The Christmas Spirits

I found myself pawing through the cookbook section of the downtown Barnes and Noble. I had been looking for recipes for the Holiday season and what better way to become inspired than to see what Martha, Craig and others have done previously.

As I perused through a fourth book of Holiday recipes, a small voice started speaking to me.

“There’s something wrong here. Look closer at the recipes.”

I shook my head and blinked. I refocused my eyes and started reading the recipes with more intensity.

Wassail, Egg Nog, Plum Pudding, Fruitcake; all of these recipes flew by my eyes. Something was indeed wrong. But what?

I looked at the ingredient lists, and the reality became clear — All of the recipes that had traditionally contained some measure of brandy, rum or ale now sat before me, neutered. Even a recipe for glühwein, which has the German word for wine in its name, told us to recreate the recipe with mulled tea sans wine.

How did this happen? Have some of us become so frightened of alcohol that we’ve removed it as an option in cooking? Or is it simple ignorance of how these recipes originated?

I can respect the fact that some people don’t like the taste of alcohol. But for me, the idea of egg nog without rum is as silly as tofurkey — A cheap recreation of a dish for someone who doesn’t like what the traditional recipe represents.

Me? I like spirits. I believe them to be some of the most complicated tastes in the world. They add a uniqueness to many recipes that are impossible to recreate. To remove them from a recipe is akin to removing garlic or curry from a recipe.

I don’t think there’s a concerted effort here, but I do find the lack of Christmas recipes without spirits disheartening. Trust me when I say that those of you drinking wassail made only from apple juice, or having a fruitcake that hasn’t been drowned in brandy are missing out on something exquisite.

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