What the Hell Happened to Eggnog?
Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax…you’re goddamn right I’m living in the fucking past!
Happy almost-Chanukah. Tonight at sundown it begins. Hope all your shopping is done. The good news is that since Chanukah ends early this year, Thursday, December 9, you can quit with that Happy Holidays nonsense, and just start wishing everybody a Merry Christmas. At least, that’s my plan.
So you may be asking yourself, what does a nice Jewish boy from California know from eggnog? Well, first I’m not from California and second I’m not so nice. But for some reason when I was growing up as a kid eggnog was always a part of the holiday time.
Granted, when I say eggnog, I’m talking about the stuff that you buy in cartons from the store and give to kids, not the stuff you make at home with raw eggs and spike with booze. Although I’m happy to report that after many December trips to the Pennsylvania farm, my father-in-law is finally ready to make me his storied boozy potion for the upcoming visit later this month.
That said, have you looked at the ingredients in a carton of eggnog recently?
Here is just one example from a major regional dairy that makes what is apparently the #1 selling eggnog in New England:
MILK, CREAM, SUGAR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, EGG YOLKS, FAT FREE MILK, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, GUAR GUM, SALT, CARRAGEENAN, MONO & DIGLYCERIDES, RED 40, YELLOW 5 & 6.
I feel like there will probably be a post about artificial colors in the not too distant future. Now sure, there is the usual ugly suspect of HFCS, and I am inclined to believe that the mono & diglycerides regrettably are inextricable from most cream these days. But artificial flavors? And fat-free milk?
Here is what that same regional dairy has to say about their eggnog:
Hood® Golden EggNog has been a New England family favorite for more than 50 years. Hood’s secret recipe blends extra creamy milk with sugared egg yolks and a combination of flavoring and spices.
I do have to acknowledge that perhaps I am romanticizing the eggnog cartons of my youth. After all, I didn’t read labels as a kid, nor did I have the righteous indignation of being charged a premium for expensive butterfat while receiving a product packed full of fat-free milk, gums, and cheap alternatives to table sugar.
But it would seem that the carrageenan industry began in the 1930s and the guar gum industry developed in the 1940s. Granted, HFCS really didn’t get going until the mid 1960s. So there should have at least been a time when the Hood eggnog was purely sweetened with sugar.
There may have even been a time when one could easily buy a carton of eggnog from the store that wasn’t packed full of food gums. When the thickness and weight of this once-a-year treat was actually just decadent cream, whole milk and egg yolks, with only sugar and spices added for flavor.
Bah, humbug. I want to buy a carton of eggnog at the store. It’s part of my holiday tradition. But I don’t want the dreck I’ve been finding on the local grocers shelves. I’ll wait until I’m down on the farm and hold out for the good stuff.