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The Three Worst Christmas Treats

December 11, 2013

Sure, they aren’t Christmas cards, but still it feels good to get a lot of mail from the FLB readers who entered the City Dining Card giveaway.

There are other things that are helping to usher in the Christmas spirit as well. The Institute has put up all kinds of Christmas decorations in Fuld Hall and in their famous cafeteria. And after yesterday’s snowstorm (that cancelled school) everything in Princeton is covered with a soft two-inch layer of white.

I can’t recall if I’ve ever confessed to loving the smell of Christmas. To me, the smell is simply that of fresh cut conifer trees. As a secular Jewish kid growing up in Brooklyn Heights, we never had a tree ourselves, but attended lots of tree trimming events. The smell really brings me back.

This year, since Little Miss Fussy isn’t in a Jewish school, she’s actually learning Christmas songs and was getting excited about going to the tree lighting ceremony. Me? I’m excited about the holiday party coming up at IAS on Friday. I just hope I can shake this head cold by then.

But there are Christmas treats that I’m decidedly not excited about, and thought I’d share.

1. Candy Canes
Maybe I have missed The Food Babe take on this holiday classic, but they are nothing more than corn syrup (which is likely GMO), “natural” flavors and artificial dyes.

My issue is that they are impossible to eat. I’ve always held onto the hook, and started with the straight side. But even then the shaft gets all sloppy [nice]. The full sized ones, are far too big to eat in any reasonable amount of time. And the small ones always shatter. Regardless of the size, putting the hook side into your mouth is never comfortable.

These things are terrible.

Sure, they may look pretty in their red and whited striped glory, hanging from the branches of a fir tree. But why do they have to be made out of food? Whose idea was it to torment all of the adults in a room by giving something that will invariably make all of the children’s hands impossibly sticky?

2. Gingerbread Houses
Speaking of things that shouldn’t be made out of food, this one really rises to the top.

Okay. I can see that if you happen to be a master baker and you are making a crap ton of gingerbread cookies for the season, you might get bored. With all that skill going to waste, putting together an architectural marvel out of batter, frosting and odd bits of sweets laying around the shop is a good way to get the appreciation and accolades you deserve. Put that baby in your shop window, and let it stop people in their tracks. Good for you.

It is not reasonable for even a competent home baker to be expected to pull off this engineering feat. The best will somehow avoid looking like garbage. But don’t buy a kit. They are a recipe for disaster and mediocrity. And don’t do it for your kids either, because all that you’ll teach them is that it’s okay to waste food in a vain attempt at making something that tastes awful (and most likely looks even worse).

3. Egg Nog
This is a perennial, recurring complaint.

I have no complaint with the real thing. That would be eggs, high fat dairy, and sweet spices mixed up with or without booze. Egg nog should be special. It should be ladled out in very small cups and savored.

Most of the stuff on the supermarket shelf doesn’t even deserve to bear the name, nor is it worth the calories. And yes, that includes the stuff that Starbucks (and other coffee shops) dump into your December latte.

It’s thickened with gums, packed with stabilizers, artificially and “naturally” flavored, and may very well be sweetened with the cheapest corn based sweeteners on the market. The only thing special about it is the inflated price.

Last year, I discovered a good version of eggnog produced upstate. But it’s not available down here in Jersey, so unless I make my own on the farm this year, I’ll be going without. And that’s fine. It’s not like we have to bulk up for winter like our ancestors.

This Friday’s Christmas party aside, I still plan to try and keep eating moderately through the weeks and months to come. I’m really looking forward to a big pot of split pea soup sometime soon. But first I need to find a place to get a good ham hock. Where is a good pork store when you need one? Or what are the chances of finding a small pig farm nearby that smokes its own meat?

I’ll figure it out, and keep you posted.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Debra permalink
    December 11, 2013 11:12 am

    Hi Daniel. I was just reading this, and thought of you. Enjoy, maybe this will make up for what you can’t find in Jersey.

  2. theresa518 permalink
    December 11, 2013 11:21 am

    ….and candy canes tear your mouth to shreds.

    When I was young my mother made the most beautiful gingerbread church from scratch. Melted lifesavers for stained glass windows, necco wafer tiled roof (a candy I loved), tootsie roll wood piles, frozen pond with skaters, etc….a very impressive undertaking for 1978. It was a cruel life lesson to learn that something so lovely could taste so terrible once we were finally able to tear into it weeks later. Candy can go stale? Nooooooooooo.

  3. -R. permalink
    December 11, 2013 11:51 am

    I always found gingerbread in any form to be completely unpalatable. Ginger itself is absolutely fine in certain cuisines, but for baking I can do without (much like anise). Another holiday dislike: those nasty little German chocolate treats filled with awful booze that always come wrapped in foil. Blech.

  4. jonibees permalink
    December 11, 2013 12:14 pm

    Hey! We sent you a card with our entry!!

  5. December 11, 2013 1:01 pm

    Maybe some pickle-flavored candy canes will change your tune, Profusser:

  6. December 11, 2013 2:42 pm

    Meadow Brook! *facepalm* I spent a week looking for a decent-sounding, non-fake-crap-filled ‘nog, then finally gave up and just bought Hood (it was for baking, so it wasn’t like I would taste it straight anyway). Wish I’d seen this then.

  7. December 11, 2013 6:50 pm

    Yes, I agree. The Meadow Brook farms is probably the best pre-made nog around these parts. I have already worked myself through one half-gallon and am gearing up for my second. Also, I am about to start cracking open my homemade aged nogs… I used an aggressive amount of bourbon in my aged nog, so I may very well use some Meadow Brook nog to cut it.

    By the way. Of all the New York nog travesties, have you tried the Ronnybrook nog. It is a sin against nog. I still can’t believe it got lauded as one of the “Country’s Best Nogs” last year… It is like Pepto-Bismol with a less appealing flavor. It is a shame because I really enjoy their creamline milk.

    • December 11, 2013 6:51 pm

      Forgot a question mark, so – Of all the New York nog travesties, have you tried the Ronnybrook nog?

    • December 13, 2013 12:08 pm

      That’s how I feel about Ronnybrook ice cream. It’s terrible but I see it being lauded all over the place.

  8. Susan L permalink
    December 12, 2013 4:06 pm

    Thanks for the Meadow Brook nog recommendation. It will go nicely with my new passion – Cornelius Cherry Brandy. Yum!
    How can you mention Candy Canes without including their bastard cousin Ribbon Candy?


  1. Round-up – Sunday 15 December 2013 – Worst. Christmas. Ever. | Crumbs and Petals

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