The High Holidays began Sunday night in Jewish homes around the world, ushered in with a feast to mark Rosh Hashanah, the “head of the year,” in the Judaic calendar. As I buzzed around that afternoon gathering the requisite honey and apples, choosing wine, baking a special round-shaped challah, and cooking dinner, I was reminded once again how essential food is to Jewish ritual. At every holiday, the dining table becomes a kind of altar and each cook a virtual priest who creates the spirit of the holiday through symbolic the foods. Sanctity is homemade.
My whole life, I drank eggnog not even considering what the heck it was. I always assumed the 'egg' in eggnog was the 'egg' in eggcream—no egg at all, and probably no nog either.
I did like it though; Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years (and sometimes Chanukah, too) Mom would truck down to Wilson's Farm out in Lexington and bring back a carton or two. Give it a sprinkle of nutmeg, and later on, a shot of whiskey or Southern Comfort, and I was happy. It was sweet, it was rich, what more could I ask for?
Wasn't until my mid-20's that the possibility of actually creating eggnog even crossed my mind. And the tip wasn't eggnog at all, but it's odd and excellent Southern cousin. It was a New Year's party, with a Texas hostess with Tennessee roots. When I slipped into the kitchen for a drink, she was tending a bubbling kettle of froth.