We could have called it a Fruitcake Party, though fruitcake rarely makes an appearance. We could have called it a Caroling Party. We tried that one year- no one wanted to go. Ever. Again. Come to think of it- we could have called it the Bourbon Ball. Okay, that’s a bit pretentious and we’re better at eating than dancing. The truth is- fruitcake, bourbon balls and eggnog tend to be … let’s just say- under appreciated holiday fare. For over two decades, we’ve been going to an Eggnog Party, hosted graciously in the home of friends; attended by families and friends who are loved and cherished as the ‘family we have chosen for ourselves’. It’s uniquely southern, so it’s a traditional party, with the dining room table set buffet style and yes, family china and silver makes an appearance.
The Eggnog Party is sort of an unorganized , uncategorized gathering of folks bound by generations of communal experiences. Besides the heirloom recipe for Eggnog- what makes this party so charming is the Program, the Favors and the planning for it- often months in advance. There are children of… all ages and highly anticipated by all. The Program always includes Readings for children and one or more Readings which embody the Season and always includes Music. Sometimes the program is as zany as The Sister Act, a goofy rendition of Santa Baby or an airing of jovial grievances through Festivus, which, by decree shall never be repeated again. One of our talented guests might sing Ave Maria or an old fashioned Christmas Carol which would have been introduced by a Reading of the history of the hymn – always accompanied by a classical Guitar. Last year a Reading of Dylan Thomas’s ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’…followed by the old Lullabye- ‘All Through the Night’ with a soloist, the haunting strains of soft music as the rest of us sang the sweet Chorus- that one definitely brought forth a few sweet tears. The favor that year had the theme of Angels.
Always, regardless of the theme, the program is a mix of the significance of the season and the joy of it too. Any gifts are token and quietly exchanged – to be opened later, since this party isn’t centered around gift exchange, instead its more about exclaiming, getting caught up, enjoying the program, the music and always the bubbling effervescent love and laughter. And my oh my! the food! A Christmas Ham and a thinly sliced fragrant Turkey. The sides always include a relish plate, our beloved southern casseroles, a cheese ball, roasted and salted pecans, cheese straws, tiny rolls and a buffet laden with desserts. Groaning might be a better word.
Of course, there’s a silver punch bowl filled with a frothy full bodied Eggnog-
- The creamy color of magnolias and gardenias,
- Light as a feather plucked from an angel’s wing,
- Thick with cream and
- Freckled with fragrant nutmeg.
In the South, we tend to claim Eggnog as our own, since George Washington of Virginia enjoyed it and recorded a recipe for it. In the southern tradition of leaving out a critical bit- in Washington’s case he left out the number of eggs! Eggnog really isn’t southern at all- it’s British, it’s European, it’s American- yet what makes this recipe Southern is the ‘spirits’. We tend to replace ale or sherry with ‘brown whiskey’ … Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey- some add Rum, to honor our southern proximity to the Sugar Fields and Caribbean flavors. Take a sip of Suellen’s Eggnog and ‘darlin’ you’ll talk southern to me.’
Here’s how you make this old classic which we know as Suellen’s Eggnog…
- 14 Large Eggs, separated
- 1 pint Jack Daniel’s Brown Whiskey
- 14 Tablespoons Cane Sugar
- 1 Quart and 1/2 pint Whipping Cream
Separate eggs and reserve egg whites at room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until pale yellow. Slowly add whiskey, one silver teaspoon at a time, at first. Increase additions of whiskey beating continually until egg yolks and whiskey are combined thoroughly. Add sugar slowly, one silver tablespoon at a time. Whip cream and add slowly to mixture. In another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into whiskey mixture. Sprinkle with fresh grated mixture. Keep thoroughly chilled. It is preferable to ladle from a silver punch bowl. Enjoy!
This Eggnog is an adaptation of an old recipe from a Talledega cookbook, one county over from where we live. *Please note that an essential tool is a silver spoon. This isn’t a pretentious tool- old recipes tend to specify silver spoons since other materials could affect the taste, generally metallic.
I’ll admit, I sip only one small punch cup, it’s a thick, rich holiday mixture unlike anything else. Eggnog is also something I taste just once a year at this amazing party. If you’re wishing you had a less spirited eggnog, I’ve had good success slowly melting homemade ice cream, adding a bit of whipped cream on top with a grating of fresh nutmeg.
Here’s the thing- I’ll always associate Eggnog with the exquisite color of creamy magnolias, strengthened with the years of friendships sustained for such a long time… soft strains of music, gentle laughter, so much love, genuine acceptance, concern freely expressed and the joy only this season can bring. Here’s hoping your gatherings are as spirited as Bourbon Balls, as nutty as a Fruitcake, as fragrant as a Gardenia and full of Comfort and Joy!
Love y’all, Camellia
* All photographs are obviously mine. Eggnog contains raw eggs, it’s best to use pasteurized eggs, and it should not be consumed by children due to alcohol content.