NEWS AND OPINION:
Even America’s first president had a penchant for velvety eggnog at Christmas time — and an eggnog with a kick in it, that’s for sure. 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, and here is the how-to:
“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 rye whiskey distilled on the estate using the president’s own recipe.
With Christmas-morning breakfast looming, let us also consider Washington’s version of cornbread. Here’s another how-to, courtesy of Mount Vernon.
Ingredients: 3/4 cup cornmeal (yellow or white), 1/3 cup sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons melted butter, margarine or oil; 1 cup flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 cup milk; 1 egg, well beaten.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl: cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk, egg and shortening. Mix together. Pour into a greased, shallow baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve warm with butter, honey or jam.
REAGAN’S CHRISTMAS, 1981
“Tonight, in millions of American homes, the glow of the Christmas tree is a reflection of the love Jesus taught us. Like the shepherds and wise men of that first Christmas, we Americans have always tried to follow a higher light, a star, if you will. At lonely campfire vigils along the frontier, in the darkest days of the Great Depression through war and peace, the twin beacons of faith and freedom have brightened the American sky. At times our footsteps may have faltered, but trusting in God’s help, we’ve never lost our way,” President Ronald Reagan noted in his Christmas greeting to the nation on live TV, broadcast Dec. 23, 1981.
“Just across the way from the White House stand the two great emblems of the holiday season: a Menorah, symbolizing the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, and the National Christmas Tree, a beautiful towering blue spruce from Pennsylvania. Like the National Christmas Tree, our country is a living, growing thing planted in rich American soil. Only our devoted care can bring it to full flower. So, let this holiday season be for us a time of rededication.”
Reagan later ended his speech with some candid reflections.
“Once, earlier in this century, an evil influence threatened that the lights were going out all over the world. Let the light of millions of candles in American homes give notice that the light of freedom is not going to be extinguished. We are blessed with a freedom and abundance denied to so many. Let those candles remind us that these blessings bring with them a solid obligation, an obligation to the God who guides us, an obligation to the heritage of liberty and dignity handed down to us by our forefathers and an obligation to the children of the world, whose future will be shaped by the way we live our lives today.”
“Christmas means so much because of one special child. But Christmas also reminds us that all children are special, that they are gifts from God, gifts beyond price that mean more than any presents money can buy. In their love and laughter, in our hopes for their future lies the true meaning of Christmas.”
“So, in a spirit of gratitude for what we’ve been able to achieve together over the past year and looking forward to all that we hope to achieve together in the years ahead, Nancy and I want to wish you all the best of holiday seasons. As Charles Dickens, whom I quoted a few moments ago, said so well in A Christmas Carol, ‘God bless us, every one.’ “
EISENHOWER’S CHRISTMAS, 1953
“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.”
‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ WINS
By 20 percentage points, a majority of Americans prefer “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” says a new Marist poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. The numbers: 57 percent go with “Merry Christmas,” 37 percent prefer the “Happy Holidays.”
In addition, 79 percent of Americans strongly identify the birth of Jesus with the meaning of Christmas, while two-thirds strongly associate Christmas with attending church services.
TRUMP’S CHRISTMAS PREDICTION, 2015
“I love Christmas. You go to stores now, you don’t see the word ‘Christmas.’ It says, ‘happy holidays’ all over. I say, ‘Where’s Christmas?’ I tell my wife, ‘Don’t go to those stores.’ Other people can have their holidays, but Christmas is Christmas. Remember the expression ‘Merry Christmas?’ You don’t see it any more. But you’ll see it if I get elected — I can tell you that right now.”
— Donald Trump, addressing the Values Voters Summit on Sept. 25, 2015.
WEEKEND REAL ESTATE
For sale through the U.S. General Services Administration auction: The Cotton Annex building in Washington D.C. Built for the Department of Agriculture in 1937 on 1.4 acres; six stories, 118,456-square-feet. All-brick and limestone; “an unparalleled opportunity to purchase a prime vacant landmark building within a block of the National Mall.” Currently vacant, includes warehouse and office space, laboratory space, skylights. Adjacent to Smithsonian Institution, southwest waterfront and L’Enfant Plaza; zoned for “mixed use” development. Bidding under way at GSAAuctions.gov; opening bid of $5 million suggested.
STATS DU JOUR
• World’s largest cut Christmas tree: 221-foot Douglas fir displayed in Seattle throughout December 1950.
• World’s most expensive Christmas tree: $11,026,900; decorated with real gems, displayed at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi throughout December 2010.
• World’s fastest time to decorate a Christmas tree: 36.89 seconds, achieved by Sharon Juantuah in Essex, U.K., on Nov. 22, 2013.
• World’s largest Christmas-carol choir: 25,272 singers assembled at the Uyo Township Stadium in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria, on Dec. 31, 2014.
• World’s largest gingerbread house: 60 feet long, 42 feet wide and 10 feet high; built in Bryan, Texas during December 2013.
Source: Guinness World Records, 2016 edition.
• Merry Christmas, and thank you for reading Inside the Beltway.