Inside the Beltway: The real deal: George Washington’s eggnog

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Even America’s first president had a penchant for sumptuous eggnog at Christmas time — and an eggnog with a mighty kick in it. What follows is said to be George Washington’s original recipe for the libation, penned out by the man himself some time after 1789. Our source is the Old Farmer’s Almanac — which warns that it will “knock your socks off.”

Here’s the simple how-to, according to the Almanac:

“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, pint rye whiskey, pint Jamaica rum, pint sherry — mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”

Those who have made this eggnog report that it is indeed a drink to be reckoned with; some wish it was sweeter, some don’t favor the sherry — but all agree it gave them a unique connection to historic Christmas past. Interesting to note that Mount Vernon, home to Washington and his family for 45 years, sells whiskey distilled on the estate using the president’s own recipe. Something to think about, perhaps.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac also has some advice for productive household activities during this Christmas and New Year’s week — and the best days to take care of them, based on “celestial” clues and moon activity.

This week is an ideal time to quit smoking; to can, pickle or make sauerkraut; to cut your hair and to color your hair; to plant “above ground” crops; to move out of a household; to buy a home and to begin a diet.

EISENHOWER’S CHRISTMAS ADVICE, 1953

Let’s pause and look to the 34th president of the United States for some insight of the moment.

“For us, this Christmas is truly a season of good will — and our first peaceful one since 1949. Our national and individual blessings are manifold. Our hopes are bright even though the world still stands divided in two antagonistic parts,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower told the nation on Dec. 24, 1953.

“More precisely than in any other way, prayer places freedom and communism in opposition, one to the other. The communist can find no reserve of strength in prayer because his doctrine of materialism and statism denies the dignity of man and consequently the existence of God. But in America, George Washington long ago rejected exclusive dependence upon mere materialistic values. In the bitter and critical winter at Valley Forge, when the cause of liberty was so near defeat, his recourse was sincere and earnest prayer. From it he received new hope and new strength of purpose out of which grew the freedom in which we celebrate this Christmas season,” Eisenhower continued. “As religious faith is the foundation of free government, so is prayer an indispensable part of that faith,” the president said.

A WARTIME CHRISTMAS IN WASHINGTON

Seventy-nine years ago, Winston Churchill arrived at the White House before Christmas, then stayed there well into January. He was a guest for Christmas dinner, and the host was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The British prime minister arrived at the White House on Dec. 22, 1941, to discuss Allied strategy — but Churchill’s sudden presence was an event that sparked banner headlines here and abroad and much speculation around the world on the general state of things. So says a close account from the White House Historical Association.

The Christmas meal shared by president and prime minister also was well observed, though, and chronicled by The Associated Press.

Things got underway with oysters on the half shell and crisp crackers, followed by clear broth with sherry and “thin” toast. The main course was roast turkey with chestnut and sausage dressing, giblet gravy, beans, cauliflower, casserole of sweet potatoes, cranberry jelly, rolls, grapefruit salad and cheese crescents.

Dessert was plum pudding and hard sauce, ice cream and cake, coffee, plus salted nuts and “assorted bonbons.”

ADVICE FROM THE CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some advice for those who are hosting family and friends in the next 24 to 48 hours or so. It is formally titled “Food and drinks at small holiday gatherings” and was released on Wednesday.

Here’s a small part of the directive, verbatim:

“Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or eating is associated with directly spreading COVID-19. It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way that the virus is spread. Remember, it is always important to follow food safety practices to reduce the risk of illness from common foodborne germs,” the federal agency advises.

“Take care of yourself. Being away from family and friends during the holidays can be hard. When you talk with your friends and family about plans, it’s okay if you decide to stay home and remain apart from others. Doing what’s best for you includes eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep. Take care of your body and stay active to lessen fatigue, anxiety, and sadness,” the advisory said, adding some practical reasoning.

“Hard choices to be apart this year may mean that you can spend many more years with your loved ones.”

Find more at CDC.gov — much of it under the heading “holiday stress.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 71% of U.S. adults say Americans should continue to social distance, even if it means continued damage to the economy; 55% of Republicans, 67% of independents and 86% of Democrats agree.

• 54% of conservatives, 75% of moderates and 90% liberals also agree.

• 18% overall say Americans should stop social distancing, even if it means increasing the spread of coronavirus; 30% of Republicans, 19% of independents and 8% of Democrats agree.

• 33% of conservatives, 15% of moderates and 6% liberals also agree.

• 11% overall don’t know or have no opinion; 15% of Republicans, 14% of independents and 6% of Democrats agree.

• 14% of conservatives, 10% of moderates and 4% liberals also agree.

Source: A Politico/Morning Consult poll of 1,995 registered U.S. voters conducted Dec. 18-20.

• Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and thank you for reading Inside the Beltway.

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