Beverages

National Fresh Squeezed Juice Day

As promised, occasionally we’ll celebrate some of the food holidays we chose to skip last year in favor of others. Today marks one of those. January 15 is National Fresh Squeezed Juice Day!

Actually, this is a recent addition to the calendar. I updated the National Food Holidays page to directly link to each challenge, and in the process, did some double-checking against a variety of online calendars looking for missed holidays. There were a bunch, as it turns out. I lamented often last year about the lack of consistency between calendars and our “majority rules” stipulation. I have yet to find two food holiday calendars that are perfectly identical, but feels ours is as close to perfect as it gets!

This holiday was a timely one, as Tara had zested a bunch of lemons over the weekend in order to bake my dad a birthday cake, and had no idea what to do with the leftover peeled lemons. I’ve always subscribed to the axiom “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade!” – and in this case, I took that quite literally. Fresh squeezed lemonade it was!

Fresh squeezed juices have been a staple of the American diet ever since some klutzy Colonist accidentally stepped on an orange. Actually, that’s not what the history books tell us, though it makes for a humorous story. Humans have probably been drinking the juices from a variety of fruits for thousands of years, but the modern juice industry got its start in the mid-1910s thanks to an excess of oranges. California farmers had grown too many to sell, and not wanting to waste them, decided to juice them instead, taking advantage of a new process known as pasteurization. Now the juice could be stored for longer periods of time, and the nation’s railway system was able to whisk away cartons to major cities around the country. The juicing industry was born.

Of course, this refers to commercial juice, which is anything but fresh-squeezed. Fresh juice was seen as a healthy alternative to sodas and other beverages, and in the 1980s the popularity of juice bars (and home juicing machines) exploded. Suddenly, every Dick and Jane worth their salt was juicing their own fresh squeezed oranges, apples, grapefruits, pineapples, tomatoes, grapes, carrots, cranberries, mangoes, passion fruit, and pomegranates.

I have always been a big fan of lemonade, and fresh squeezed is about a thousand times superior to Minute Maid or any type of frozen concentrate. Tonight’s was no exception!

National Fresh Squeezed Juice Day

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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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346/365: National Cocoa Day*

You might end up steaming mad if you overlook today’s food holiday. December 12 is National Cocoa Day!

It’s also National Ambrosia Day. This was considered a food or drink of the Greek gods that, when consumed, would provide immortality to whoever ate it. Seeing as how there aren’t any 1,000-year-old Greeks walking around nowadays, I’m thinking that’s one legend that never lived up to its hype. It’s also National Popcorn String Day. Great for decorating Christmas trees, but probably not meant to be consumed until after the holidays, by which time it’s stale. So we’re going with cocoa, which is a perfectly hot and refreshing treat this time of year!National Hot Cocoa Day

The Mayans were the first to use cacao beans to brew a beverage known as xocoatl, an unsweetened precursor to hot cocoa. In the 17th century, Spanish doctor Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma was the first to publish a recipe for modern-day hot chocolate, referring to it as an elixir to help cure ailments. The drink was a hit; even our esteemed first President, George Washington, enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa for breakfast every morning. Hey, a man’s gotta have something to look forward to after a busy AM chopping down cherry trees!

Though many people consider hot chocolate and hot cocoa one and the same, there actually is a difference. Hot chocolate is made by mixing hot water or milk with melted chocolate, while hot cocoa is a combination of hot water or milk and cocoa powder.

To celebrate, we had a cup of hot cocoa before bed. Yum! (I took the spoon out, first. Wouldn’t want to poke myself in the eye).

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323/365: National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day

If you’ve got a bubbly personality, today’s food holiday was custom made for you. November 19 is National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day!

It’s another one of those oddly specific holidays with a fun name that you just can’t help but chuckle over. Maybe it’s a clever way of getting around using the Coke name, but then again, we already have celebrated National Have a Coke Day, so I’m doubtful about that theory. Plenty of carbonated beverages other than Coca-Cola contain caffeine, so it’s not like our options are limited by this holiday.

National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day

National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day

I mentioned before, upon starting this challenge earlier in the year, that we found a few other bloggers who had attempted the feat in the past. Occasionally I would turn to them for inspiration or reference. I’ve mentioned John, whom I labeled our East Coast Food Correspondent, several times; he has given us lots of great advice based on his own participation in a similar challenge, and his wisdom has been invaluable. Another blog with a similar theme is National Food Days in New York City, whose twist on this challenge (completed last year) involved relying on New York City restaurants for the food/beverage holiday du jour. That’s got to be an expensive and time-consuming proposition, much more so than ours! I mention them because I like what they did with today’s challenge. They found a Manhattan Special – an espresso coffee soda made in Brooklyn. Best of all, their drink dates back to 1895. Suddenly, popping open a Coke sounds boring…

…but popping open a Coke is what we did. Because when it comes to carbonated beverages with caffeine, sometimes you’ve just got to stick with what’s best. Right, dear? Coke is It, wouldn’t you agree?

I’ll take your silence as an implicit YES.

(Can you tell we have an ongoing Coke v. Pepsi feud)?

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312/365: National Cappuccino Day*

You may feel a little jittery if you miss out on today’s holiday. Actually, you may feel even more jittery if you don’t. November 8 is National Cappuccino Day!

It’s also National Harvey Wallbanger Day. I really, really wanted to celebrate this one. With such a colorful name and history, it was tough to resist! But we’re headed up to Seattle for a long-overdue family visit immediately after work, and can’t in good conscience knock back a cocktail before hitting the road. A Harvey Wallbanger is simply a screwdriver (vodka and orange juice) mixed with Galliano, a sweet (and bright yellow) Italian herbal liqueur. It you believe the tales, it was invented in the 1960s when a party host ran out of everything but vodka, OJ, and Galliano, and was named for a California surfer who would knock back so many of the drinks after a busy day “hanging 10” that he’d stagger into the walls. Probably false history, but it sure does make for a fun story. Note to self: this is one holiday we’ll have to revisit in 2014.

National Cappuccino DaySo, cappuccino it is, and I’ve got nothing against the Italian coffee drink made with espresso, hot milk, and steamed milk foam, other than the fact that it’s a pain in the ass to spell correctly. I keep leaving out a “p” or a “c” or adding an “n” where none belongs. At least this word has an interesting history, too: it comes from the Italian “cappuccio,” meaning hood, and refers to the hooded robes worn by monks and nuns of the capucin order, which were a distinctive reddish-brown in color, in 17th century Europe. It was around this time that people began adding milk to coffee, and in the 1700s, a beverage called a “Kapuziner” began appearing in Viennese coffee shops. This coffee with cream and sugar closely matched the color of those hooded robes, and the name evolved over the years, eventually turning into cappuccino in the 1930s. By then espresso machines, with an ability to brew at a higher pressure and produce a finer grind while also heating milk, had been invented, and Italians began producing the modern version of the cappuccino we are familiar with today.

Tara surprised me by dropping off a cappuccino after lunch. With a cupcake to go along with it. I gots me a good wife, that’s for sure! We are normally both more likely to order a flavored latte, but we found the cappuccino quite enjoyable. Frothy and foamy, with a nice flavor. I’d get one again!

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280/365: National Frappé Day

Today’s food holiday may have you foaming at the mouth. October 7 is National Frappé Day!

National Frappé DayIf you’re wondering what a frappé is, well, it’s all Greek to me. No, really: the frappé was invented in Greece in 1957 and is considered the national beverage, popular with both locals and tourists alike. During an International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki, Nestlé  was demonstrating a new beverage geared toward children: an instant chocolate drink made by combining chocolate with milk and mixing it together in a shaker. “New” product?! This sounds suspiciously like chocolate milk to me! In any case, a Nestlé employee, Dimitris Vakondios, was craving coffee but couldn’t find any hot water nearby, so he mixed instant coffee in the shaker with cold water and ice cubes, accidentally inventing a delicious, frothy beverage. The word frappé is French in origin, and refers to anything chilled. In the past couple of decades frappés have become popular around the world; in the U.S., they refer to either a chilled or frozen iced coffee drink. Starbucks’ Frappuccino is one popular version, but even McDonald’s has recently gotten into the act with the introduction of their own frappé.

Speaking of the Golden Arches, we grabbed a caramel frappé from there to split this morning. All things considered, it wasn’t bad, but a little on the sweet side.

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273/365: National Hot Mulled Cider Day*

The last day of September marks the fourth beverage holiday in a row, an unprecedented stretch of drink-themed holidays. How you like them apples? A lot, if you celebrate today’s food holiday: 9/30 is National Hot Mulled Cider Day!

Autumn is the perfect time of year to enjoy a steaming mug of hot apple cider. The term “mull” refers to heating a liquid to just under the boiling stage, and adding spices (i.e. cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) and citrus zest (such as orange peel). It is similar to wassail, though that beverage typically includes ale or beer. Actually, in most of the world, cider refers to a fermented alcoholic beverage, but in the U.S. we denote the liquored-up version as “hard cider.” As if that weren’t confusing enough, we can’t even seem to agree on the difference between apple cider and apple juice, though the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources states, “Apple juice and apple cider are both fruit beverages made from apples, but there is a difference between the two. Fresh cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment. Apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove solids and pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer. Vacuum sealing and additional filtering extend the shelf life of the juice.”

I kind of wish this food holiday was occurring a couple of weeks later. Tara and I like to drive out to Hood River every October for the “Fruit Loop” – a meandering drive through the countryside to stock up on apples, pears, cider, and other bounties of fall from the various farm stands and stores scattered along the route. For now, we settled on a pint of apple cider from the grocery store. I added whole cloves and a cinnamon stick left over from our hot toddy challenge (which feels like a lifetime ago!), and grated some orange zest in there, as well. It turned out very good, and really hit the spot on a chilly, damp fall evening.

National Hot Mulled Cider Day

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272/365: National Coffee Day

You’re in for a brewed awakening if you choose to celebrate today’s food holiday. September 29 is National Coffee Day!

Our beloved Keurig.

Our beloved Keurig.

I wrote about one legend surrounding coffee’s origination here. An alternate version claims that a mystic from Yemen, Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili, was traveling through Ethiopia and noticed the birds flying about seemed to have a lot of energy. al-Shadhili attributed this to the berries they were eating, and tried a few himself. He returned to his native land with strange requests for “double espressos” and “lattes, skinny, extra foam.” Another story says Sheik Abou’l Hasan Schadheli’s disciple, Omar – who was known for his ability to cure the sick through prayer – was banished from his home in Mocha (seriously) to a cave in the desert. With nothing to eat, he resorted to chewing on berries he found growing on wild shrubbery nearby, but found these too bitter. He attempted roasting them, but they turned too hard, so he boiled them to soften the beans, and subsisted on the ensuing beverage for days. Omar was revitalized, and when word of this “miracle drug” reached Mocha, he was asked to return, and made a Saint. The beverage spread around the globe, but was slow to gain a foothold in the United States until the Boston Tea Party, when colonists rebelling against high tea taxes took up coffee instead. Today, Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee a day, more than any other country in the world.

Tara and I are big coffee fans, and invested in a Keurig coffeemaker last year. It was actually our first joint purchase, one that gets a lot of use in our household. You can’t beat the convenience of k-cups, and there’s very little wasted coffee. To celebrate, we….are you holding your breath in anticipation yet?…drank coffee.

Ooh. Ahh.

National Coffee Day

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270/365: National Chocolate Milk Day*

Moo-ve yourself over to the refrigerator if you’re looking forward to celebrating today’s food holiday. September 27 is National Chocolate Milk Day!

It’s also National Corned Beef Hash Day, and while that is one of my favorite breakfasts, it wasn’t on the menu at my work symposium this morning, so we had to settle for chocolate milk. “Settle” is kind of harsh though, considering how creamy, smooth, and delicious chocolate milk is!IMAG1596

Chocolate milk was the brainchild of Sir Hans Sloane, President of the Royal Society of Britain (he actually succeeded Sir Isaac Newton), founder of the British Museum, and personal physician to Queen Anne and George II. While on a trip to Jamaica in 1687, he witnessed malnourished babies being given a mixture of cocoa, water, and spices to help cure their ailments. Upon returning home, he added cocoa to milk, and touted it as a therapeutic beverage with “health giving” qualities. “Take that, Mr. an-apple-fell-on-my-head-and-now-I’m-famous!” he may or may not have remarked, referring to his well-known contemporary’s discovery of gravity. Chocolate milk was considered a medicinal drink for about 200 years, until the Cadbury brothers invented their own version of drinking chocolate in 1820. Over time, this tasty beverage became a childhood classic, and is served either premade, or mixed at home using either cocoa powder or chocolate syrup.

To celebrate, Tara and I enjoyed a glass of chocolate milk for breakfast. I drank mine before I left the house, so this food challenge was completed especially early! (Though chances are we’ll never top the one-minute-past-midnight mark as we did with vanilla custard).

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232/365: National Lemonade Day*

Pucker up, sweetie: August 20 is National Lemonade Day!

It’s also National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day, but boy, are we all pied out. And there are still more to come. (Incidentally, if that seems like an unusual pie flavor to you, we thought so, too. A little over a week ago we were at the Bite of Oregon festival in Portland, and stumbled upon a chocolate pecan pie that we ended up trying, without even being aware that this holiday was coming up. It was very good).

I’ve always had a soft spot for lemonade. I think this is because I’m not a big fan of soda, rarely drinking it (and when I do, it often contains alcohol). Lemonade is a tasty, refreshing alternative, especially on warm summer afternoons.

Lemonade is a sweetened beverage made with lemons, sugar, and water. It dates back to at least the 10th century, when Egyptians were making quite a profit selling the juice from lemons, which flourished in the region. Locals enjoyed the beverage mixed with lots of sugar. We know this thanks to Nasir-i-Khusraw, a Persian poet and traveler who wrote an extensive treatise on life in Egypt during this time. A typical excerpt read, “Woke up. Worshipped a cat. Drank lots of lemonade. Dinner with daddy and mummy. Bed time.” When told that too much of the sweetened concoction could cause tooth decay, Egyptians said, “no – you’re wrong.” Those folks were in de-Nile.

(Longest set-up to a punch line ever).

Actually, drinking lemonade can be healthy. Studies show that consuming 4 oz. of lemon juice mixed with two liters of water every day can help prevent kidney stones. On the downside, this may put you in a sour mood.

I’m here all week, folks.

There are numerous flavor combinations of lemonade, found throughout the world. Pink lemonade, made with the addition of grenadine syrup, is particularly popular. Almost any fresh, seasonal fruit can be mixed with lemons to form a tasty variation on the classic; popular additions include strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. In the U.K., lemonade is typically carbonated, and similar to lemon-lime sodas such as Sprite or 7-Up. In Ireland, lemonade is available in three varieties: red, brown, and white. And in France, American-style lemonade is called “citronade.”

To celebrate, we made a pitcher of lemonade from a basic recipe:

  • 6 medium lemons (about 1 cup of juice)
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (adjust to taste)

Juice the lemons with a juicer or by hand. Rolling them on the counter with moderate pressure prior to juicing will result in more juice from each lemon. Try to keep out the seeds. If you prefer lemonade with no pulp, strain the juice to remove it. Dissolve the sugar in the water (heat may be helpful). Combine the juice with the sugar water in a pitcher and stir well. Chill or serve over ice cubes.

I’m happy to report, this seems to be the perfect ratio; Tara and I met up at home for lunch, and enjoyed some fresh lemonade. It was about a thousand times better than concentrate, too!

National Lemonade Day

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