If you don’t take a bite of today’s food, don’t worry: it’ll still be around, in pretty much the same exact form, 10 years from now. Or so the jokes go. December 27 is National Fruit Cake Day!
Fruitcakes are cakes made with chopped candied or dried fruit, nuts, and spices. They are dense and rich, with detractors complaining that they’re rock hard and nearly inedible. We can blame ancient Rome for this monstrosity; the first fruit cakes, containing a mixture of pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins – mixed with barley mash – appeared during Caesar’s heyday. They became popular all over Europe, and closely associated with Christmas, when fruit cake was often given out as a gift (and subsequently re-gifted). When made with alcohol, fruit cakes can remain edible for years! These overly preserved monstrosities get such a bad rap that a holiday devoted to getting rid of them – National Fruit Cake Toss Day – has been created (January 3rd). Hmm, this may have to become one of our first food challenges next year!
To celebrate, we bought a fruit cake from the grocery store. Took a couple bites and decided its reputation is well deserved. Blech! Overly sweet and dense pretty much sums it up.
You’ll really earn your stripes if you help us celebrate today’s food holiday. December 26 is National Candy Cane Day!
Candy canes are cane-shaped hard candy sticks that are traditionally white with red stripes and peppermint flavored, though nowadays different variations exist. There are a lot of false reports about how candy canes are religious symbols, with the colors representing blood and purity, the three red stripes symbolizing the Holy Trinity, and the shape itself, a letter “J” when inverted, standing for Jesus, but while these stories sound plausible – especially given the candy cane’s association with Christmas – they simply aren’t true. In reality, candy canes were the invention of the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany in 1670. Bothered by the noise caused by children attending his Christmas Eve services, the choirmaster enlisted the aid of a local candy maker to create a peppermint stick to
shut the heathens up keep the children preoccupied. Since he was giving them away during church services, he had the candy maker bend them into the shape of a shepherd’s hook to remind the kids about Jesus. Perhaps that’s where the other, more elaborate stories originated! Candy canes were traditionally all white until the turn of the 20th century, when stripes began to appear.
Because Christmas just passed, we had candy canes on hand. Celebrating this holiday was a breeze!
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.
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!
Hope you’re dressed for suck-cess. December 19 is National Hard Candy Day!
It’s also National Oatmeal Muffin Day. We just didn’t feel like eating the muffin, man. The muffin, man. And since hard candy is synonymous with Christmas – a mere six days away now (!) we decided to stick with that.
Archaeologists have uncovered traces of hard candies at dig sites in ancient Egypt, China, and Arabia. Of course, rather than Dum-Dums, these “candies” were really no more than fruits and nuts dipped in honey. Sometimes they were even attached to sticks to prevent sticky fingers, a precursor of lollipops. Hard candy is made by boiling syrup until it reaches the “hard crack” stage, 300 degrees. It is then flavored, poured, and allowed to set. There is a large variety of different hard candies available including butterscotch, candy canes, Jawbreakers, Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers, Pez, rock candy, and lollipops. It’s even the name of a Counting Crows album. More hard candy is sold at Christmas time than during any other time of the year.
To celebrate, we had a classic hard candy that’s been a favorite for generations: Life Savers!