brandied fruit. Too bad – this would have been fun! But at least we were able to order a jar online. It’s not as easy to find as you might think! Why use brandy (derived from the Dutch word brandewijn, which means “burnt wine”) to preserve fruit rather than, say, vodka or wine? The truth is, any high-proof spirit will work, but brandy is popular thanks to its flavor. Rumtopf, an early version of brandied fruit, originated in Germany; folks would fill a stoneware jar with fruit, top it with rum, and let the whole thing distill, until it turned into a tasty “rum pot.” An early recipe published by the Ladies Guild of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in East Randolph, New York, in 1907 states, Take one cup of brandy, one of sugar and one fruit to begin. Whatever fruit you choose, lay it in jar, first, then sugar, and lastly brandy; continue to add different fruits as they appear in season, one cup of each. You do not need any more brandy; as the juice will be extracted from the fruit and increase the amount. Commence with strawberries, and all kinds of fruit as they ripen. It is not to be cooked. Little has changed in the ensuing century.

As stated, I was bummed when I discovered we didn’t have enough time to make our own brandied fruit. This is one holiday that should have been on our radar even sooner. But not to fear, Dundee Fruit Company came to the rescue! As an added bonus they’re local, located about an hour south of where we live, in the Willamette Valley. This didn’t prevent us from paying almost $10 in shipping on a $9.95 product…sigh…but we didn’t have much choice in the matter. We ordered brandied marionberries, one of their top sellers. Marionberries are native to Oregon, and are a cross between a raspberry and blackberry. And they’re delicious!

We served them over vanilla ice cream. Delicious though they may be, when they’re brandied, they are strong. Whew! Can’t say we loved this, which bums me out given the cost. But it was alright.

National Brandied Fruit Day

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